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Kevin Garnett by the Numbers
From 1 to 21, a summary of an amazing — although sometimes overlooked — career.
Last week I did a tale of the tape for Kevin Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki, two of the greatest forwards in NBA history. While writing that post, it struck me that Garnett’s place in NBA history may not be fully appreciated by younger fans, which is somewhat surprising given a successful post-playing media career that has kept him in the public eye. However, I can think of several reasons why Garnett might be overlooked:
His per-game numbers, while almost always good-to-great, were never jaw-dropping. For example, Garnett is one of 23 players in NBA history to reach 25,000 career points, but he and Reggie Miller are the only players in that group who failed to average at least 25 PPG in a season.
One of Garnett’s calling cards, his tremendous defense, is not adequately captured by traditional box score statistics. I also think it’s hard for basic statistics to encapsulate his versatility.
After earning nine All-NBA selections in his first 13 seasons, Garnett did not receive the honor in any of his final eight seasons. And he was essentially a role player in his last three seasons, averaging less than 19 MPG while appearing in just 139 of a possible 246 games. Point being, his last eight seasons — especially the seasons after he left the Boston Celtics — took a bite out of his career rates (although in no way diminishing what he did when he was at his peak).
That said, in my book Garnett is clearly one of the 25 best players in NBA history. Here are 21 reasons why:
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Garnett ranks number one on the Minnesota Timberwolves’ career lists for (deep breath) games played, games started, minutes, field goals made, field goals attempted, free throws made, free throws attempted, offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, total rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, turnovers, personal fouls, points, double-doubles, and triple-doubles. He also won one MVP Award (2003–04), one Defensive Player of the Year Award (2007-08), one All-Star Game MVP Award (2003), and one Olympic gold medal (2000).
Since the NBA began tracking steals and blocks in 1973-74, Garnett is one of only two players to record at least 1,500 steals and 1,500 blocks (1,859 and 2,037, respectively). Hakeem Olajuwon is the other player to reach those marks.
Garnett had three seasons in which he was responsible for at least 20% of the Timberwolves’ points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks (2002-03, 2003-04, and 2004-05). Only two other players have recorded even one such season: Larry Bird (1984-85 Celtics) and David Robinson (1993-94 San Antonio Spurs).
Garnett is one of only four players in NBA history to record at least 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, and 5,000 assists, the others being Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, LeBron James, and Karl Malone. Garnett also led the NBA in rebounds per game four times and was named All-NBA First Team in four seasons.
Garnett was the number five pick in the 1995 NBA Draft. Garnett also wore number five during his six seasons with the Celtics, who retired the number on March 13, 2022.
Garnett had six seasons in which he finished in the top 30 in the NBA in total points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. The only other players to produce multiple such seasons are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Giannis Antetokounmpo, with two apiece.
Garnett ranks number seven in NBA history with 1,462 games played. Garnett also recorded a career-high seven steals in a game twice (Dec. 14, 1999 and Jan. 27, 2007).
Garnett had eight seasons in which he recorded at least 100 steals and 100 blocks, tied for the second-most such seasons behind Hakeem Olajuwon (12). Garnett also blocked a career-high eight shots in back-to-back games on January 3 & 4, 1997.
Garnett was named to the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team nine times, tying him with Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, and Gary Payton for the most such selections. Garnett also ranks number nine in NBA history with 14,662 rebounds.
Garnett finished in the top 40 in the NBA in total points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks for 10 consecutive seasons (1997-98 through 2006-07). No other player has recorded such a streak longer than four seasons.
Garnett is one of 11 players in NBA history to reach career totals of 25,000 points and 10,000 rebounds. He ranks third in that group in assists, fourth in steals, and fifth in blocks.
Garnett was named to one of the All-Defensive teams 12 times, tied for the second-most such selections behind Tim Duncan (15). He also recorded a career-high 12 assists twice in a 29-day span (March 9, 2003 and April 6, 2003).
Garnett ranks number 13 in NBA history in both field goals made and attempted with 10,505 and 21,142, respectively.
Garnett participated in the NBA Playoffs 14 times. After infamously coming out on the losing end in the first round in each of his first seven postseasons, Garnett’s teams won 13 out of 19 series the remainder of his career.
Garnett was selected to play in 15 All-Star Games, tied for fourth in NBA history behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (19), LeBron James (19), and Kobe Bryant (18).
Garnett recorded 16 career triple-doubles, all of them with the Timberwolves. No other player in franchise history has recorded more than five triple-doubles, a total Garnett exceeded in the 2002-03 season alone (six).
Garnett had 17 seasons in which he recorded at Player Efficiency Rating of 18.0 or higher while playing at least 40% of all possible minutes. The only players in NBA history to record more such seasons are LeBron James (20) and Tim Duncan (18).
Garnett ranks number 18 on the NBA’s all-time lists for both steals and blocks. The only other player to rank in the top 20 on both lists is Hakeem Olajuwon (10th and first, respectively).
Garnett recorded 19 games in which he produced at least 20 points, 20 rebounds, and five assists, tying him with Charles Barkley for the most such games since the ABA-NBA merger. No other player has recorded more than nine such games over that span.
Garnett owns a share of the NBA postseason record for defensive rebounds in a game with 20. He did so twice in a 29-day span: Apr. 21, 2004 versus the Denver Nuggets and May 19, 2004 versus the Sacramento Kings.
Garnett played 21 seasons, a number that has only been exceeded by Vince Carter with 22. He also wore number 21 during his 13-plus seasons with the Timberwolves. By Garnett’s choice, the Timberwolves have yet to raise his jersey to the rafters.