The introduction, or reintroduction, lasted 1 minute, 49 seconds. Long enough to capture the highlights, the good times, so many memories from a Hall of Fame career.
An overcapacity crowd stood, eyes fixed on the Target Center scoreboard as the Timberwolves welcomed Kevin Garnett home with a stirring video during pregame warmups in his first game back in uniform.
Phones recording the moment glowed in the dark. Fans roared with each flash of highlight. Pyrotechnics exploded above the basket.
The reception so was loud and impassioned that the arena felt like it was trembling.
“The energy in the building was ecstatic, it was over the top,” Garnett said.
For one night, and hopefully longer than that, basketball in downtown Minneapolis became fun again. A buzz and pulse not felt around this organization in years resurfaced in a way that masked the team’s lousy record.
The final score proved to be a cherry on top, a 97-77 victory over the Washington Wizards.
The entire day served as an emotional testament to Garnett and his deep bond with this town and an organization that nurtured his growth from teenager to MVP to future Hall of Famer over 12 seasons.
What a spectacle his homecoming was.
Fans cheered Garnett’s every move. They chanted “MVP” when he stepped to the free-throw line. They screamed when he scored his first basket, or got a deflection on defense, or found an open teammate with a pass.
The response felt pitch-perfect.
Garnett cracked up laughing when a local comedian nicknamed Jiggly Boy removed his shirt during a timeout and displayed a “Welcome Home KG” message written on his round belly as he danced in the aisle. Garnett pointed and pounded his heart.
“I had to give him a big shoutout and show him it was all love,” Garnett said.
KG certainly felt the love from a fan base starved for something to cheer about, something to celebrate.
This franchise has wallowed too often in dysfunction since the 2004 playoffs and Garnett’s glorious Game 7 performance against Sacramento, so the euphoria of his return was understandable. And it felt authentic.
Ricky Rubio’s rookie season generated intrigue and optimism until his knee injury against the Lakers sucked the life out of the operation. But excitement has come in small doses since Garnett’s exit, which contributed to all the nostalgia the past week.
The outpouring by fans even seemed to catch Wolves officials by surprise. Garnett’s return became such a hot ticket that the team checked with the fire marshal before releasing 500 standing-room tickets Wednesday.
The team honored its weekly promotion for college students, setting aside 300 $5 seats. The box office opened to students at 10 a.m., igniting a mad dash. One kid skipped with delight when he realized he was at the front of the pack.
By 5:45 p.m., the line outside the Target Center entrance stretched past the gift shop, through the skyway that crosses First Avenue and into Block E.
The crush of fans forced the team to open doors early.
“This is unbelievable,” a team executive said after surveying the line.
Garnett’s jerseys were everywhere downtown. New ones, throwbacks, his jersey with the Boston Celtics. More than one fan was spotted wearing a commemorative of Garnett’s high school jersey.
“That game was just a tribute to the great Kevin Garnett,” guard Kevin Martin said.
Garnett returned older and wiser at age 38, but he still has those same distinct physical features: shiny bald head, long arms, that long stride when he glides down the court.
Still KG, No. 21.
Officially, he finished with five points and eight rebounds in nearly 19 minutes. His statistics were a sidebar to the emotion of the night.
Garnett even kept his old pregame routine of taking his time before tipoff, tugging at his shorts near the basket while other players walked onto the court. And, of course, he doused front-row spectators with powder.
Garnett took a deep breath and exhaled before tipoff, as if to say, “I can’t believe this is happening.”
Fittingly, the opening tap landed in his hands. The crowd cheered loudly for that, too.
He was back home.
“It was a good night for everybody involved,” he said.