Kevin Garnett talks missed opportunities, on and off the court
By Sopan Deb
At one point in a new Showtime documentary, Kevin Garnett unexpectedly jumps out of his seat during an interview to curse into a boom microphone.
Sitting down has never been one of his strengths, whether on the basketball court or in typically sleepy affairs, like talking about yourself on camera.
The film, titled “Kevin Garnett: Anything Is Possible,” premieres Nov. 12. It traces Garnett’s life story, from his upbringing in South Carolina through his ascent to being one of the most celebrated prep-to-pros players in basketball history by winning an NBA championship with the Boston Celtics in 2008.
This documentary is the latest in a trend of athletes trying to shape the narratives about themselves through their own productions. Michael Jordan, Tom Brady and Russell Westbrook have been involved in similar projects.
In Garnett’s documentary, for which he is an executive producer, one scene stands out. Garnett and rapper Snoop Dogg are in a recording studio discussing athlete activism, and Garnett criticizes the NBA players who resumed the playoffs after walking out to protest social injustice in the summer of 2020.
“I actually thought for a second that the players had momentum to where, if they could’ve took a stance, all of them together, and said, ‘No, we’re not playing,’ that they could’ve actually went on Capitol Hill and started a conversation, a real one, and started talking about police reform,” Garnett tells Snoop Dogg.
Garnett added, “Just falling in line actually didn’t really help anything.”
In a recent interview, Garnett discussed those comments on player activism, his acting ambitions and his relationship with his former Celtics teammate Ray Allen.
Sopan Deb: You do a very impressive impersonation of Doc Rivers, the former Celtics coach, in the documentary. We’ve seen your acting skills in “Uncut Gems.” What is your interest in continuing your acting career?
Garnett: I feel like obviously the character that I played in the “Uncut Gems” was myself, and I didn’t think that I can mess that up, and I felt confident in that. I’m getting some opportunities, just nothing that speaks to me. Some of the things that have come across my desk are just things that I can’t relate to and I don’t feel like fit me. But I have very high interest. I would love to do more movies if possible.
Deb: There’s an interesting scene with Snoop Dogg where you’re talking about the NBA players and the post-George Floyd protests. You essentially suggested that the players fell in line when it came to protesting police shootings and that they should have stopped playing until there was real reform. Is that an accurate framing of how you feel?
Garnett: Well, if I’m being frank, yeah. I think what I tried to insinuate, if not say, was that I just think that if players really, really felt passionate about the George Floyd situation, and they wanted to do more, I think the way that — or at least the way I thought that — you should actually effect change is changing. If that meant you all not playing, then you shouldn’t. I thought that should’ve been an option.
I thought the league actually took advantage of the players and knowing that the majority of the players needed to play and needed the opportunity to play, and that wasn’t going to be an option.
It seems like during the pandemic, the world linked on sports for entertainment or to keep things at a calm. With that type of leverage, you got to know how to actually use that leverage. I don’t think the players really had a firm leadership in being able to devise a plan and put it together.
Deb: Were you particularly political in your playing career? For example, would you have been willing to stop playing until there was legislation addressing a reform that you were passionate about?
Garnett: I would have taken the opportunity to go on Capitol Hill and use my platform to be loud and to say whatever it was I felt. You’ve got to remember: This is your livelihood. And as 400-plus players, you’re not just speaking for yourself. You’re trying to speak for a body of players that think differently, on all accounts. This is how you eat. This is how you feed yourself, and everybody is in different categories as far as economics, when it comes to the league.
I probably would have been in a position to take a stance and actually want to initiate a conversation. But, again, I felt like it would have been important to have proper people, proper politicians and proper partnerships to be able to go to the table with proper vision to talk about reform. That’s all.
[Later, Garnett added a clarification.]
Garnett: I want to make clear that I actually love the way the players stayed together, and whatever decision they came up with, they were in unison with it. I don’t want to come off like I’m going at the future players or the players that are current and they should have did this.
I actually support the players — LeBron, Chris Paul and all they do for the union and for the players.
Deb: Paul Pierce is featured heavily in the documentary, as are several other Celtics teammates from 2008. One who is barely mentioned is Ray Allen. Have you softened your stance toward Ray at all? [Some of Allen’s teammates were angry after Allen, who was with the Celtics from 2007 to 2012, left for Miami in free agency after the Heat defeated the Celtics in the playoffs.]
Garnett: I wish Ray all the best, and I wish him and his family all the best, and whatever he’s doing, I’ll always be supportive of it. And that’s all I got to say.
Deb: Can you tell me a bit about your relationship with Marc Lore and Alex Rodríguez, the new ownership group of the Minnesota Timberwolves?
Garnett: I haven’t had any conversations with them. I haven’t spoken to A-Rod personally.
Deb: Do you have any interest in being part of the new ownership group, whether in basketball operations or as a minority owner or in some way being part of the franchise?
Garnett: I think that opportunity has passed. I actually think I’ve been hearing whispers that A-Rod is actually going to take the Timberwolves to Seattle. So we’ll see. I don’t know.
Deb: Would you be upset if that happened? [The Timberwolves didn’t respond to a request for comment.]
Garnett: No one wants to see the Wolves leave Minneapolis, but you know, it’s business. I would never want the Timberwolves to leave Minneapolis and Minnesota. I think that team means a lot to that state.