Anything Is Possible and None of It Matters

I’m developing a tendency of dwelling on NBA-related events for a matter of hours, which feeds into more and more dwelling until the dwelling is through.  It’s probably a good thing in terms of avoiding rash, immediate reactions, but clearly a negative in regard to timeliness and topicality.

The playoffs haven’t actually started yet, so is it still okay to talk about Kevin Garnett?

Today, Doc Rivers dropped a bomb: there is a distinct possibility that Kevin Garnett will not play in a single playoff game this season.  Boom, y’all.  But there was no fallout, and there was no mayhem.  A monster artillery shell drilled into the very foundation of the basketball world, and the response was a resounding “…Huh.”

Garnett is unquestionably a pillar of Celticry.  He’s still a bastion of defensive intensity, and holds the keys to a successful drive in Boston.  And yet this superstar, star among stars though he may be, has commanded virtually zero attention with the announcement that he may have already played his last game of the season.  Maybe that’s at the center of why I’m sitting here at nine at night, with the blogging sun long since set, writing about an injury to a player on a team that few believe will even sniff the title.

There’s no question that if LeBron, Wade, or one of the league’s few other stratospheric icons went through the exact same injury, I’d be all over that.  Superficially, I’d attribute that to Garnett’s already lengthy absence, with a hint of NBA-dom’s growing ambivalence about the Boston brand.  But I’m convinced there are forces far more nefarious at work here.  Something much larger in the grand scheme of the NBA narrative: Kevin Garnett has ceased to exist as a person of intrigue.

Last season was a dream come true for Garnett.  In donning the kelly green, he assumed a place as part of history’s franchise, and hit the court flying with All-Star wings.  The banners above his head were as motivating as they were foreboding.  But above all, KG was able to shed the identity of a lovable loser and become the leader that many thought he would never be.  Kevin Garnett was the best player on a championship team, and he led that team in spirit and performance.  Question his abilities in any regard if you will, but nothing can take that ring off of his finger.

In that moment, when metal and gemstone met with superhuman power forward flesh, we saw the beginning of the end of our interest in Garnett.  There were no more questions about his leadership.  There were no more questions about a title-less career.  There was no more support for Garnett as the champion of the underdogs.  The tragic hero had found his closure, and a legacy was defined that night in June.

It shouldn’t surprise you, because the symptoms have been there all season long.  LeBron was so quickly annointed as the East’s MVP because we so desperately wanted to find a new king.  Eventually, Garnett’s trademark intensity was thrown in his face; his antics had worn thin, and his on-court hounding was suddenly an unbearable disgrace to the game.  KG’s ardent supporters claimed that nothing had changed, that Garnett’s new scrutiny was simply a matter of more cameras and brighter lights.  That’s exactly the point: little about Garnett has changed, but our perception of him will be altered forever.  Garnett doesn’t hold the same draw as LeBron, as Wade, or as post-Shaq Kobe because he’s done the unthinkable: he won the whole damn thing.  Once you’ve abandoned the suspense for that carthartic climax, there’s simply no going back.

Kevin Garnett is injured and the Celtics won’t win the title.  Huh.

Seth Carstens