Newly minted NBA champion Kevin Garnett shrieked uncontrollably following his Celtics’ clinching victory over the Lakers.
And with good reason. The 11-time All-Star who never previously played in the finals, is now crowned champion. And his face will soon adorn a special edition Wheaties Box honoring the Boston Celtics. Never mind the Big Ticket has appeared on two Wheaties boxes before, now he can truly take his place among The Breakfast of Champions.
“You’re sort of, kind of shook, because you know what, you just knocked the bully out and you don’t know how he’s going to come back,” a highly charged Garnett told reporters.
The career-long bully Garnett finally got off his back is winning the NBA Championship. It is the same bully that tormented NBA greats Charles Barkley, Patrick Ewing, and Karl Malone right into retirement. Despite its best efforts to win, the trio of big men always fell a little short of a title, mostly due to the brilliance of Michael Jordan.
Fair or not, Garnett is now in a different class than his predecessors. Never again will he have to explain why he failed to win a championship. Those questions continue to dogg Barkley, Ewing and Malone.
Yet a closer look, reveals that, maybe, big men are unfairly signaled out for coming up small when it matters most. Consider the case of Malone, an MVP and part of that dynamic duo of John Stockton to Malone. If the latter is generally regarded as the best power forward to ever play, Stockton is one of the best point guards of all time. In fact, Stockton holds the record for most assists and steals in a career. But while Stockton is lauded for being an expert passer and tough little guy, Malone gets the label of playoff choker, who was undeserving of his MVP.
Want other examples of big men getting all the criticism compared with their brethren of smaller superstars? Take Ewing and Reggie Miller, whose teams engaged in legendary Eastern Conference battles. While Ewing brought much of the criticism onto himself by guaranteeing a title, when’s the last time you heard anyone say “Reggie’s a great player but he never won a championship.”?
Miller hit as many clutch shots as almost anyone in NBA history. But if you’re going to blame Ewing for not delivering the Knicks a championship, Miller’s got to take some responsibility for not leading Indiana to the Promised Land.
And why does two-time MVP Steve Nash get a free pass for coming up short year after year? His teams are among the most talented in the league yet he’s never even played in The Finals. Meanwhile, his former Dallas Mavericks teammate and buddy Dirk Nowitzki, who has at least played in The Finals since Nash signed with Phoenix, is gaining a reputation for playing soft and timid in the playoffs.
Allen Iverson, one of the best little men to play the game, is criticized for a lot of things but never for his inability to win a championship. Not that he ever had a good supporting cast as a 76er, but he now plays in Denver, alongside Carmelo Anthony and Marcus Camby. Though Iverson’s been in the league for 12 seasons, he’s escaped the brunt of criticism seemingly reserved for the NBA behemoths.
So while many observers commend Garnett for finally winning a title, the next time you hear about an NBA Big Man who can’t win the big one, keep in mind he just might be playing with a future Hall of Fame point guard who isn’t getting it done either.