Kevin Garnett is undeniably one of the greatest players to ever play in the NBA and, as one of the league's all-time greats, there is a lot to like about his game. The 2004 NBA MVP and 2008 Defensive Player of the Year has been named to 15 All-Star teams, has earned All-NBA honors nine times and has been selected to the NBA All-Defensive Team in 12 different seasons. Garnett led the league in rebounding for four consecutive seasons, and his skill set has even made him a darling of advanced statistical metrics. "The Big Ticket" has also reached a number of more traditional statistical plateaus, as he has scored more than 25,000 points and collected in excess of 14,000 rebounds over the course of his 20 seasons in the NBA.
As a member of the Boston Celtics in 2008, Garnett won his first and only NBA Championship and was largely responsible for the transformation the franchise underwent to restore the winning culture that had been so notably absent in Boston in the years before his arrival. His intensity in practice is legendary, and his teammates are quick to note KG’s positive effect on the work ethic and intensity of those around him. Early in KG's career (when he was still referred to as "The Kid"), veterans like Sam Mitchell credited Garnett’s practice habits with extending their careers, and as Garnett became a veteran himself, his relentless intensity helped his younger teammates realize the effort level necessary to last in the league.
The trash-talking, stanchion head-butting, dead-ball swatting Garnett has been an unquestioned leader at every stop in his Hall of Fame career, and it is impossible not to marvel at the amount of energy he still expends on the court out of the simple desire to will his team to victory. It is those same qualities -- however endearing they may be to most of his teammates -- that also make Garnett one of the most hated players in the NBA.
The fiercely loyal Garnett has had his fair share of on-court incidents, and there are seemingly no limits when it comes to the content of his trash talk. As a result, there are many players in the NBA who may very well respect his game but simply do not like the way Garnett conducts himself on the court. Whether it is the result of Garnett’s physical play, his penchant for going too far with his talk, or the frustrating fact that he has simply been as good or better than just about everyone else throughout his career, the following 15 NBAers have some very good reasons for disliking KG.
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15 Anthony Peeler
During the 2004 NBA Playoffs, Peeler, a former teammate of KG’s in Minnesota, was suspended for two games after elbowing Garnett twice -- once in the midsection and again in the head. With less than a minute left to play in the third quarter of Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals, Peeler delivered the first elbow, and Garnett retaliated by elbowing Peeler in the chest on a subsequent possession. Peeler then elbowed KG in the head, leading to the ejection and suspension. Garnett was surprised and later called the play "dirty," while Peeler believed that KG should have also been suspended for his role in the incident.
14 LaMarcus Aldridge
Aldridge had been on the receiving end of Garnett’s taunts and physical play throughout the Blazers’ big man’s first few seasons in the NBA, and in 2008 Aldridge finally stood up to KG on the court. After a Garnett elbow, Aldridge smacked KG on the back of the head, later telling the Oregonian about the incident, "that’s [Garnett's] persona, to come in and punk you. When I did that to him, it showed him that he couldn’t punk me.”
13 Glen Davis
The dislike that Davis once felt for KG probably did not last very long, as the former Celtics teammates still talk frequently and did win an NBA title together in 2008. Following that title season, however, Garnett ripped into all of his teammates after giving up a big lead to the Portland Trail Blazers during a December game, and whatever KG said to Davis -- whose unfortunate nickname, “Big Baby,” is unrelated to this particular incident -- left Davis on the end of the bench, in tears.
Davis spent the rest of the game with a towel over his head in an attempt to hide the fact that Garnett made him cry, but there was no covering up the incident. So while there is no apparent lingering animosity between the two former teammates, Davis still has to feel bitter over the fact that the episode will forever be an example of Garnett’s incredible on-court intensity and his influence over teammates.
12 Channing Frye
In 2011, Kevin Garnett went below the belt and delivered a cheap shot to Channing Frye’s groin. After a few small skirmishes with other players during a midseason loss to the Phoenix Suns, Garnett struck Frye and caused him to briefly double over in pain before he recovered enough to go after Garnett. KG was ejected from the game after hitting Frye in the groin, but he did not apologize and showed no sympathy in the next meeting with Frye and the Suns, holding him to just four points while taunting him repeatedly during a March victory for the Celtics.
11 Alvin Gentry
Gentry, recently hired by the New Orleans Pelicans for their vacant head coaching position, was on the sidelines during the incident in which Channing Frye was hit in the groin. While Gentry never played in the league, his lengthy career in coaching at a variety of levels has earned him the respect of executives and players throughout the NBA. At the time of the Frye incident, Gentry made it abundantly clear how he felt about Garnett's on-court behavior, saying, “I used to be a big fan of [Kevin Garnett]. Some of the antics he’s pulled lately, you don’t need to do that as a star player. I’ve never seen Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant or even a Dwyane Wade do that,” before adding, "I lost a little respect for him."
Of course, Gentry was not the only coach to openly criticize Garnett for his behavior following the incident with Frye. Phil Jackson, then the coach of the Los Angeles Lakers who also nearly coached Garnett before the Timberwolves declined the Lakers' trade proposal and accepted the Celtics' in 2007, was discussing Pau Gasol's style of play when he told The Daily Breeze in 2011, "We're not going to make him into [Kevin] Garnett. He's not going to go around and punch guys in the [groin]. He's too nice of a guy."
10 Antonio McDyess
After getting entangled with Mark Madsen, then of the Timberwolves, McDyess used his forearm to break free but sent Madsen tumbling to the ground in the process. Garnett made an attempt to defend his teammate, leading to an altercation between KG and McDyess in which it appeared that the former Pistons forward was ready to throw a punch at the retreating Garnett. McDyess downplayed the incident after the game, saying to the Detroit Free Press, “I wasn't going to swing, because it was a waste of my time. What for? I never threw the punch. I wanted to, but I didn't. I thought about all the money."
9 Wally Szczerbiak
A former teammate who reportedly once fought Garnett during a practice session, Szczerbiak became accustomed to Garnett’s frequently loud on-court reprimands over his perceived lack of defensive intensity. Between the alleged fight and the on-court shouting matches, it’s not surprising that Szczerbiak called out KG in 2012, several years after Szczerbiak had already retired. Szczerbiak took to Twitter to point out that Garnett was Boston's fourth option because he lacked the “clutch gene” and that he “always has.”
8 Rick Rickert
Rickert, then a second-round draft pick of the Minnesota Timberwolves, made the mistake of showing up Garnett in a training camp practice in the fall of 2004. After scoring on Garnett and inspiring KG’s teammates to poke fun at their star player who was fresh off of an MVP season, Rickert was allegedly hit with a sucker-punch after scoring on Garnett again. Rickert needed stitches and chipped a tooth in the incident, and, to make matters worse, the University of Minnesota product failed make the team out of training camp that season.
7 Ray Allen
Despite winning their first championship together as a part of the 2008 Boston Celtics, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett have not spoken to each other since 2012, when Allen left Boston for Miami in free agency. When the Heat and Celtics met for the first time the following season, Garnett refused to shake hands with Allen, and the two have made no attempt to speak in the years since. When asked about whether he had made any effort to reach out to KG, Allen said “No,” before adding, “When I came [to the Miami Heat], everyone welcomed me immediately as part of the team, as one of their brothers. That's been my only focus since."
6 Quentin Richardson
In the first round of the 2010 NBA Playoffs, Garnett and Richardson got into it after Richardson refused to give Paul Pierce space after being knocked to the ground. Both Garnett and Richardson exchanged words, and Garnett ultimately landed an elbow that got him tossed from the game and suspended for another. Richardson referred to both Garnett and Pierce as “actresses,” telling reporters after the game the that “I don't like them, and they know it."
5 Charlie Villanueva
Following a loss to the Boston Celtics early in the 2010 season, Detroit Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva revealed that Garnett had referred to him as a “cancer patient” during the game. Villanueva, who has alopecia, a condition that causes hair loss, used Twitter to express his dismay, saying, "KG called me a cancer patient, I'm pissed because, [you] know how many people died from cancer, and he's tossing it like it's a joke."
KG responded that he did not call Villanueva a “cancer patient,” saying instead that he told the Pistons forward “You are cancerous to your team and our league.” Despite Garnett’s later clarification, Villanueva insisted that he had not misheard what was said. In another tweet, Villanueva made clear how he felt about Garnett, saying, “KG talks [a lot] of crap, he's [probably] never been in a fight, I would love to get in a ring with him, I will expose him."
4 Tim Duncan
It is hard imagine the affable Duncan expressing dislike for anyone, especially not the player who is very likely the only contemporary to enjoy as much individual success as Duncan has over a similarly lengthy career. Though Duncan is unlikely to ever openly discuss his dislike for Garnett, enough of his teammates have talked about Garnett’s trash-talking and Duncan’s clear desire to respond to this behavior in the exact way you would expect: through his play on the court. Duncan’s teams, of course, have consistently gotten the best of KG’s, and Duncan has won five NBA titles to Garnett’s one.
Duncan’s feelings toward Garnett may be the result of the clashing styles of the two greatest big men of their generation, as Duncan prefers an understated, fundamental approach in which winning is the only thing that matters, while Garnett tries to intimidate opponents through physicality and psychological warfare. Or, it may be the long-standing rumor that, during the 1999 season, Garnett said “Happy Mother’s Day” to Duncan before the Spurs forward shot a pair of free throws, a particularly loaded barb considering the fact that Duncan’s mother passed away due to cancer when he was just 14 years old.
3 Joakim Noah
Like so many other players who have come into the league in recent years, Noah grew up idolizing Garnett. He quickly learned that it is a completely different experience to be an opponent of KG's than it is to be a fan, as Noah has called Garnett “mean” and “ugly” due to his on-court antics. Noah has been so annoyed by Garnett that he once called KG out during a playoff series in which he was not even playing against Garnett’s team, saying, “He's a dirty player. That's messed up, man ... I'm hurting right now because of an elbow he threw. It's unbelievable. He's a dirty player. It's one thing to be competitive and compete and all that, but don't be a dirty player. He's a dirty player."
The two have engaged in skirmishes nearly every time they have faced each other, with Garnett and Noah exchanging elbows and talking trash at every opportunity. Noah, however, appears to have finally come to the realization that Garnett's competitiveness is unlikely to ever wane, telling ESPN in 2013, "He wants to win and I want to win. I don't think it will ever be cool (between us)." Of course, Garnett went on to make an attempt at biting Noah the following season.
2 Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony was the target in one of Garnett’s more infamous incidents, as the then-Celtics forward got under Melo’s skin with his talk to such a degree that Anthony sought another confrontation by screaming for KG outside the visitor’s locker room in Madison Square Garden and then again by the Celtics’ team bus. Though both downplayed the incident in the aftermath, the comment that drew the ire of Anthony was centered on the Knicks star’s wife, LaLa Vasquez. Though all of the parties involved have denied it, Garnett allegedly said that Anthony’s wife “tastes like Honey Nut Cheerios.”
1 Dwight Howard
Currently with the Houston Rockets, Howard has had a number of run-ins with Garnett going back to his time with the Orlando Magic. Garnett, who was once something of an idol of Howard’s (he wears the number “12” because it is the inverse of “21,” Garnett’s number in Minnesota), apparently does not think much of his fellow big man, as he has taunted Howard frequently over the years. In the Eastern Conference Finals in 2010, Garnett repeatedly referred to Howard as a “clown,” and he could be heard telling Howard over and over to “Paint your face, clown!” as they ran up and down the court.
In their most recent on-court altercation during the 2014-15 season, Garnett threw the ball at the Houston center and then delivered a head-butt, earning KG a technical and a one-game suspension. For his part, Howard shoved Garnett away and then appeared to throw a punch after Garnett’s head-butt. Howard only got a technical for the incident, as the NBA believed that Garnett was clearly responsible for provoking the incident, but it is clear that the two are not particularly fond of one another and there is certainly no mutual respect among the two big men.
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