Kevin Garnett recalls how as an 18-year-old, he snuck into the Chicago Bulls practice and got to play a pickup game against Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.
Kevin Garnett is one of the most decorated basketball players of modern basketball. Over the course of his two-decade-long career, Garnett was a force to reckon with down in the post. Not only did Kevin have an insanely deep offensive arsenal, but he was also one tough player on the defensive end of the floor.
His attitude of never backing down from competition is what set him apart from everyone else. Considered to be one of the best trash talkers, The Big Ticket liked to get into his opponent’s head.
As many basketball enthusiasts know, Garnett was amongst a very small group of players that skipped college to enter the league as a pro. Despite just being a young 18-year-old, coming off high school, KG was the 5th overall pick of the 1995 Draft.
“I played a pickup game against Scottie Pippen and Michael Jordan back in 1995”: Kevin Garnett
As we all know, 15-time All-Star never backed down from tough competition. Even as a young high schooler, KG didn’t back down from anyone, not even Chicago Bulls legend Scottie Pippen.
In his recent autobiography, the 2008 NBA champ detailed the time when he snuck into a Chicago practice and played against Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. It was this instance, which helped him decide to go pro immediately from high school:
“When we get in through a side door, Mike Jordan is in there. Scottie Pippen is in there. We watch them play a couple of practice games. I’m just looking at them. I’m just studying them focused like a muthaf—a.
An hour goes by and a security guy yells at me. Looks like he’s waving me down to the court.
“Hey, you!” he screams.
“Yeah, you, big fella. Get down there.”
“Throw me my shoes,” I tell my man. I tie up my joints and hurry down to the court.
Pippen says, “You too young to be out here. You just a high school kid.”
Jordan says, “Let’s just go.” Then he points to me and says, “You guard Scottie.”
I’m thinking, Damn, I’m playing against my idol. I’m playing against a guy who’s coming off one of the best years of his career.
Right off, Pippen calls for the ball and does a stutter move before launching a big-ass three. I’m like, That’s crazy, no way he could have made that shot. But then my natural reflexes kick in. Boom! I dunk. Boom!
Scottie and I have a word. That just fires me up more. I’m thinking, I’m holding my own against one of the greats. As the game goes on, I’m gaining confidence. Ain’t backing down. No one’s making a fool of me. I’m competitive with these muthaf—as. I’m playing Scottie close, hard and tough. In his face. I’m acting like every moment of my life has led me to this. Scottie maybe Scottie, but right now he’s just a hooper I gotta beat to the ball. I’m on fire.
During a break in the game with me, Scottie, and Jordan, here comes Isiah “Zeke” Thomas, who’d been watching the whole thing. Ain’t crazy enough to be playing with two of my heroes. Zeke is up in that b—- too. I was trippin’. I never asked him why he was there that day. He never asked me why I was there that day. We just were. One of those cosmic coincidences.
He came up to me and said something. There wasn’t a hint of hype in his voice. It was just a matter-of-fact, kind statement. “Kevin,” he said to me, “you just took on Scottie Pippen. Scottie’s the best player in the league. Boy, you could play in the league right now.” “What’d you say?” I asked. “Boy,” he repeated, this time his eyes getting bigger, “you could play in the league right now.”
Maybe if it had been someone other than Zeke saying those words, they would have had less impact. But coming from Zeke, his words took the form of not only a prophecy but a blessing. A benediction.
“Well, what do you think?” he asked. “You ready to go to the league?”
Everything in my brain, body, heart, and soul said, “Yes!”