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He was once “Da Kid.” Then “The Man.” Now he’s one of Boston’s “Big Three.” Kevin Garnett had done it all in the NBA, except take his team to a title. He checked that one off his to-do list in 2008 after an epic trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Celtics. KG is one of the most enthusiastic, demanding and dedicated players to ever set foot on the hardwood. This was true when he was at the top of his game, and it is still true as he enters his twilight years. This is his story…

GROWING UP

Kevin Maurice Garnett was born on May 19, 1976, in Greenville, South Carolina; a small town located about 80 miles northwest of the capitol city of Columbia. (Click here for a complete listing of todays sports birthdays.) Kevin’s mother, Shirley, was not married to his biological father, O’Lewis McCullough, so she looked after the infant and his older sister, Sonya, on her own.

Caring for two children wasn’t easy, and things got more complicated when a sister, Ashley, arrived. Shirley worked two jobs, one at a local plant and another as a hair stylist. O’Lewis, who remarried and started a new family, helped out with child support payments.

The Garnetts lived in a mostly black section of Greenville known as Nickeltown. Personable and outgoing, Kevin had plenty of friends there, and lots of relatives, too. Among them was cousin Shammond Williams (who would go on to star at the University of North Carolina). Williams informed Kevin that O’Lewis’s parents, Odell and Mary McCullough, owned a home a few blocks from the Garnetts. Kevin was intrigued by this revelation, and Shirley—who had shunned contact with the senior McCulloughs—finally took her son to see his grandparents.

Though Kevin’s father was not a constant presence in his life, he did have a major influence in one way. As a teenager, O’Lewis was a gifted hoops player. The captain of the basketball team at Beck High School in the mid-’70s, he was nicknamed “Bye Bye 45” because he wore number 45 and regularly blew by opponents of the fast break. A dominant center in the world of small-town basketball, O’Lewis was snubbed by big-time colleges because he stood only 6-4. After graduating from high school, he joined the Army and played in local basketball leagues. That’s when he and Shirley began dating.

O’Lewis’s talent rubbed off on Kevin, who became infatuated with basketball and fantasized about of making it to the NBA. His first idol was Magic Johnson, the All-Star point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers. Kevin practiced around the clock to become the next Magic.

For Kevin, the basketball court also served as a refuge when life got tough. So hooked on the game was Kevin that sometimes he would sneak out of his bedroom window in the dead of night to go to a nearby playground.

Without O’Lewis in the picture, Kevin craved a “real” father—preferably one who, like his biological dad, liked basketball. Shirley married when Kevin turned seven, but her new husband, Ernest Irby, had no interest in sports.

Even as Kevin showed signs of developing into a basketball phenom, Shirley and Ernest demanded that he study hard in school and earn good grades. She was a practicing Jehovah’s Witness and taught her children the tenets of her religion. That meant that the Garnetts ignored holidays like Halloween and Christmas. (Kevin, in fact, was 19 before he celebrated Christmas for the first time.)

Soon after his 12th birthday, Kevin and his family moved a short ride away to Maudlin. There, on Basswood Drive, he was befriended by a group of kids who shared his love for basketball. His best friend was Jamie “Bug” Peters. The two became so close that they told people they were brothers.

As a kid, Kevin usually matched up against players who were bigger, older and stronger. Playing against more experienced competition motivated him to improve. He got his first taste of organized ball in 1991 as a freshman at Maudlin High School. Though still raw, Kevin averaged 12.5 points, 14 rebounds, and seven blocks a game.

The following summer, he joined an AAU team coached by Darren Gazaway. Kevin impressed Gazaway with his work ethic and team-first attitude. The teenager would typically head directly for the playground after a practice to work on something he had just learned. In games, he derived as much joy from blocking a shot or throwing a good outlet pass as he did from dunking over someone.

By his sophomore season at Maudlin, Kevin was performing at such a high level that his coach, James Fisher, barely recognized him. He moved around the court with tremendous poise, could play with his back to the basket and sometimes triggered and finished the same fast break. Regardless of his position, Kevin always took control of the action. He wore jersey number 21, the same as Malik Sealy of St. John’s. He had seen the star forward during the season and immediately identified with his versatility and unselfishness on the floor.

As Kevin’s star rose, his commitment in the classroom wavered. He didn’t always apply himself, particularly in courses that required large amounts of reading. When school administrators offered to provide extra tutoring, Kevin refused. He was certain that NBA riches awaited him.

Nothing during Kevin’s junior year at Maudlin dissuaded him from that dream. He poured in 27 points, pulled down 17 rebounds, and swatted seven shots a game. Along the way, he led the Mavericks to the state championship and was named South Carolina’s Mr. Basketball, making him the first junior in state history to be so honored.

In May of 1994, however, Kevin’s life began to crumble around him. A fight broke out at school between a white student and several black classmates, and Kevin happened to be nearby. (This version of the story has been questioned since. One report indicates that Kevin was part of a group of black students who beat a white freshman with rolled-up newspapers. The victim suffered injuries that required hospital care.)

When the police showed up, they arrested everyone in the vicinity. Kevin was charged with second-degree lynching, and then was released on bail. The story made headlines across the state. Kevin’s once sterling reputation was trashed.

Just as he had done when he was a kid, Garnett retreated to the basketball court for solace. He received more distressing news, however, when a longtime friend named Eldrick Leamon was hit by a car and died from his injuries. Shaken by Leamon’s death, Kevin worked even harder on his game.

Kevin’s mother suspected her famous son would be hung out to dry in the swirl of racism, local politics and headline-grabbing triggered by the charges leveled at him. She was looking for a way out of South Carolina, and ultimately Kevin’s basketball would be their ticket.

That summer, Kevin starred for his AAU team, leading the squad to victory in the prestigious Kentucky Hoopfest. His performance there helped earn him an invitation to a Nike summer camp, where he competed against some of the best teenagers in the country. During the week, he struck up a friendship with Ronnie Fields, who played for Farragut High School in Chicago. Knowing Kevin’s situation, Fields suggested that he come to the Windy City for his senior season.

Shirley and Ashley accompanied Kevin on the trip north. In Chicago, rumors persisted that he transferred to Farragut because of academic problems at Maudlin. The story became national news when ESPN did a piece on it. Kevin scoffed at the suggestion, explaining that with all the negative attention back in South Carolina, he simply wanted a fresh start.

The new environment also provided Kevin with the opportunity to take his game to another level. Chicago produced some of the best high school players in the country; hence Farragut would provide Kevin with his first exposure to regular top-flight competition. His coach, William Nelson, planned to let his newest player showcase his full range of talents.

ON THE RISE

With Kevin and Fields leading the way, Farragut was a force to be reckoned with. The first big test for the Admirals came in December against the Vashon Wolverines at the Coca-Cola/KMOX Shootout in the St. Louis. In front of 12,926 at the Kiel Center, Farragut overcame a sloppy first half to win 58-55.

Seated among the crowd were coaches from national powerhouses such as Michigan, Illinois, and Kentucky. A host of NBA scouts were in attendance, too. Kevin had a solid 3.8 GPA since transferring to Farragut, but he had yet to pass the ACT, which threw his NCAA eligibility into doubt—and made him a strong possibility for the upcoming pro draft.

Kevin led Farragut to the state championship, but shortly thereafter—despite attending special classes designed to improve his test-taking skills—he failed to score the requisite 17 on the ACT, which made him in eligible for college play. Though Kevin wanted to go to school, the NBA was looking more and

During the first weekend of April, Kevin was in St. Louis for the McDonald’s All-American game. He joined Vince Carter, Paul Pierce, Ron Mercer, Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Stephon Marbury for the 18th annual classic. Kevin was particularly happy to see Marbury, who had made contact with him the summer before after hearing about his legal troubles. From there, they ran up huge monthly phone bills, talking about everything from girls to hoops to video games. Playing against his buddy, Kevin keyed the West squad’s 126-115 victory with 18 points, 11 rebounds, and three blocks. He walked away with the John Wooden Award as the game’s outstanding player.

Speculation about whether Kevin was ready for the NBA gained momentum when USA Today named him its national Player of the Year. If he opted for the draft, experts predicted he would be selected in the middle of the first round. Many compared him to Moses Malone, who signed with the Utah Stars of the American Basketball Association as a 19-year-old in 1974, then moved on the NBA, where he enjoyed a Hall of Fame career.

On April 9, Kevin took the ACT for the fourth time. He had a month left to decide whether he would enter the NBA draft. With that deadline looming and still awaiting his scores, Kevin hired agent Eric Fleisher to help him sort out his options. The teenager sizzled in a private workout, and two weeks later Fleischer arranged a press conference during which Kevin announced that he was going pro.

Kevin was the wild card in the 1995 NBA draft. College stars Joe Smith, Antonio McDyess, Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace were more polished players and safer picks. But Kevin’s potential—he stood close to seven feet and had a guard’s feel for the game—was hard to overlook.

Kevin McHale, the new vice president of basketball operations for the Timberwolves, was among those intrigued by the kid. Minnesota owned the fifth selection and was looking to shake things up after six straight sub-.500 seasons since coming into the league. The T-Wolves had never even won 30 games in a single campaign. When Smith, McDyess, Stackhouse and Wallace went one through four as expected, McHale grabbed Kevin.

After Kevin was drafted by the T-Wolves, he got a call from his high school coach. He had scored 970 on the SAT, which meant that he would have been eligible to play in college.

Kevin agreed to a three-year, $5.6 million deal. With McHale’s blessing, he invited a couple of childhood friends from South Carolina to live with him in a two-bedroom apartment and rented another pad for his mother. He also found a pair of parental figures in Grammy-winning record producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. After spotting the two in a mall, he “adopted” them as surrogate fathers. The three remain close today.

Kevin’s rookie season was a learning experience that began in training camp. Two-a-day practices under coach Bill Blair were much more taxing than anything he had ever encountered. According to McHale’s plan, Blair wasn’t going to rush Kevin along. He used the rookie off the bench to spell forwards Christian Laettner and Tom Gugliotta.

The first half of Kevin’s rookie season was more tumultuous than McHale wanted it to be. With the team performing far under expectations, he fired Blair and replaced him with Phil "Flip" Saunders. A college teammate of McHale’s and a two-time CBA Coach of the Year, Saunders injected new life into the T-Wolves. In Laettner’s mind, however, Saunders directed a little too much attention Kevin’s way. When the former Duke star popped off to the press, he forced McHale’s hand. Laettner was traded away in the second half.

Laettner’s departure created an opportunity for Kevin. He had been scoring six points and pulling down four rebounds a game. After the All-Star break, Saunders started using him more and Kevin responded. Over one 10-game stretch, he averaged nearly a double-double while shooting better than 50 percent from the floor. By year’s end, Kevin had boosted his season averages to 10.4 points and 6.3 rebounds, good enough to earn him a spot on the NBA All-Rookie Second Team. Though the T-Wolves finished 26-56, the year was considered a success. Their record was the second-best in team history, and Kevin was already exhibiting the earmarks of a young NBA superstar.

In the 1996 draft, McHale hoped to find a complimentary player for Kevin. Marbury, who had just completed a remarkable freshman season at Georgia Tech, was an interesting option. His explosiveness off the dribble was startling, and his range from the outside was excellent. Kevin lobbied hard for Minnesota to take his phone pal. On draft day, McHale arranged a deal with Milwaukee which made Ray Allen a Buck and Marbury a T-Wolf.

The 1996-97 season was a revelation for Minnesota fans. The team improved by 14 games, going 40-42 and making the playoffs for the first time. Gugliotta topped the squad in scoring and rebounding, Doug West provided valuable leadership, but Kevin and Marbury were the big stories. The chemistry between the two energized the franchise.

Kevin, still several months shy of his 21st birthday, served notice that he was ready to assume a leadership role in training camp. He chewed out center Stojko Vrankovic for banking in a layup instead of throwing down a dunk, letting his teammates know it was time to start asserting themselves. Kevin also led by example. Through the first three months, he was doing it all, averaging nearly 15 points, nine rebounds, three assists, and three blocks. Though slowed in December by a sprained ankle, he was named to the Western Conference’s All-Star squad. He was the youngest to play in the contest since his idol, Magic Johnson, in 1980.

Kevin and Marbury were also making headlines as a duo. Their inside-outside presence drew comparisons to Utah’s Kevin Malone and John Stockton. As Minnesota prepared for its opening-round playoff match-up against the Houston Rockets, people wondered whether the young pair could engineer an upset. But the T-Wolves crashed back to earth, as Charles Barkley and company swept them in three games. Afterwards, the veteran pulled Kevin aside and told him to keep his head up.

Despite the first-round exit, the ’96-97 campaign was a major step for Kevin. He thrived under his increased workload, raising his production in every statistical category. Kevin was clearly the special franchise player Minnesota needed.

The question was whether the franchise was willing to pay for him. NBA rules allowed Kevin to request a contract extension, but he shocked the basketball world by turning down a six-year deal at $102 million.

Kevin maintained it was smart business. As a free agent, big-market teams like the Lakers and Knicks would wave even more lucrative, multi-faceted deals at him. McHale ultimately agreed and inked Kevin for $18 million more than his original offer. The $120 million was more than the estimated value of T-Wolves, marking the first time am athlete in a major sport was owed more by his team than the team was worth.

Overnight, the pressure on the third-year star intensified. Vilified as a poster boy for greed and selfishness, Kevin was now expected to win and win big. McHale, a member of the great Celtic teams of the 1980s, knew it wasn’t that simple: a star needs complimentary players and a deep supporting cast. He surrounded Kevin and Stephon with veteran role players, including newcomers Tom Hammonds and Terry Porter. They meshed with returnees Chris Carr, Sam Mitchell and Tom Gugliotta to form a solid nucleus.

After an up-and-down start, the T-Wolves won 14 of 16 to put them on track for a return to the postseason. Gugliotta was elevating his game to star status, giving the T-Wolves their coveted third go-to guy, and the team was getting solid contributions from reserve centers Stanley Roberts and Cherokee Parks. In January, Kevin led the Timberwolves to a franchise-record seven victories in a row. He notched his first career triple-double against the Denver Nuggets, going for 18 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists. Kevin also became the first player in franchise history to start in the All-Star Game.

Behind Kevin, the T-Wolves continued to surge in the second half, despite a season-ending knee injury to Gugliotta. McHale traded for Anthony Peeler, who replaced some of the lost scoring punch, and Minnesota ended the regular season at 45-37. At 18 ppg, 9.6 rpg and 4.2 apg, Kevin was the primary reason for the franchise’s first winning campaign. He broke the team’s single-season records for rebounds (786), point/rebound double-doubles (45) and minutes played (3,222).

The next challenge was a postseason duel with the Seattle Supersonics. Earlier in the year, the T-Wolves had snapped a 26-game losing streak to the Sonics on the strength of eight three-pointers by Marbury. But the franchise’s overall record versus Seattle was a dismal 4-32. Minnesota reversed history by winning two of the first three games. Then Gary Payton caught fire, and the Sonics escaped in the best-of-five series.

Kevin had a long time to think about Minnesota’s collapse. A lockout by the NBA owners—triggered in no small part by the enormity of Kevin's contract—suspended the start of the following season until January 1999.When the dispute was finally settled, the T-Wolves featured a different look. Gugliotta left for Phoenix via free agency, and McHale replaced him with Joe Smith, one of the four players chosen before Kevin in the 1995 draft.

More changes would come. Most notable was the trade of Marbury, who had grown increasingly unhappy, playing in the shadow of Kevin’s contract. It was a three-way deal with the New Jersey Nets and Milwaukee. In which Minnesota received two draft choices and point guard Terrell Brandon, a skilled playmaker who, like Marbury, could score from the perimeter.

The season’s late start and short schedule prevented the T-Wolves revolving-door roster from meshing as McHale had envisioned. The team split its 50 games and was ousted in the first round of the playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs, the eventual NBA champs.

Kevin Garnett,

1995 Upper Deck Collector's Choice

For his part, Kevin enjoyed another stellar year, increasing his output for the fourth straight season. Despite missing three games with the flu (which snapped an ironman streak of 181 in row), he led the Timberwolves in scoring (20.8 ppg), rebounds (10.4 rpg), and double-doubles (25).

Kevin’s effort earned him a spot on the All-NBA Third Team—not to mention the Dream Team, joining the likes of Tim Duncan, Jason Kidd and Vince Carter. He traveled with the U.S. Olympic squad to Puerto Rico in July for a three-game tournament, where he thrilled fans with his enthusiasm off the court and his performance on it. The Americans won all four of their games easily and qualified for the 2000 Summer Games in Australia.

Kevin looked forward to the 1999-2000 season. Brandon would be in uniform all year, and rookie forward Wally Szczerbiak was deemed NBA-ready by most scouts. When Minnesota got off to a rocky start, Saunders fiddled with the lineup until he found the right chemistry. His most inspired move was promoting bench player Malik Sealy—picked up during the 1998-99 campaign—to the starting lineup in December. Sealy, one Kevin’s favorite players a kid and now one of his best friends, proved the missing ingredient.

Kevin led the T-Wolves to three wins Christmas week and was named the NBA Player of Week. The day after receiving that award, he scored 26 points and hauled down a franchise-record 23 rebounds against the Orlando Magic. Kevin started for the Western Conference in the All-Star Game for the second year in a row and tallied 24 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.

The T-Wolves were rolling toward their first 50-win season when on May 20, Sealy was killed in an early-morning traffic accident by a drunk driver. Kevin was devastated. Emotionally drained, he and his teammates couldn’t get past the Portland Trailblazers and bowed out of the postseason’s first round once again.

Kevin’s final stats served as a tribute to his fallen friend. He became just the ninth player in league history to average at least 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists, posting career-highs in all three categories. Kevin also showed greater range from the outside, shooting 37% from the beyond the arc. To no one's surpise, he was selected to the All-NBA First Team and the All-Defensive First Team.

After the season, Kevin refocused his energies as Team USA gathered in Hawaii for a series of workouts before flying to Australia for the Olympics. In Sydney, he didn’t waste a minute of his time. Kevin walked in the Opening Ceremonies, took a trip the Australian Wildlife Park, and formed friendships with several foreign athletes in the Olympic Village.

Come the hoops tournament, the Americans advanced to the medal round without much problem. Then, after dispatching Russia by 15 points, the Dream Team beat Lithuania in a nailbiter, 85-83. In the battle for gold, they faced France. The contest stayed close deep into the second half until the U.S. pulled away and cruised to a 10-point victory. Kevin, whose 9.1 rpg topped the competition, celebrated like he had just won the lottery.

MAKING HIS MARK

The jubilation of Olympic gold helped erase the pain of Sealy’s death. When the T-Wolves struggled early in the 2000-01 campaign, however, Kevin became frustrated. He was doing his part, averaging more than 24 points and 11 rebounds, but Brandon, Peeler, and Szczerbiak were all performing inconsistently. Newcomer Chauncey Billups couldn’t get into gear, either.

Minnesota began to turn things around in December, with Kevin as the catalyst. A trend was developing for the T-Wolves—they played their best not when Kevin was their top scorer, but when he did all the little things. Consequently, he passed up scoring opportunities to involve his teammates more. By February, the T-Wolves moved back near the top of the standings in the Midwest. Minnesota finished at 47-35, drawing the Spurs in the playoffs. Despite a strong series from Kevin, the team failed to advance past the first round.

Kevin Garnett, 1999 Sports Illustrated

Kevin’s final numbers for the season (22 ppg , 11.4 rpg, 5 apg, 1.37 spg and 1.79 bpg) placed him in elite company. He also extended his double-figure scoring streak to 291 games, the 11th-longest string in NBA history. But another quick departure from the playoffs grated on Kevin. Fans and the media now wondered aloud about his ability to lift those around him.

When the 2001-02 season started, not much had changed with the T-Wolves. Because of an illegal deal struck the prior year by team owner Glen Taylor, Minnesota had been stripped of four first-round draft choices. Saunders tried to shake things up by moving Kevin to small forward, Smith to power forward and Szczerbiak to off-guard. Brandon, slowed by an assortment of injuries, would share duties at the point with Billups, a former lottery pick still trying to find his way in the NBA.

The new lineup paid dividends, aand Minnesota broke from the gate at 18-8. Kevin looked great. In the season opener against Milwaukee, he went for 25 points and 21 rebounds. In November, he torched the Los Angeles Clippers for 30 points and 19 rebounds. Against the Sacramento Kings in early December, he pulled down a franchise-record 25 boards and nailed a pair of treys in the final 30 seconds to send the contest into OT. Two days later, he victimized the Clippers again, hitting a game-winner at the buzzer. In back-to-back games versus Houston and Indiana, he swatted away six and seven shots.

By moving away from the basket, Kevin was causing all sorts of match-up problems for opponents. He could knock down the jumper, put the ball on the floor and see open teammates that smaller players couldn’t. In April, Kevin set a new mark by being named Player of the Month for the fourth time that year.

Though an injury ended Brandon’s season in February, Billups held his own and the T-Wolves managed to post another 50-win season. Kevin was the difference. For the third year in a row, he was a 20-10-5 guy, including career-highs in rebounds (12.1) and assists (5.2). Voted All-NBA Second Team, NBA All-Defensive First Team, and All-Interview First Team, he had established himself as one of the league’s marquee players.

The 2002 postseason was supposed to be Kevin’s coming-out party. But the festive atmosphere turned sour with a disappointing series sweep by the Dallas Mavericks. Kevin played well enough—including a 31-point, 18-rebound effort in Game 2—but it wasn’t nearly enough. Amid the ruins of another first-round exit, Magic Johnson was among those who questioned Kevin’s ability to lead a team at crunch time, saying he tended to disappear in the final minutes when his team needed him to take charge.

The criticism stung Kevin. Even McHale told him that he needed to be more aggressive, on offense and defense. Kevin reacted by embarking on his toughest offseason training regimen ever. He convened with a nutritionist, worked with a personal trainer, and also got into yoga. Kevin arrived for training camp lean and mean.

After the 2002-03 season’s first few months, it was clear that Kevin had had taken the words of McHale and Magic to heart. He wasn’t just playing better and more assertive basketball; he was imposing his will on opponents and taking over games when he sensed they were at a turning point.

Kevin increased his intensity on the defensive end, too. In January, he registered five steals against the Rockets and then blocked five shots against the Toronto Raptors. In the All-Star Game, he claimed MVP honors in a double-OT victory by the West.

With the Lakers playing unevenly, the conference was up for grabs. But all was not well in Minnesota. Injuries plagued Szczerbiak, and new additions Troy Hudson and Kendall Gill had not fit in as well as expected. Kevin managed to hold everyone together, and the T-Wolves continued to roll. Fans, writers and broadcasters began talking about him as the MVP.

Kevin remained a frontrunner for the award in the campaign’s final months. Three times he posted double-figures in assists, and he was named April's NBA Player of the Month. The T-Wolves ended with a record of 51-31, the best in franchise history. Starting all 82 games, Kevin put up career highs in scoring (23.0), rebounds (13.4), assists (6.0) and minutes (40.5). By going 20-10-5 for the fourth year in a row, he joined Larry Bird as the only two players in league history to achieve this feat. When it came time for the MVP balloting, he finished a close second to Tim Duncan. Basketball Digest, however, named him its Player of the Year.

For all his great work, Kevin still couldn’t get Minnesota past the post-season’s opening round; not that he didn’t play well. For most of the series, won by the Lakers in six games, Kevin was the best player on the floor. Minnesota was actually up two games to one until LA reeled off three straight. Kevin was lauded for his effort, but the praise was of little consolation.

McHale sprung into action for the 2003-04 campaign, trying again to find the right supporting cast around Kevin. His two biggest acquisitions were point guard Sam Cassell and swingman Latrell Sprewell. He also plugged Michael Olowokandi in at center. Reserves Fred Hoiberg and Mark Madsen were

The moves paid huge dividends, particularly Cassell and Sprewell. Besides giving the T-Wolves two viable scoring options—which allowed Kevin to focus even more on his defense and rebounding—the pair of veterans added dimension to the team’s performance. Cassell, a proven winner, worked the pick and roll with Kevin like they’d been practicing for years. And Sprewell left everything on the floor, every minute of every game, and refused to back down. The result was 58 wins and the top record in the West.

Kevin was hands-down the league’s best player. In fact, he won the MVP in a landslide, taking 120 of 123 first-place votes. Named to the All-Defensive First Team for the fifth consecutive season, he was also the only unanimous selection to the All-NBA First Team. Kevin pulled down his first NBA rebounding title, and when he finished atop the league in total points scored, he became the first player in 29 years to achieve that double.

Kevin was sensational from opening night to the conclusion of the regular season. In December against the Mavs, he recorded one of his two triple-doubles with a season-high 35 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. His next (20 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists) came in January at Golden State. He went for 22 points and 24 rebounds in February against the Kings, and a month later he handed out the 3,000th assist of his career. After a brilliant April, Kevin was pumped for the postseason.

Up first for Minnesota was Denver and lights-out rookie Carmelo Anthony. Kevin didn’t want to mess around with the upstart Nuggets. It helped to have playoff-savvy veterans like Cassell and Sprewell on the floor with him. Aside from a hiccup in Game 3 on the road, the T-Wolves took care of business, with Cassell exploding for 40 in Game 1 and Sprewell leading the club in scoring in the next two contests. Kevin topped Minnesota in rebounding all five games and averaged just under 30 points a night.

For Kevin, advancing to the second round produced a mixture of elation and relief. But those feelings were quickly forgotten when Minnesota dropped Game 1 at home to the Sacramento Kings. Kevin seizond control two days later to get the T-Wolves back on track with a 94-89 victory. Then he played a monster game in Sacramento to re-establish homecourt advantage for his team. In the heart-stopping 114-113 win, he netted 30 and grabbed 15 rebounds.

The Kings won two of the next three to force Game 7 in the Target Center. In the most pressurized contest of his life—and the biggest game in franchise history—Kevin showed his championship colors. But his stat line (32 points, 21 rebounds, five blocks and four steals) didn’t begin to tell the story. Kevin logged 46 spell-binding minutes, providing energy and leadership every step of the way. With the game on the line in the fourth quarter, he scored 10 in a row. He then deflated the Kings with a drive and dunk on Chris Webber and a dramatic rejection of a Mike Miller shot with seconds to go.

Minnesota's rousing playoff push came to an end against the Lakers in the Conference Finals. With Shaquille O'Neal having his way in the paint and Karl Malone smelling his first NBA title, LA flexed more than enough muscle to contend with Kevin. It didn't help when Cassell went down with a bad back. After dropping Game 1 on their home floor, the T-Wolves bounced back with a victory. But the Lakers responded with three victories in the next four to eliminate Minnesota.

The excitement of the 2004 playoffs did not carry over to the following season. Although Szczerbiak stayed healthy and played well, Sprewell, Cassell and Hudson failed to mesh and the team struggled to stay above .500. Kevin played in all 82 games, led the league with 13.5 rebounds a game, and was tops among NBA frontcourt men with 5.7 assists. He was named First Team All Defense and led the NBA with 69 double-doubles—including 19 in a row. He also set a new personal scoring high with 47 points in a game against the Phoenix Suns. It was all for naught, however, when Minnesota concluded its schedule with 44 wins and got edged out of the Western playoffs for the first time since the 1990s.

More bad news arrived in the summer of 2005 when both Cassell and Sprewell flew the coop, and the T-Wolves struggled to replace them. Hudson was not the answer, especially after an ankle injured ended his season early. Szczerbiak was shipped out of town, traded midyear for Ricky Davis. Kevin, meanwhile, received no consistent support, and the team descended into mediocrity. He sat out the final nine games with a sore knee, and the T-Wolves lost seven times. Their 33 wins left them out of the playoffs once again in 2005–06. Kevin had another great season, leading the NBA in rebounding for the third year in a row. Again, however, it wasn't enough.

The 2006-07 edition of the T-Wolves offered little in the way of improvement or even inspired play. Kevin was often the first guy in the gym and the last to leave on practice days. Sometimes he felt like the only guy on the team trying. Most nights, basketball just wasn’t fun anymore for him. The T-Wolves had clearly crested. They no longer had the multidimensional upside players whom Kevin could make better. Making matters worse, the team’s #1 pick in the draft, Brandon Roy, had been shipped to Portland, where he immediately blossomed into the NBA’s Rookie of the Year. The T-Wolves limped home to a 32-win season.

After the final buzzer of that dreary campaign, McHale, Taylor and the T-Wolves faithful finally seemed ready to face a difficult fact: to get better, they would have to deal the 31-year-old face of their franchise. Minnesota asked for the moon, and the Celtics answered. Boston GM Danny Ainge, foiled by the bouncing balls of the lottery, bit the bullet and gave up seven players for KG—Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, Theo Ratliff and a pair of draft picks. The Celtics then signed Kevin to a three-year extension that would keep him in green for five seasons in all.

Kevin joined Paul Pierce and newly acquired Ray Allen to form one of the NBA’s biggest Big Threes ever, especially given the constrictions of the modern salary cap. The trio ate up all but 25 percent of the team’s budget, leaving little to stock the bench and even less margin for error (or injury).

Kevin knew he was in the right place after just a few practices with Boston. He went back a long way with both Pierce and Allen. Kevin lived with Pierce’s family during an AAU tournament in LA. He also played with Allen at a youth event in South Carolina.

Pierce and Allen proved to be as dedicated to training and practice as Kevin, and like him, they each had exactly one sniff of the Conference Finals and nothing to show for it. The trio entered the 2007-08 season determined to return Boston to the top of the East. They did just that, as the Celtics went 66-16 and secured homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs.

The key to Boston's resurgence was a renewed commitment on the defensive end. Coach Doc Rivers convinced his troops that there was no other way to win the NBA championship. Kevin led the charge. He clogged the lane, cleaned the glass and used his quick hands to create turnovers. For his efforts, he was named the NBA's Defensive Player of the Year.

Kevin also contributed on offense, averaging 18.8 points a game on .539 shooting. He scored the 20,000th point of his career in March, becoming just the 32nd player in league history to do so. More often than not, however, he was happy to let Pierce and Allen take over when the Celtics had the ball. At times, Kevin was actually knocked for his team-first attitude. Some in the media said he needed to carry a bigger load for Boston to be successful. As the Celtics continued to pile up the victories, he brushed aside the criticism.

The playoffs opened for Boston against the pesky Atlanta Hawks, who pushed the series to seven games. The Celtics took the decider on their home floor in a 99-65 rout. But fans questioned whether Boston was tough enough to advance any further. The Hawks won all three games in Atlanta and exposed the Celtics' shortcomings in the halfcourt offense.

Kevin made a statement in Game 1 against the Cleveland Cavaliers, scoring 28 points and dominating inside. Again, however, the Celtics could not muster a victory away from Boston. They held on for a 97-92 win in Game 7, but the doubters grew louder. Kevin was among their targets. Too often, they said, he settled for the outside jumper. For the Celtics to become a championship club, he would have to be more forceful around the basket.

To his credit, Kevin listened to his critics and adopted a more aggressive style of play. Against the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals, he was a monster. Detroit simply had no answer for Kevin. He controlled the boards on defense and took the ball hard to the rim. Kevin scored better than 20 points a game and got to the foul line more than twice as much as he did against the Cavs. The Celtics closed out the Pistons in six games and prepared to meet the Lakers in the NBA Finals.

It was more of the same for Kevin against Los Angeles. He presented serious matchup problems for the Lakers and pressed his advantage on the glass. Kevin averaged 13 boards a game, which fueled Boston’s transition game. The Celtics won three of the first four contests, and then captured the 17th title in franchise history in Game 6 in Boston. Kevin scored 26 in the finale and pulled down 14 rebounds. As the final buzzer sounded, he knelt down and kissed the leprechaun at center court. Again and again, he screamed, "Top of the world!"

For the first time in his career, Kevin found himself having to defend a championship in 2008–09. The season started well. He was voted into the All-Star Game for the 12th year in a row and was averaging close to a double-double. But in mid-February, he sprained his right knee while trying to complete an alley-oop against the Jazz. Kevin would play in just four more games that season, logging 57 in all before being shut down with a bone spur in the back of the knee. Without their big man, the Celtics still made the playoffs, but lost to the Magic in the second round.

The 2009–10 edition of the Celtics featured the Big Three, plus a much-matured Rajon Rondo. Kevin was part of a front line that blended experience and youth, with Rasheed Wallace, Kendrick Perkins and Glen “Big Baby” Davis. Kevin played in 69 of the team’s 82 games, leading the club in rebounds and finishing fourth in scoring at 14.3 points per game. He averaged under 30 minutes a contest for the first time since his rookie year, but he was still rated one of the best overall defenders in the league. This despite playing much of the year in tremendous pain as he regained the strength in his knee. There were some days when it looked as if Kevin was through. He was dragging his right leg and had problems getting off the floor for rebounds.

The Celtics finished atop the division with 50 victories, but they were given little chance of getting past the Cavaliers in the playoffs. Kevin thought differently, He was playing better than at any time in the season.

The Celtics first had to get past the Heat, which they did in five games. Kevin concentrated most of his effort on defense and rebounding. He made a clutch jumper in the waning moments of Game 3, which Pierce later won with a buzzer beater. Otherwise Boston had little problem overcoming Miami.

Next came LeBron and the Cavs. After Cleveland won the opener 101–93, many experts were predicting a sweep. The Celtics looked helpless as they were overwhelmed in the second half. But two nights later, Boston wiped out the Cavs on their home floor, 104–86. Kevin scored 18 and added 10 rebounds, while Wallace hit for 17. Rondo, meanwhile, had the best game of his career, dishing out 19 assists. Suddenly, fans were reevaluating the series. Rondo had established himself as the most dynamic player in the series and Boston’s new leader. And the Celtics proved they had a huge edge along the front line.

The series became a war when it moved to Boston. The Cavs blew out the Celts in the Garden, renewing speculation that Kevin and his teammates were too old and too slow. But Rivers made some key adjustments in Game 4, and Rondo notched a triple-double in a 97–87 win. Several times in the fourth quarter, James passed up opportunities to seize control of the game. Cleveland fans were dismayed by this development—and completely flabbergasted in Game 5, when their superstar basically disappeared in another blowout by the Celtics. This time, the Big Three dominated, with Kevin hitting for 18 and Allen raining three-pointers down on the Cavs.

Kevin had another superb game in Game 6, as the Celtics closed out the Cavs. He led the team with 22 points and 12 rebounds, and created havoc in the blocks all night long. Boston won 94–85 to advance to the Conference Finals.

There they met the Magic. Kevin and his teammates handled Dwight Howard in the first two games in Orlando and won both by a total of seven points. Kevin’s fourth-quarter corner fadeway over Howard in Game 2 sealed the Magic’s fate. Game 3, in Boston, was a 94–71 laugher.

The Magic didn’t roll over. They won the next two games to force the Celtics into a corner,. If they didn’t win Game 6 at home, they would have to play Game 7 in enemy territory. The Celtics opened an early lead but their spirits sank when Rondo was fouled hard and had to leave the game with a back injury. Nate Robinson exploded off the bench for two clutch three-pointers. The Magic, meanwhile, couldn’t buy a trey. Boston won 96–84 to advance to the NBA Finals.

Against the Lakers, Kevin, Rasheed Wallace, Glenn "Big Baby" Davis and Kendrick Perkins faced a stiff challenge in the form of a big, mobile front line.  They held their own, taking the lead in the series after winning Game 5. But a knee injury to Perkins left the Celtics at a disadvantage, and Los Angeles pounded the ball inside to win Game 6 easily.  Kevin played gallantly in Game 7, but the Lakers wore down the Celts. LA spent the fourth quarter at the foul line and won 83–79.

Rajon Rondo, 2009 Upper Deck

In terms of who is “The Man” in Boston, Kevin could care less—especially now that he has his NBA championship. If Pierce, Allen and Rondo share this view, and all four stay out of street clothes, the Celtics could be poised for another run at history ... and guarantee Kevin a spot beside Bill Russell, Dave Cowens, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish as one of the franchise’ all-time great big men.

KEVIN THE PLAYER

In the NBA, where match-ups are everything, Kevin has been a one-man nightmare for most of his career. He moves with quickness and power around the basket, his medium-range turn-around jumper is accurate and virtually unpreventable, and he can also hit from long range if left open. He can station himself in the low post, fill the lane on the break or bring the ball up as point guard. Regardless of who’s checking Kevin, they will inevitably find themselves at a disadvantage. He has always been adept at the pick and roll. Paired with either Pierce or Allen in Boston, he continued to thrive in the halfcourt game.

In the past, opponents had goaded Kevin into trying to do things that were outside his repertoire. Never one to back down from a challenge, he often played into their hands. Today he is smarter and more mature. He sees the floor and understands the game. Now Kevin is the player making other guys do things they can’t. Though slowed by injury and losing a few inches on his vertical, he has made up for this by maximizing the considerable skill that remains.

Kevin’s defense and rebounding are ferocious. His quick feet and long arms enable him to guard men down low or out on the floor. He hits the boards extremely well at both ends and is a superb shot-blocker. One of the key adjustments Kevin made with Celtics was learning how to keep rebounds alive even when he could not control them. Many older players simply don't try for balls they can’t tear out of the air. “Not trying” has never been a part of Kevin's vocabulary. 

Kevin has all the attributes of a leader who teammates gladly follow. He also knows when to share those duties when younger players show they are ready. With the Celtics, Kevin found perfect playing partners in Pierce—a slasher—and Allen, a smooth perimeter player known for stretching the defense. With Kevin on the blocks, many fans have feel as if they are reliving the Bird-McHale-Parrish days.

Source: JockBio.com

Isiah "Zeke" Thomas - One of the greatest basketball players of all time Tags: isiah thomas nba legend word life production sports entertainment feature blog

Isiah "Zeke" Thomas was one of the greatest "small men" ever to play professional basketball. His only peer at point guard in the NBA during the 1980s was the Lakers' Earvin "Magic" Johnson, who at 6-9 brought unique physical skills to the position.

Thomas, who stood barely over 6-feet, was in his day the grittiest performer to play the position, a feisty competitor who offered no quarter and expected none in return. Like Johnson, Thomas possessed the skill and determination to take over a game at will.

Thomas helped build a last-place Detroit Pistons team into back-to-back NBA champions in the late 1980s. Thomas' sunny smile belied an inner toughness that made him a key member of a scrappy, physical group of players dubbed the "Bad Boys" of Detroit.

"I call him the baby-faced assassin," an opposing coach once told the Charlotte Observer, "because he smiles at you, then cuts you down."

Like many of his teammates, Thomas was tempestuous, edgy, vocal and not opposed to balling up his fist when he felt the need. And he knew how to handle pain; he often played with injuries resulting from his rough-and-tumble style.

That fighting spirit, coupled with a shrewd business sense, served Thomas well as president of the NBA Players Association in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and continues to serve him well in his post-playing days, whether as a coach or executive, which has done with the Toronto Raptors, the Indiana Pacers and the New York Knicks.

Though Thomas was an unselfish player, his personal achievements were impressive. In 13 years with Detroit, he became the franchise's all-time leader in points, assists, steals and games played. He made the All-Star Team in all but his final year and was named NBA Finals MVP in 1990.

Along with Johnson, Oscar Robertson and Utah's John Stockton, Thomas became the fourth player in NBA history to amass more than 9,000 assists. His 13.9 assists per game in 1984-85 set an NBA record for the highest single-season average ever, until Stockton bested it with 14.5 in 1989-90.

Thomas refused to let his height limit what he could do on the court. He was a dangerous shooter from any spot on the floor, a smart passer and a smooth, clever playmaker. He was also known for his full-speed, acrobatic drives into the teeth of the toughest and tallest frontcourtmen. Thomas took whatever defenses gave him, whether it was a three-pointer, the baseline, the lane or an alley-oop opportunity. He combined intelligence, court savvy and physical gifts to attain true NBA superstardom. Off the court, Thomas was a tireless charity worker known for his sincerity and compassion.

Isiah Lord Thomas III came into the world in 1961 under the harshest of circumstances. He was the youngest of nine children growing up in one of the poorest and dangerous neighborhoods of West Chicago. His family sometimes went without food or heat, and the lack of bed space forced some of the kids to sleep on the floor. Isiah's father left the family when he was 3 years old, leaving Isiah's mother to raise the children.

Mary Thomas, whose courage inspired a 1990 television movie, did her best to shield her children from the drugs, violence and crime that plagued the area. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, one night, when thugs came looking for Isiah, his mother got out her sawed-off shotgun and warned them, "There's only one gang here, and I lead it. Get off my porch or I'll blow you off it!" Another night, when Isiah got home late, she grounded him for the entire summer.

Rick Majerus, then a Marquette assistant coach who tried to recruit Thomas, remembered, "You talk about abject poverty, human failing, suffering -- they had all that in Isiah's neighborhood. You'd go in there and here was this young guy who's got this big smile. He was unbelievably optimistic for someone who had gone through all the misfortune that has occurred in his family. He was very focused."

Thomas played high school ball at St. Joseph's in Westchester, where he led the team to the state-title game as a junior in 1978. In 1979, he was a member of the gold medal-winning United States team at the Pan-American Games.

That fall Thomas enrolled at Indiana University. The street-hardened freshman impressed Coach Bobby Knight from the outset, averaging 14.6 points and 5.5 assists in his first season. That summer Thomas was selected to play on the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team, but a U.S. boycott of the Moscow Games robbed him of the Olympic experience.

As a 19-year-old sophomore, Thomas (16.0 ppg, 5.8 apg) steered the Hoosiers to the 1981 NCAA Championship. Following that season he passed up his final two years of collegiate eligibility and entered the 1981 NBA Draft.

The 1980-81 Pistons were the second-worst team in the league, with a 21-61 record. Detroit was one of the few franchises that didn't have a player capable of scoring 20 points per game. The hapless club made Thomas the second overall pick in the 1981 draft behind DePaul's Mark Aguirre, a childhood friend of Thomas who later became his teammate. (Thomas, who had promised his mother he would finish college, received his degree in criminal justice six years later -- on Mother's Day.)

In 1981-82, with center Bill Laimbeer and rookie forward Kelly Tripucka also aboard, the Pistons posted an 18-game turnaround and climbed to third in the Central Division. Thomas had a solid first year (17.0 ppg, 7.8 apg, 150 steals), stepping into the point guard position and leading the team in assists and steals.

He was named to the NBA All-Rookie Team and made the first of his12 straight trips to the NBA All-Star Game. The 20-year-old rookie started, scored 12 points and dished out four assists in the East's 120-118 win at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.

 The competitive spirit fostered by Thomas's childhood manifested itself in his on-court performance. Although just a second-year pro, Thomas assumed the role of floor general, leading the team in assists, steals and minutes played. His 22.9 scoring average in 1982-83 was the second-highest on the team and the highest of his career.

As a team, however, the Pistons posted no improvement in the standings, finishing at 37-45. But the league started to take notice of the little man with the big smile who seemed to be able to do with the basketball whatever his heart desired. Thomas was tough from start to finish, and he was particularly focused in a game's final minutes.

During the mid-1980s, Thomas, Magic and Sidney Moncrief were the best all-around guards in the league. Still needing to carry much of the Pistons' offensive load, Thomas scored more than 20 points per game in each season from 1982-83 to 1986-87. The quick-handed guard was among the NBA's most prolific ball thieves.

But above all, he was the consummate quarterback, consistently placing near the top of the league in assists. In 1984-85, he set an all-time record by averaging 13.9 assists. He was selected to the All-NBA First Team for three consecutive seasons from 1983-84 to 1985-86. While keeping his own point totals healthy, Thomas fed Laimbeer, Tripucka, John Long and Vinnie Johnson a steady diet of scoring opportunities. Thomas could pass to anybody. In being named MVP of the 1984 and 1986 All-Star Games, Thomas recorded 15 and 10 assists, respectively.

When Chuck Daly came aboard as head coach for 1983-84, the Pistons became a playoff team once again. They were quiet in the first three years of Daly's reign, losing annually in the preliminary rounds to the New York Knicks, Boston Celtics or the Atlanta Hawks. But then, in 1987, Detroit came within one game of reaching the NBA Finals.

The Eastern Conference Finals against the Celtics was one of the roughest of the era. Recriminations flew off the court, while elbows and expletives were traded on the hardwood. The experience was a painful one for Thomas. With five seconds left in Game 5, Larry Bird stole a Thomas inbounds pass and fed Dennis Johnson for a layup, giving Boston a 108-107 win. The war came to a head in Game 7. After 48 minutes of pounding, Boston survived, 117-114.

Thomas emerged from the series more driven and competitive than ever. The Pistons now had one of the league's most talented and bruising lineups, with Thomas, Laimbeer, Vinnie Johnson, Adrian Dantley, Rick Mahorn, Dennis Rodman and Joe Dumars.

With Thomas in top form, Detroit seemed ready to surge past Atlanta and the Milwaukee Bucks for the division title in 1987-88. The Pistons met the challenge, finishing the year in first place at 54-28. Thomas' statistics dipped a bit (19.5 ppg, 8.4 apg), but only because he was part of a complete team with few, if any, weaknesses. He could concentrate more on helping to bring out each player's individual talents.

In 1987-88, the Pistons reached the NBA Finals for the first time since moving to Detroit from Fort Wayne in 1958. In a painful repeat of the previous season's loss to Boston, Detroit lost a seven-game heartbreaker to the defending NBA-champion Los Angeles Lakers. (Before the Game 1 tipoff, Thomas and close friend Magic Johnson exchanged what may have been the first on-court kiss in league history.)

Holding a three-games-to-two series lead, the Pistons lost Game 6, 103-102, despite 43 points from Thomas (25 points in one quarter, setting an NBA Finals record), who played on a badly sprained ankle. Los Angeles, behind James Worthy's 36 points and 16 rebounds, sweated out Game 7 and won, 108-105.

Thomas and the Pistons peaked in 1988-89, when their 63-19 record was tops in the league. Detroit picked up Thomas's buddy, Mark Aguirre, from the Dallas Mavericks in a controversial midseason trade for Dantley, giving the Pistons still more scoring power. Seven Pistons averaged more than 13.5 points, a tribute to Thomas' unselfishness and slick playmaking.

The Bad Boys pulled out all the stops in the playoffs, sweeping Boston in three games and Milwaukee in four to reach the Conference Finals against rival Chicago. Despite a great effort from the Bulls' Michael Jordan, Detroit won in six games and advanced to meet the Lakers in the NBA Finals. Los Angeles, though dominant throughout the decade, was ill-prepared for the series. In his last season, 42-year-old center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was ineffective and guards Magic Johnson and Byron Scott were slowed by hamstring injuries. The overpowering Pistons swept the Lakers for their first-ever NBA title.

The Pistons played and intimidated, their way to a second consecutive NBA Championship in 1989-90, becoming the second team since the 1968-69 Boston Celtics to win back-to-back crowns, and the sixth team ever to do so. During the season they used a 25-1 midseason tear to finish with a 59-23 record.

Thomas was named MVP of the Finals against the Portland Trail Blazers, averaging 27.6 points and 7.0 assists. After the series, Thomas told HOOP magazine: "We never quit. We always feel we are going to win, no matter what the score is. It's all a battle of will. You have to keep asking yourself, 'How bad do you really want it?'"

The Chicago Bulls, with scoring champion in Jordan, took the division title away from the Pistons in 1990-91. In the playoffs Thomas was slowed by a sprained foot, a pulled leg muscle, and an injured wrist. Detroit's dynasty came to an end and Chicago's dynasty began when the Bulls swept the Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Lingering physical problems slowed Thomas in the twilight of his career, and the aging Pistons faded further into the shadow of Jordan and the Bulls. By the 1993-94 season it was clear that Thomas, then 32 years old, was nearing the end of his playing days. That season he suffered a hyperextended knee, a broken rib, a strained arch, a calf injury and a cut left hand. Then, in his last home game against Orlando, he tore an Achilles tendon, effectively ending his career.

Thomas retired with 18,822 points (19.2 ppg), 9,061 assists (9.3 apg), and 1,861 steals over 979 games -- all Pistons records. He shot .452 from the field and .759 from the free-throw line. In 1996-97, Thomas was honored as a member of the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team.

Thomas' many business ventures and his stint as president of the NBA Players Association groomed him well for life after basketball. After his retirement he became part owner of the expansion Toronto Raptors, who began play in the NBA in the 1995-96 season. As the team's Executive Vice President, Basketball, Thomas was charged with molding the character of the expansion club, and one of his first moves was to draft a talented, under-sized point guard -- Damon Stoudamire, who became Rookie of the Year in 1995-96.

He also continued his charity work with educational, anti-crime and anti-poverty programs; during his playing career, Thomas had paid college tuition for more than 75 young people. He spoke of this work to the Los Angeles Times with typical Thomas bluntness: "As a person and as a human being, if the only thing I'm remembered for is playing a stupid game of basketball, then I haven't done a very good job in my life. Basketball isn't everything to me."

Source: NBA Encyclopedia Playoff Edition

Let us celebrate the life of NBA legend - Wilt Chamberlin Tags: wilt chamberline nba legend life celebrate word life production new quality entertainment

He was basketball's unstoppable force, the most awesome offensive force the game has ever seen. Asked to name the greatest players ever to play basketball, most fans and aficionados would put Wilt Chamberlain at or near the top of the list.

Wilt Chamberlain as a Laker won 33 straight games and the NBA title in 1971-72.

Dominating the game as few players in any sport ever have, Chamberlain seemed capable of scoring and rebounding at will, despite the double- and triple-teams and constant fouling tactics that opposing teams used to try to shut him down.

As Oscar Robertson put it in the Philadelphia Daily News when asked whether Chamberlain was the best ever, "The books don't lie."

The record books are indeed heavy with Chamberlain's accomplishments. He was the only NBA player to score 4,000 points in a season. He set NBA single-game records for most points (100), most consecutive field goals (18) and most rebounds (55). Perhaps his most mind-boggling stat was the 50.4 points per game he averaged during the 1961-62 season--and if not that, then perhaps the 48.5 minutes per game he averaged that same year.

He retired as the all-time in career points with 31,419, which was later surpassed by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and Michael Jordan. He is tops in rebounds with 23,924. He led the NBA in scoring seven years in a row. He was the league's top rebounder in 11 of his 14 seasons. And as if to prove that he was not a selfish player, he had the NBA's highest assist total in 1967-68.

But the most outstanding figures are his scoring records; Most games with 50+ points, 118; Most consecutive games with 40+ points, 14; Most consecutive games with 30+ points: 65; Most consecutive games with 20+ points: 126; Highest rookie scoring average: 37.6 ppg; Highest field goal percentage in a season: .727. And with many of these, the player in second place is far behind. His name appears so often in the scoring record books that his name could be the default response any time a question arises concerning a scoring record in the NBA.

During his career, his dominance precipitated many rules changes. These rules changed included widening the lane, instituting offensive goaltending and revising rules governing inbounding the ball and shooting free throws (Chamberlain would leap with the ball from behind the foul line to deposit the ball in the basket).

No other player in NBA history has spawned so many myths nor created such an impact. It's difficult to imagine now, with the seemingly continuing surge of bigger skilled players, the effect of playing against Chamberlain, who was not only taller and stronger than almost anyone he matched up against but remarkably coordinated as well. A track and field star in high school and college, Chamberlain stood 7-1 and was listed at 275 pounds, though he filled out and added more muscle as his career progressed and eventually played at over 300 pounds.

An incident recounted in the Philadelphia Daily News involving Tom Meschery of the Seattle SuperSonics illustrated what it was like to play in the trenches against Chamberlain. Meschery had the ball in the line and put up four fakes before attempting his shot. Chamberlain slapped the ball down. Meschery got it again, faked again, and got it blocked again. Enraged and frustrated, the Seattle player ran up to Chamberlain swinging. As if in a scene from The Three Stooges, Chamberlain put his hand on the 6-6 Meschery's head and let him swing away harmlessly. After the third swing, Chamberlain said, "That's enough," and Meschery stopped.

Chamberlain's power was legendary. Rod Thorn, who has been a player, coach, GM and NBA executive, remembers a fight in which Chamberlain reached down and picked up a fellow player from a pile of bodies as if he were made of feathers. The man was 6-8 and weighed 220 pounds.

Chamberlain was one of the few players of his day who had the sheer strength to block a dunk. In a game against New York in 1968, Walt Bellamy, the Knicks' 6-11, 245-pound center, attempted to dunk on Chamberlain. "Bellamy reared back," one spectator who was there later recalled to the Philadelphia Daily News, "and was slamming the ball down when Wilt put his hand above the top of the rim and knocked the ball off the court. He almost knocked Bellamy off the court, too."

Strength was something Chamberlain developed as a college and professional player. Photographs of him in high school show a slender, agile boy who, at 6-11, towered above the other players. In three varsity seasons at Philadelphia's Overbrook High, starting in 1952-53, Chamberlain led the team to records of 19-2, 19-0, and 18-1. His coaches there took full advantage of his gifts. The team would practice missing free throws so that Chamberlain could grab them and score field goals. At a time when goaltending was legal, Chamberlain sometimes infuriated his teammates by tipping balls in on their way down, even if they were on target.

During his prep years, he scored 2,206 points and had individual games in which he scored 90, 74 and 71 points. In his senior year he averaged 44.5 points. In his 90-point game he scored 60 points in 12 minutes of the second half. "But it's nothing," Chamberlain said in the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1991, "when you consider that the team we were playing against was trying to freeze the ball."

It was also during this time that one of his nicknames, "the Stilt," was coined by a local newspaper writer. Chamberlain detested it, as he did other monikers that called attention to his height, such as "Goliath." The names he didn't mind were "Dippy" and "Dipper," along with the later variant, "Big Dipper." The story goes that Chamberlain's buddies seeing him dip his head as his walked through doorways tagged him with the nickname and it stuck.

In 1955, Chamberlain announced he would play college ball at the University of Kansas. Because NCAA rules at the time prohibited freshmen from playing at the varsity level, Chamberlain was placed on the freshman team upon his arrival at Kansas. His first contest with the freshmen was against the varsity, which was favored to win its conference that year. Chamberlain later reminisced about the game in the Philadelphia Daily News: "We whipped 'em, 81-71. I had 40 or 42 points, about 30 rebounds, about 15 blocks. I knew I had to show them either I could do it or I couldn't."

Chamberlain made his debut for the Jayhawks' varsity squad in a game against Northwestern on Dec. 3, 1956. He set a school record when he scored 52 points in an 87-69 victory. Chamberlain then guided Kansas to the 1957 NCAA title game against North Carolina. Although North Carolina beat Kansas by one point in triple overtime, Chamberlain was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player.

The following year he was selected to all-conference and All-America teams. He showed his athletic versatility by winning the high jump competition in the Big Eight track and field championships, clearing the bar at 6-6. In May, 1958 Chamberlain decided to forego his senior season at Kansas, opting instead to turn pro. But because of an NBA rule that prevented college players from playing in the league until their class graduated, he was in limbo for one year. He passed the time by playing for the Harlem Globetrotters in 1958-59 for a salary reported to be around $50,000, an astronomical sum at the time.

In 1955, the NBA created a special "territorial" draft rule that allowed a team to claim a local college player in exchange for giving up its first-round pick. The idea was to cash in on college stars who had built strong local followings, but the Philadelphia Warriors, who were owned by the cagey Eddie Gottlieb, took it one step further. They claimed Chamberlain as a territorial pick even though he had played his college ball in Kansas. Gottlieb, one of the NBA's founding fathers, argued that Chamberlain had grown up in Philadelphia and had become popular there as a high school player, and since there were no NBA teams in Kansas, they held his territorial rights. The league agreed, marking the only time in NBA history that a player was made a territorial selection based on his pre-college roots.

When Chamberlain finally slipped on a Philadelphia uniform for the start of the 1959-60 season, the basketball world eagerly awaited the young giant's debut -- and he didn't disappoint. In his first game, against the Knicks in New York, he pumped in 43 points and grabbed 28 rebounds. In a sensational rookie year, Chamberlain averaged 37.6 points and 27.0 rebounds and was named NBA Rookie of the Year, All-Star Game Most Valuable Player and NBA Most Valuable Player as well as being selected to the All-NBA First Team. Only Wes Unseld would duplicate Chamberlain's feat of winning Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in the same season. (Unseld did it in 1968-69.)

With Chamberlain, the Warriors vaulted from last to second and faced the Boston Celtics in the 1960 NBA Playoffs. The series saw the first postseason confrontation between Chamberlain and defensive standout Bill Russell, a matchup that would grow into the greatest individual rivalry in the NBA and possibly any sport. During the next decade, the pair would square off in the playoffs eight times. Chamberlain came away the victor only once. In that initial confrontation, Chamberlain outscored Russell by 81 points, but the Celtics took the series, four games to two.

Chamberlain's inaugural season seemed to take a heavy toll on him. After the postseason loss to Boston, the rookie stunned his fans by announcing that he was thinking of retiring because of the excessively rough treatment he had endured from opponents. He feared that if he played another season, he would be forced to retaliate, and that wasn't something he wanted to do.

In Chamberlain's first year, and for several years afterward, opposing teams simply didn't know how to handle him. Tom Heinsohn, the great Celtics forward who later became a coach and broadcaster, said Boston was one of the first clubs to apply a team-defense concept to stop Chamberlain. "We went for his weakness," Heinsohn told the Philadelphia Daily News in 1991, "tried to send him to the foul line, and in doing that he took the most brutal pounding of any player ever.. I hear people today talk about hard fouls. Half the fouls against him were hard fouls."

Dominating the game as few players in any sport ever have, Chamberlain seemed capable of scoring and rebounding at will, despite the double- and triple-teams and constant fouling tactics that opposing teams used to try to shut him down.

Despite his size and strength, Chamberlain was not an enforcer or a revenge seeker. He knew how to control his body and his emotions and rarely got into altercations. One indication of this was the astonishing statistic that not once in his 14-year career, in more than 1,200 regular and postseason games, did he foul out. Some people claimed he simply wasn't aggressive enough. "My friends would say, 'Hey man, you should throw [Bill] Russell in the basket, too.' " said Chamberlain. "They said I was too nice, too often against certain of my adversaries."

Of course, Chamberlain didn't retire. He simply endured the punishment and learned to cope with it, bulking up his muscles to withstand the constant shoving, elbowing and body checks other teams used against him.

In a virtual repeat of his rookie year, he poured in 38.4 points and 27.2 rebounds per game in 1960-61. The next season he made a quantum leap in his performance. Posting a phenomenal average of 50.4 points per game, he became the only player in history to score 4,000 points in a season.

On March 2, 1962, Chamberlain set a record that may stand forever. In a game against the New York Knicks in Hershey, Pa., he scored 100 points in four quarters to help the Warriors win the game, 169-147. Despite the fact that Chamberlain had reportedly stayed out all night the previous evening, he obviously came ready to play against the Knicks. Chamberlain was so "on" that he even made 28 of 32 free throws, despite having, up to that point in the season, just a paltry .506 percentage from the stripe.

He hit 36-for-63 from the field, about which he commented to HOOP magazine, "My God, that's terrible. I never thought I'd take that many shots in a game." Toward the end of the game, the Warriors went out of their way to feed Chamberlain the ball, to the point of fouling the Knicks whenever they had possession.

In 1962, Chamberlain moved with the franchise to San Francisco, and he led the league in scoring in both 1962-63 and 1963-64. The Warriors lost to the Celtics in the 1964 Finals in five games. But midway through the following season, he was sent back home to Philadelphia. Two days after the 1965 All-Star Game (a game in which he scored 20 points and pulled down 16 rebounds), Chamberlain was swapped to the 76ers, formerly the Syracuse Nationals until the 1963-64 season, for Connie Dierking, Lee Shaffer, Paul Neumann and $150,000. In Philadelphia, he joined a promising 76ers team that included Hal Greer and Larry Costello in the backcourt and Chet Walker and Luke Jackson up front.

The Sixers were a .500 ballclub in Chamberlain's initial year on the team. The following season, 1965-66, Philadelphia posted the best record in the league, at 55-25, but for the second year in a row the 76ers fell to Boston in the Eastern Division Finals. Philadelphia, which had added talented forward Billy Cunningham, started the year by winning 45 of its first 49 games en route to an 68-13 record, at the time the best in league history.

In the division semifinals, the Sixers ousted Cincinnati. The division finals saw the 76ers matched up against the Celtics -- and Chamberlain matched up against Russell once again. After years of frustration, Chamberlain finally got by his arch rival as Philadelphia raced by Boston in five games, ending the Celtics' eight-year stranglehold on the NBA title. Playing the Warriors in the 1967 NBA Finals, the Sixers came away with the championship, winning the series in six games.

After his monstrous scoring year in 1961-62, Chamberlain's average dropped slowly each year until the 1967-68 seasons, when it rose slightly to 24.3 points per game from 24.1 the season before. During his first seven years Chamberlain scored an average of 39.4 points per game and led the league in scoring all seven seasons, a string matched only by Michael Jordan two decades later. In Chamberlain's second seven years, he averaged 20.7 points.

Was the waning production attributable to the effects of age and better defenses? Chamberlain didn't think so. "I look back and know that my last seven years in the league versus my first seven years were a joke in terms of scoring," he told the Philadelphia Daily News. "I stopped shooting -- coaches asked me to do that, and I did. I wonder sometimes if that was a mistake."

One of the main reasons coaches asked him to shoot less was to try to win more. Of the 14 years he played in the NBA, only twice did his teams emerge with the NBA title. In 1966-67, Sixers Coach Alex Hannum asked Chamberlain to pass the ball more often than shoot, and to play more aggressive defense. The strategy worked. Although he failed to win the NBA scoring title for the first time in his career, averaging 24.1 points, Chamberlain recorded the league's highest shooting percentage (.683), had the most rebounds (24.2 rpg), and was third in assists (7.8 apg).

Chamberlain took his new role so seriously that he led the league in assists the next season. In 1967-68, he was also chosen to the All-NBA First Team for the seventh and final time and selected league MVP for the fourth and final time. After taking the Eastern Division that season, the Sixers were eliminated in the Conference Finals for the third time in four seasons by the Celtics. Soon after, Chamberlain was traded to the Lakers for Jerry Chambers, Archie Clark and Darrall Imhoff.

He spent his final five campaigns in Los Angeles and helped the Lakers to the NBA Finals four times in those five seasons. The most notable season was 1971-72, in which he scored only 14.8 points per game. But his contributions came in other forms. At age 35, he managed to grab 19.2 rebounds per contest and was selected to the NBA All-Defensive First Team.

Chamberlain had become a great team player, complementing the styles of guards Jerry West and Gail Goodrich and forwards Happy Hairston and Jim McMillian. The 1971-72 Lakers set an NBA record by winning 33 games in a row en route to a then NBA-record 69-13 regular-season mark, one victory better than Chamberlain's 1966-67 Sixers team (the Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan would post a 72-10 record in 1995-96 . The Lakers then stormed to the championship with a five-game triumph against New York in the 1972 NBA Finals.

Retiring from the NBA at the end of the 1972-73 season, Chamberlain went on to demonstrate the full range of his talents. Eclectic didn't begin to describe his activities. Like many pro players, he spent a year coaching at the pro level, for the San Diego Conquistadors of the American Basketball Association. San Diego had wanted him to be a player-coach, but legal entanglements prevented that, and Chamberlain soon because bored with a coach-only role. In 1984 he acted in the movie Conan the Barbarian. Big-league volleyball attracted his energies for a while, as did tennis, running marathons and even polo. At one point he hoped to challenge Muhammad Ali to a world heavyweight fight.

Even when he was in his 50s, a story would pop up every now and then about some NBA team talking to Chamberlain about making a comeback, figuring he could still give them 15 or 20 solid minutes as a backup center. Chamberlain, who loved the limelight, seemed to bask in those reports, but he never took up any team on its offer. Rather he continued to be a voracious reader who also published several books and involved himself with other pursuits including maintaining a lively bachelor's existence.

In 1978, his first year of eligibility, Chamberlain was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and in 1996-97 he was selected to the NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time Team.

On Oct. 12, 1999, Chamberlain passed away at the age of 63 due to heart failure at his home, which he named Ursa Major after the constellation containing the stars forming the Big Dipper, his trademark in the basketball world. He left the NBA as a legendary figure to talk about for years to come.

Source: NBA

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - NBA Legend Tags: kareem abdul jabbar nba legendword life production new quality entertainment featured blog

Hall of Fame basketball center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA's all-time leading scorer. He won six NBA titles, five with the Los Angeles Lakers, over 20 years.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar - Mini Biography (tv-pg) Hall of Fame basketball center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is the NBA's all-time leading scorer. He won six NBA titles, five with the Los Angeles Lakers, over 20 years.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was born in New York City in 1947. A dominant high school basketball player, Abdul-Jabbar was recruited to play at UCLA and led the Bruins to three national titles. His dominance continued in the NBA, first for the Milwaukee Bucks, and later the Los Angeles Lakers. Abdul-Jabbar won six titles and six MVP awards, and finished as the league's all-time scorer. He retired in 1989.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was born Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr. on April 16, 1947, in New York, New York. The 7'2" retired center is widely considered one of the greatest players in NBA history, and his talent was celebrated as early as high school.

The only son of Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Sr., a New York City policeman, and his wife, Cora, Alcindor was always the tallest kid in his class. At the age of 9 he stood an impressive 5'8", and by the time he hit eighth grade, he'd grown another full foot and could already dunk a basketball.

He started playing the sport at an early age. At Power Memorial Academy, Alcindor put together a high school career few could rival. He set New York City school records in scoring and rebounds, while simultaneously leading his team to an astonishing 71 consecutive wins and three straight city titles. In 2000 the National Sports Writers dubbed Alcindor's team "The #1 High School Team of the Century."

After graduating in 1965, Alcindor enrolled at the University of California-Los Angeles. There, he continued his unprecedented dominance, becoming the college game's best player. Under legendary coach John Wooden, Alcindor led the Bruins to three national championships from 1967 to 1969 and was named the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournament's Most Outstanding Player for those years.

In the spring of 1969 the Milwaukee Bucks, in only their second year of existence, selected Alcindor with the first overall pick in the NBA draft.

Alcindor quickly adjusted to the pro game. He finished second in the league in scoring and third in rebounding, and was named Rookie of the Year. He also helped dramatically change the fortunes of his franchise. Coming off a dismal 27-win season the year before, the retooled Bucks, with Alcindor manning the basket, improved to 56-26.

The following season the Bucks, having added future Hall of Fame guard Oscar Robertson to their roster, made another huge leap. The team finished the regular season 66-16 and then steamrolled through the playoffs, sweeping the Baltimore Bullets in the 1971 NBA finals. That same year Alcindor won his first Most Valuable Player award, the first of six MVP honors he received during his long career.

Shortly after the season ended, Alcindor converted to Islam and adopted the name Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, which translates into "noble, powerful servant."

In 1974, Abdul-Jabbar again led the Bucks to the NBA finals, where the team lost to the Boston Celtics.

Even with all his on-the-court success as a Buck, Abdul-Jabbar struggled to find happiness off the court in his life in Milwaukee.

"Live in Milwaukee?" he said in an early magazine interview. "No, I guess you could say I exist in Milwaukee. I am a soldier hired for service and I will perform that service well. Basketball has given me a good life, but this town has nothing to do with my roots. There's no common ground."

Following the end of the 1975 season, Abdul-Jabbar demanded a trade, requesting Bucks management send him to either New York or Los Angeles. He was eventually shipped west for a package of players, none of whom came close to delivering for Milwaukee what Abdul-Jabbar would give the Lakers.

Over the next 15 seasons Abdul-Jabbar turned Los Angeles into a perennial winner. Beginning with the 1979-80 season, when he was paired with rookie point guard Earvin "Magic" Johnson, the dominant center propelled the Lakers to five league titles.

His signature jump shot, the skyhook, came to be an unstoppable offensive weapon for Abdul-Jabbar, and the Lakers enjoyed championship dominance over Julius "Dr. J" Erving's Philadelphia 76ers, Larry Bird's Boston Celtics and Isiah Thomas' Detroit Pistons.

His success on the court led to some acting opportunities. Abdul-Jabbar appeared in several films, including the 1979 martial-arts film Game of Death and the 1980 comedy Airplane!

Even as he aged, the health-conscious Abdul-Jabbar remained in remarkable shape. Well into his 30s, he still managed to average more than 20 points a game. By his late 30s, he was still playing around 35 minutes a game. In the 1985 Finals against the Boston Celtics, which the Lakers won in six games, the 38-year-old Abdul-Jabbar was named the series MVP.

When Abdul-Jabbar retired in 1989, he was the NBA's all-time leading scorer, with 38,387 points, and became the first NBA player to play for 20 seasons. His career totals included 17,440 rebounds, 3, 189 blocks and 1,560 games. He also broke records for having scored the most points, blocked the most shots and won the most MVP titles in 1989.

Years after his retirement, Abdul-Jabbar seemed especially proud about his longevity. "The '80s made up for all the abuse I took during the '70s," he told the Orange County Register. "I outlived all my critics. By the time I retired, everybody saw me as a venerable institution. Things do change."

Since his retirement, Abdul-Jabbar hasn't strayed too far from the game he loves, working for the New York Knicks and the Los Angeles Lakers. He even spent a year as a coach on the White Mountain Apache reservation in Arizona—an experience that he recorded in the 2000 book A Season on the Reservation. He has written several other books, including 2007's On the Shoulders of Giants, about the Harlem Renaissance. Abdul-Jabbar has also worked as a public speaker and a spokesperson for several products.

In 1995 Abdul-Jabbar was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

In November 2009 Abdul-Jabbar was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia, but his long-term prognosis looked favorable. In February 2011, doctors declared the retired NBA star cancer free.

A father of five, Abdul-Jabbar has four children from his first marriage to Habiba Abdul-Jabbar and a son from another relationship.

Source: Biography.com

Dominique Wilkins - NBA Legend Tags: sports entertainment dominique wilkins nba legend word life production new quality entertainment featured blogs

One of the NBA's true marquee players for more than a decade, Dominique Wilkins earned the nickname "Human Highlight Film" with a plethora of spectacular individual plays dating back to his college years at Georgia. A member of the NBA All-Rookie Team in 1983, the high-flying 6-8 forward was been named to seven All-NBA teams and nine consecutive All-Star squads and is a two-time winner of the NBA Slam-Dunk Championship.

In 1986 he won the NBA scoring title with an average of 30.3 points per game, and in 1992 he set an NBA record by sinking 23 free throws in a game without a miss. He's the Atlanta Hawks' all-time franchise leader in both scoring and steals.

One of only 12 players to score over 25,000 points in his NBA career, Wilkins returned to the NBA in 1996-97 after one year in Europe and led the San Antonio Spurs in scoring with an 18.2 average at the age of 37. He left the NBA ranked seventh on the all-time scoring list with 26,534 points and 10th in career scoring average at 25.3 ppg.

Born in Paris, France, where his father was stationed while with the Air Force, Wilkins attended high school in Washington, North Carolina. The older brother of NBA player Gerald Wilkins, Dominique attended college at Georgia, where he averaged 21.6 points over three seasons. It was his acrobatic exploits there that earned him the nickname of the "Human Highlight Film."

He entered the 1982 NBA Draft after his junior year and was selected by the Utah Jazz with the third overall pick. He refused to sign with the Jazz, however, and was dealt in September, 1982 to the Atlanta Hawks for John Drew, Freeman Williams and cash. Wilkins was an instant hit for the Hawks, averaging 17.5 ppg as a rookie. He came back in his second season with an average of 21.6 ppg, starting a remarkable streak in which he would average above 20 points per contest for 11 consecutive seasons.

Wilkins was instrumental to the Hawks' success in the late 1980s as the club recorded 50 wins in four straight seasons from 1985-86 to 1988-89. During that span he poured in more than 30 points per game twice, and for the four years combined he averaged 29.1 ppg. In 1988 he also scored 29 points in 30 minutes of action in the All-Star Game. In the postseason he averaged 31.2 points and despite the Hawks narrowly missing out on reaching the Eastern Conference Finals after losing to the Boston Celtics by a mere two points in Game 7 of the conference semifinals, he ganied more respect as a result of his epic battle with Larry Bird.

In the early 1990s, while the Hawks were slipping from a 50-win team to a .500 ballclub, Wilkins evolved from a pure scorer into a more all-around contributor. In 1990-91 he grabbed a career-high 9.0 rebounds per contest, and he topped 3 assists per game that year for the first time. Nearly injury-free for most of his career, he suffered a season-ending rupture of his Achilles tendon midway through the 1991-92 campaign.

Some thought the injury might end Wilkins's career, but the 32-year-old bounced back in grand fashion the next year, averaging 29.9 ppg to finish second to Michael Jordan for the league scoring crown while maintaining his solid all-around play. That same season he became the 17th player in NBA history to rack up 20,000 points.

Midway through the 1993-94 season -- Wilkins' 12th with Atlanta -- the Hawks shocked their fans by trading their all-time leading scorer to the Los Angeles Clippers for Danny Manning. Wilkins became a free agent after the season and signed with the Boston Celtics for 1994-95. Although he was the Celtics' leading scorer, his average of 17.8 points per game was his lowest mark since his rookie season.

The summer following the season, Wilkins, unhappy with his role on the rebuilding Celtics, signed to play for Panathinaikos Athens of the Greek League. He averaged 20.9 points and 7.0 rebounds in 14 games for Panathinaikos and led the team to the European Championship for Men's Clubs in 1996. Wilkins was named the MVP of the European Final Four in Paris.

Before the 1996-97 season, he returned to the NBA, signing a contract as a free agent with the San Antonio Spurs, who were seeking to add bench scoring. Wilkins gave them more than they could have hoped for, leading the team with an average of 18.2 ppg in 1996-97 and also contributing 6.4 rpg. However, after one season, Wilkins once again went overseas, this time signing a contract with Teamsystem in Italy for the 1997-98 season.

He returend to play his last season in the NBA during the 1998-99 campaign alongside his brother Gerald with the Orland Magic. In only 27 games, he averaged just 5.0 ppg and 2.6 rpg but will always be remembered as one of the game's most exciting players.

Source: NBA Encyclopedia

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