A former coach likened Boston Celtics champion Kevin Garnett’s leadership to that of Michael Jordan
Kevin Garnett’s career with the Boston Celtics didn’t produce multiple titles or a dynastical team, but he was focused enough in his first year with the team to help will them to an NBA Finals win along with the likes of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.
Winning over Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers, a title in 2008 was no small feat. It would take an intense focus, determination, and a competitive mindset from everyone. The leaders of the team would need to instill that mindset.
By this point in his career, Garnett had already proven his game and his work ethic. Winning the MVP Award in 2004 and getting named to 10 All-Star games before coming to Boston, Garnett would have the high-performance pieces around him to finally push his squad deep in the playoffs.
A title would be the goal for Garnett and the Celtics, but they needed to be focused and on track. Players like Garnett would need to step up into major leadership roles.
For Garnett, that sort of a role wouldn’t be all that hard to put into place, given that it’s ingrained in his psyche. For one of his former coaches, Tom Thibodeau, he sees similarities to the great Michael Jordan.
Tom Thibodeau likens Boston Celtics champion Kevin Garnett to Michael Jordan
Speaking about Michael Jordan and his impact on the Chicago Bulls organization, Thibodeau couldn’t help but mention the similarity to Kevin Garnett when talking to Adrian Wojnarowski on the Woj Pod.
"“The impact [Jordan] had and the way he was wired just, it made him so unique and so special. But also the way he drove everyone in that organization. And I think championship teams have that internal driving force that are like a Michael Jordan. I know, in Boston we had Kevin Garnett and he was that guy. I think when you look at every championship team, I know from talking to Brendan Malone, how he felt about Isiah Thomas and how he was that guy for them in Detroit, and you talk to the people in Boston about Bird and how he was,” Thibodeau said."
Thibodeau worked closely with Garnett when he was an associate head coach with the Celtics alongside Doc Rivers. Primarily focused on the defensive end in Boston, Garnett was one of Thibodeau’s most regular assignments.
Thibodeau, who coached the Bulls in the 2010s, leaned on footage of Jordan’s practices with the Bulls to help develop parts of his coaching strategy. He also reached out to Jordan to discuss some of the stories he heard about Jordan and to figure out how he might be able to lead the Bulls to success with the likes of Derrick Rose and Jimmy Butler.
The “practice harder than you play” mentality is clearly something that Garnett and Jordan were similar in.
Thibodeau is not the first person who has pegged Garnett as similar to Jordan in this vein.
Danny Ainge even recently told a story about Garnett where head coach Doc Rivers was trying to manage his practice minutes and asked him to sub out of a scrimmage. Garnett, unwilling to show weakness as the leader of the team, went to the adjacent court to do some wind sprints.
He brought a certain Jordan-like energy to practice.
Tim Grover, Jordan’s longtime trainer, talks about players that practice harder than they play as “cleaners” — Athletes who will repeatedly do whatever they can to win, and who raise the bar of everyone around them.
Garnett was all of this and then some. His energy, tenacity, and willingness to do whatever it takes to win was a huge factor to the team’s only title in the 2000s.