The Basketball Jones 40: What does that mean exactly? Well, it’s a little hard to define. It’s certainly not a list of the 40 best players in the league right now — in fact, a couple players on the TBJ 40 would be ones that teams would gladly pay just to go away (and some have). And it’s not a list of our 40 favorite players, either — the combined man-hours that some of us have spent rooting against a couple of these guys would certainly disqualify that as well. It’s not even the 40 funniest or most interesting players, as a couple players are dull as dishwater off the court, but do enough on the hardwood to make their inclusion undeniable.
No, the best way we can define the Basketball Jones 40 is as the 40 players that are most important to our site right now. The players we write about the most, the players we follow the closest, the players that TBJ could least afford to be without. And what goes into that is an entire series of factors, ranging from their on-court success to their off-court headline making to their general likability as athletes, celebrities and human beings.
Hit the jump for No. 2 on our list …
Overhyped teenager, all-heart underdog, beloved MVP, cocky over-competitive asshole. Kevin Garnett has lived enough life in the NBA for about a half-dozen players, and amassed one heck of a career doing so. Toiling away most of his 16 years amidst a subpar supporting cast in the sunny confines of Minnesota, Garnett risked becoming the poster boy for Nice NBA Players Finishing Last, before he was freed by a trade to Boston, won a championship, and quickly became one of the most hated players in the league. It’s impossible to say what KG’s personal legacy will ultimately be, but his professional legacy is certainly secure, and though he’ll never be seriously mentioned in the debate, he at least deserves a footnote in the discussion of the best players of his generation.
2011 Season: It looked to be something of a bounce-back year for Garnett, as he regained his swagger (to too great a degree, some would argue) and increased his scoring and rebounding averages from his bummy ’09-’10. The post-season would end things on sort of a bum note for KG, as he posted only one really good game in the Celtics’ five-game series loss to the Heat — in the one win, uncoincidentally — as he was unable to abuse Chris Bosh the way many expected him to. With the lockout threatening this season and Garnett’s retirement maybe closer than we think, it would be a shame if limping to a second-round loss was the last we saw of the future Hall-of-Famer. (15/20)
Legacy/Career: You look back at the stat lines from some of those peak years of KG’s career and they just boggle the mind. Take a look at 2004, his best year: 24 points, 14 rebounds, five assists, two blocks and a steal and a half per game, all on 50% shooting and 79% from the line — maybe no one number screams out as extraordinary, but taken together, who could possibly post a stat line like that in this day and age? And if that’s not selling you, 14 All-Star Games, an MVP, and a long-awaited championship should do the trick just fine. Dude’s first ballot. (10/10)
Drama/Controversy: It’s always something these days with KG, who’s turned into such a league pest that even a professional irritant like Joakim Noah had to complain about his etiquette. This year was the year when the tone of the stories of Garnett’s trash-talking and dirty-pool tactics officially turned from “Wow, what a competitor!” to “Wow, what an asshole!,” especially after he punched Channing Frye in the balls (maybe unintentionally) and referred to Charlie Villanueva as a cancer patient (probably intentionally). Better off the court than on for Garnett, where he had to deal with a decade of heartbreak-plus in Minnesota, but even he would have to admit that things went a little too far in ’10-’11. (9/10)
Go-To Move: That trademark high-release jumper from the very tippy-top of the key. They say the long two is the least efficient shot in basketball — and KG sure likes ‘em long — but darned if it hasn’t allowed Garnett to stay an offensive threat will into his NBA middle age. (9/10)
Highlight Play: Don’t jump, Nene. (9/10)
Comedic Potential: High, as it is for just about any crazy person. Whether he’s chastising Craig Sager about his fashion choices or making teammate Big Baby Davis cry, there’s a fury to Garnett that seems naturally comical, even if it’s the kind of funny that you wouldn’t want to ever get too close to. (8/10)
Nicknames: KG is obviously one of the more immediately identifiable initial-nicknames out there, to the point where saying his full name actually seems weird sometimes. Plus, “The Big Ticket” served well to symbolize the tragically hyped early years of Garnett’s stay in Minnesota, and made for some Big Baby funnyisms during the ’09 playoffs. (8/10)
Definitive Quote: “ANNYYYYTHIIIIIING IS POSSSIBLLLLLLEEEE!!!” (8/10)
Non-Hoops Ventures: Not a lot, though he did a least make one of the 20 best appearances in Like Mike. (2/5)
Poignant NBA Relationship: Undoubtedly with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce, with whom KG created the “Big Three” that brought Boston their first championship in 22 years. Kindred spirits all, it’s pretty tough to imagine them playing for separate teams at this point. (4/5)
TOTAL SCORE: 82/100