The Kevin Garnett era with the Timberwolves has ended.
Garnett, the best player in franchise history and a certain Hall of Famer, retired Friday. Garnett led the team to eight straight playoff appearances starting in the spring of 1997 and to the 2003-04 Western Conference finals.
Garnett and the Timberwolves came to an agreement Friday, and Garnett officially retired.
In an enigmatic video posted to his Instagram account Friday afternoon, Garnett is seen walking in a quiet, empty Target Center. “I’m just thankful, man,” he said. “I can’t ever put that into words. I’m just thankful. I’m just thankful for everybody and the love. I never would have thought that people loved me like this. But for it to be reality is something else. We’re going to be all right, man. I don’t expect this to be easy. But so far so good. Stay tuned.”
As the video ends, the word, “Farewell” appears on the screen. Followed by, “Thank you for the journey.”
The Wolves issued a news release on Garnett’s retirement after the video was posted.
“It has been a real joy to watch KG come into the league as a young man and watch him develop his skills to become one of the very best in the NBA,” Wolves owner Glen Taylor said in the release. “I have treasured the opportunity to see him grow as a leader. I wish him continued success in the next chapter of his life. His Minnesota fans will always cherish the memories he has provided.”
Teammates Ricky Rubio and Karl-Anthony Towns praised Garnett on Instagram. “Thank you KG! Hands down one of the best to ever play this game,” Rubio said. “I learned what hard work really means. Great teammate. It was a dream come true to play next to you.”
Said Towns: “Thank you for everything my brother. You know how much I’m gonna miss playing with you and just simply having you around. Congrats on having one of the greatest careers the game has ever seen. We talked. I know what I must do. I’ll take it from here.”
The news comes with the Wolves’ first training camp under Tom Thibodeau set to begin Tuesday.
Garnett, who waived his no-trade clause in order to reunite with the Wolves in February 2015 in a move orchestrated by the late president of basketball operations and coach Flip Saunders, will not play out the second year of his two-year, $16.5 million contract. The Wolves will take the same procedural step the San Antonio Spurs took when Tim Duncan retired at the end of last season. That would be waiving Garnett, which will guarantee him the $8 million left on his contract.
The NBA thus will lose three all-time greats — Garnett, Duncan and Kobe Bryant — to retirement in the same offseason.
Thus ends the final chapter of Garnett’s time in Minnesota, a two-part series that included myriad highs and a few lows, including bruised feelings when he was traded to Boston in a blockbuster deal in summer 2007.
Garnett leaves having played 970 of his career 1,462 games here, having scored 19,201 of his 26,071 points and grabbing 10,718 of his 14,662 rebounds in a Timberwolves uniform.
Garnett is ranked fifth in NBA history in games played, third in minutes (50,418), 17th in points, 11th in field goals made (10,505), ninth in total rebounds, 16th in steals (1,859) and 17th in blocks (2,037). He is the only player in league history with at least 25,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 5,000 assists, 1,500 steals and 1,500 blocks.
“On behalf of the NBA family, I thank Kevin for his sustained excellence and the enormous impact he’s had on the game,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Friday.
Garnett, now 40, became the first player in 20 years to go directly from high school to the NBA when the Wolves drafted the 19-year-old out of Chicago’s Farragut Academy with the fifth overall pick in the 1995 draft.
He joined a team that had not made the playoffs in its first six seasons.
In Garnett’s second season the Wolves qualified for the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, beginning a streak of eight postseason appearances. With Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell, the Wolves made it to the Western Conference finals in spring 2004, losing in six games to the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Wolves have not made the playoffs since.
Contract disputes involving Cassell and Sprewell disrupted the 2004-05 season. The Wolves, who won 58 games in 2003-04, dropped to 44 wins, and Saunders was fired midseason. The victory total then dropped to 33 and 32.
In summer 2007, with the Wolves feeling they needed to rebuild, Garnett agreed to a trade that sent him to the Celtics in exchange for Ryan Gomes, Gerald Green, Al Jefferson, Theo Ratliff, Sebastian Telfair and two first-round draft choices, which became Wayne Ellington and Jonny Flynn.
That trade came after Garnett refused to sign a contract for less than the maximum he could get.
“I guess at the end of the day, I’m loyal to a point where I feel, if someone’s loyal to me, then I have no problem with that,” Garnett said in his first news conference in Boston. “But when that changes, it’s pretty easy to move on.”
In spring 2008, Wolves owner Glen Taylor said he felt Garnett had “tanked it” by not playing in the final five games the season before, to which Garnett responded: “I have nothing to do with the Minnesota Timberwolves. That’s my past, and I’m in a new chapter if my life.”
That spring was also when Garnett won his only NBA championship, with Boston defeating the Lakers in six games. The Celtics returned to the NBA Finals in 2010, losing to the Lakers in five games. After the 2012-13 season Garnett was traded to Brooklyn.
Return to Minnesota
But with Saunders back running the organization and the Wolves’ prospects looking up, Saunders was able to mend fences and convince Garnett, then with the Nets, to agree to a trade that brought him back to Minnesota, for Thaddeus Young.
Garnett made it clear in his returning news conference that he was coming back with bigger goals than just wearing the uniform again. He talked about one day being part of a group that owned the Wolves, a prospect that now seems dim.
“I am,” he said when asked about being in Minnesota for the long haul. “That is the goal. At some point, I want to understand ownership and try to get into that and bring a championship to this city. That has been my goal since I became a Wolf.”
But aching knees eventually limited his role to actting as a veteran mentor to a young team. “It’s perfect,” Garnett said. “If you have a story, this is a fairy tale. This is a perfect ending to it. This is how you want to do it. I know these are the declining days of my playing days, but I think I have so much more to bring. This is the perfect situation. This is full circle right here.”
After returning to thunderous applause in his first game back at Target Center, Garnett played in only four more games, missing the team’s final 15.
Last season, with Sam Mitchell coaching the team after Saunders died of cancer, Garnett appeared in 38 games. He last played Jan. 23 vs. Memphis, then missed the rest of the season.
So much has changed since. Taylor hired Thibodeau as president of basketball operations and coach and Scott Layden as general manager. Changes in the front office likely closed the door to Garnett one day joining ownership.
Through the draft and free agency, Garnett’s status remain unresolved. Ultimately, with Taylor taking the lead, the two sides were able to reach an agreement that ended Garnett’s second tenure with the franchise.