Before Kevin Garnett's arrival with the Timberwolves in 1995, Minnesota was arguably not a basketball state at any level — pro, high school or college.
The Timberwolves, only in their seventh season as an NBA franchise, never had a winning record. The Gophers men's and women's basketball programs hadn't made their magical Final Four runs yet. And the state's high school hoops scene was a tiny blip on the national radar.
Garnett, who will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday, captured the sports world's imagination with his successful preps-to-pros leap. At 6 feet 11, his talent to play inside and out brought a different style for a big man. His energy, work ethic and passion changed the way people looked at the Wolves, and especially basketball in Minnesota.
"I feel like everything came together there in the late 1990s after we got KG," Gophers women's basketball coach and former U and Lynx star Lindsay Whalen said. "You couldn't help but gravitate toward him."
KG's illustrious NBA career included the 2004 MVP Award, an NBA title with the Boston Celtics in 2008 and 15 All-Star selections in his 21 seasons, including eight straight playoff appearances with the Wolves.
“Watching somebody in person accomplish what you're dreaming of influences you differently. I think Kevin had an impact on everybody's mind-set about basketball.”
Garnett grew up in South Carolina and became a basketball prodigy in Chicago, but his 12 seasons in Minnesota put the state on the map in hoops. Showing up as a talented teenager oozing with personality and potential, KG left as one of the all-time greats.
"Minnesota took a chance on me," Garnett told media at Friday's Hall of Fame news conference at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut. "I don't have any regrets. I thank Glen [Taylor], I thank Kevin [McHale], I thank Flip Saunders with actually blessing me with the opportunity of being drafted and giving me the canvas to actually come out here and show the world."
Young basketball hopefuls and fans in Minnesota noticed KG's greatness first. The state of hockey grew in love with hoops, forever changed by a player who inspired an entire generation of talent.
"KG had a huge impact on my love for the game," said Memphis Grizzlies guard and Apple Valley native Tyus Jones, who spent his rookie season as Garnett's Wolves teammate in 2015-16. "Just seeing him play for the hometown team, give the city and the state life and hope in terms of being a winning franchise was huge."
Reid Travis was born in Minneapolis only a handful of games into Garnett's rookie season in 1995-96.
From toddlers in Wolves gear to kids hooked on everything KG in grade school, there was one obvious favorite NBA player for most young Minnesota basketball fans like Travis growing up.
"That's all I knew was this kid talking trash, beating on his chest and the shot behind his head," the former Stanford and Kentucky forward said. "He's a big reason why I wanted to keep pursuing basketball."
In 2014, Travis at DeLaSalle, Rashad Vaughn at Cooper and Jones, who won an NCAA title at Duke as a freshman, gave the state three McDonald's All-Americas. They forced the country to recognize Minnesota as an emerging hoops hotbed, which is still true today producing dozens of Division I boys and girls recruits each year. Jalen Suggs. Chet Holmgren. The list keeps growing.
"Watching somebody in person accomplish what you're dreaming of influences you differently," said former Wolves forward and KG teammate Gary Trent Sr., whose son is now in the NBA. "I think Kevin had an impact on everybody's mind-set about basketball."
Garnett's first playoff appearance with the Wolves came the same year the Gophers won the Big Ten title and reached their now-vacated Final Four in 1997.
When the Target Center was packed, the Barn was rocking as well a few miles away near Dinkytown.
"The teams provided a sense of energy and connection to their city," said Wolves Vice President of Development John Thomas, who played center on the U's Final Four team and for the Wolves in 2004-05. "It was a great time for basketball in this town. It shows you it was hungry for basketball."
A couple of months after Whalen became the darling of the Minnesota sports landscape in leading her Gophers to the Final Four in March 2004, Garnett made his final playoff run with the Wolves to the Western Conference Finals vs. the Los Angeles Lakers in late May.
"It was a fun spring and season to have two teams make it that far," said Whalen, who graduated from high school a year after KG in 1996. "I was rooting for those guys every night."
Garnett even invited the Gophers women's hoops team to hang out with him at a Beyoncé concert in town after congratulating them on their special season in Whalen's senior year.
The Gophers had to pass — dang those NCAA rules — but it's the thought that counts.
"Big Ticket was MVP that year," Whalen said. "It was cool that he recognized our team, how hard we were working and doing well … He just had that charisma. How he interacted with fans. The amount of emotion. He just gave everything to every second he was on the floor."
Before Garnett's retirement in 2016, Wolves owner Glen Taylor bought out his contract and tension grew between the former star and the organization he carried to prominence.
“KG had a huge impact on my love for the game. Just seeing him play for the hometown team, give the city and the state life and hope in terms of being a winning franchise was huge.”
KG's jersey isn't hanging from the rafters as players now run up and down the floor at the high school state tournament at Target Center each year.
"It would be great for them to look up and see his jersey," Travis said. "It's tough to not see it there. If you say who is the face that describes the whole franchise, you're going to pick KG every time."
Garnett didn't bring up his apparent rift with the Wolves the day before his Hall of Fame enshrinement.
"Nothing is with regret," the now 44-year-old KG said. "Everything I learned in Minnesota, I was able to carry with me to Boston to make myself a better player and better teammate."
Minnesota basketball is now in the hands of another standout big man who learned from Garnett.
Karl-Anthony Towns, after a Wolves game earlier this week, told stories from his youth about mimicking moves from YouTube of KG and late former Los Angeles Lakers great Kobe Bryant, who will be inducted into the Hall posthumously Saturday.
As a rookie in 2015-16, Towns soaked as much knowledge from Garnett as he could. It set him up to be the next local NBA star young players look up to in Minnesota. Still, there's only one KG.
"I'm just blessed and honored that I even got to share a court with him," Towns said. "I get to tell my kids that I got to play with KG, and he was my vet … So that's pretty cool. I guess us young guys call it clout. That's a great clout moment."
Garnett provided plenty of those moments for Minnesotans.