When I first started watching basketball, I fell in love with the game and players who would leave everything they had on the court. I particularly loved a player on the Houston Rockets named Tracy McGrady. Every morning before school, I would wake up and run to the TV to hear Stuart Scott do play by play. Just to see if my Houston Rockets won, spoiler alert they didn’t. There was always someone or something in their way, every damn time. That someone or something was a trio of all-time greats who would change the game forever. Now Hall of Famers, Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs, Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers, and Kevin Garnett of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Tim Duncan played the game to perfection, the way the game should be played. With career averages of 19ppg and almost 11 rebounds, he impacted the game in ways coach Greg Popovich never imagined. Duncan was unlike most modern athletes, kept to himself, very reserved, never about him all about the team. Five championships and three finals MVP’s later he is ready to enter the Hall of Fame as arguably the greatest power forward in basketball history. Yet, what made Duncan so special? We have power forwards and centers today averaging better than nineteen and eleven a game. It was his leadership, the way he would rally his guys no matter the opponent. No matter the cost or the game Duncan was a general out there. Rallying his guys to battle the beasts of the West, whether it was Kobe and Shaq, or my Rockets, or Dirk and the Mavs. Duncan led his team with his heart, grit, determination. That’s the legacy that Tim Duncan leaves behind. Immortalized in basketball forever, without a doubt the greatest and most accomplished power forward the game has ever seen.
While Duncan was dominating the west and winning five NBA championships, another power forward out west would go through a different journey to the top. Enter Kevin Garnett, power forward for the Minnesota Timberwolves. Although he had a very different style from Duncan. Garnett would be just as dominant on the court. Famously wearing a rubber band on his wrist and every time he would make a mistake; he would pull the band back and let it hit himself as a punishment. KG was the definition of a savage in the NBA. The savage though would spend twelve years in Minnesota chasing an elusive NBA championship, with no results.
This is what made KG so relatable. We all in our lives are working towards something whether it’s a job promotion or a championship. KG gave twelve years of his heart and soul to the city and had nothing to show for it. It ate at KG throughout those years and he knew to complete his legacy he needed a ring. Thus, ushering us into the era of ‘Super Teams’. Led by Garnett coming from Minnesota and Ray Allen a top-five shooter of all-time, coming from Seattle. The Celtics would pair them up with All-Star Paul Pierce and we have the first NBA’s first Big Three through free-agency. The decision Garnett made to join the Celtics altered the NBA forever.
The trio would end up winning a championship in their first season led by KG and Peirce. Kg was the anchor of the defense and dominated the paint. His playstyle was unique in the fact that he could dominate you physically or use his finesse game. For my generation, we never saw a player with his skill set up to this point. KG defined the power forward position for us. Being able to stretch the floor is almost a must in today’s league. The way he played the game we wish a player like Ben Simmons or Hassan Whiteside would adopt. It was truly special, a player we will never forget for so many reasons, but ill remember KG for always wanting it more than anyone else. Holding himself to a higher standard and truly leaving everything he had out there.
There is an old saying, “Victorious warriors win first then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win”. That embodies the last player being inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame, Kobe Bryant. Many players came into the NBA trying to be ‘like mike’. Nobody embodied that as much as Kobe Bryant. I could tell you how Kobe was an 18-time All-Star, 2-time Finals MVP, one of the best scorers of all time. How his mid-range game is unmatched by any current or former NBA player. Yet, his mark in the world is his influence on the fans and the players. Whether its little things like the way we all yell “Kobe” before we shoot a paper ball into the trash. Or the big things like bringing the Mamba mentality to life and changing people for the better. Kobe defined what it meant to be the best player in the world.
Through all of his trials and tribulations, he found a way to make basketball his number one priority. The ironic part of that is as he grew as a player and person, he found that something else was supposed to be number one, his family. Kobe had three daughters and a Wife Vanessa who were the most important things to him. His drive on the court, willingness to win at all costs, and pure skill always became overshadowed by Kobe being an amazing father. On the court, Kobe Bryant was the ultimate warrior, one of the most dominant scorers of all time. Someone who had a will to win unmatched by anyone who played with him. He played the game the way it should be played. A mindset of it doesn’t matter who you are going against, you are going to rip their heart right out of their chest. That kind of fire, passion, determination, defined Kobe’s Hall of Fame career. Forget about the stats, the 81-point game, the finals MVPs, Kobe was more than that. He was about being a G.O.A.T on and off the court. He won five NBA championships, countless scoring titles, dunk contests, MVPs. Yet, what was Kobe most proud of at the end of his career? His family.