The debate has been renewed since Garnett was traded to Boston for a package of 7 players and future draft picks July 31st, 2007.
Both are giants who own the paint. Their defense and rebounding are renowned throughout the basketball world. They’ve battled head-to-head for years. One has the championships, the other the better numbers. One has spent his entire career as the face of his franchise, the other has finally found himself teamed up with a cast of characters worthy of his greatness.
The difference this time: the Celtic isn’t the winner.
That is not to say that KG is a loser, he simply hasn’t won it all. Like Wilt, there is no denying his greatness; just watch one game and you will understand Garnett. He is a dominant player, a dominant personality, and the de facto captain no matter what the media guide tells us about the Celtics being Paul Pierce’s team.
The twist in the comparison is this: while Duncan emulates Russell by having already won 4 NBA championships and 3 Finals MVPs for the game’s most recent dynasty, his defense and team-first style perfectly parallels that of Kevin Garnett.
This has always led folks to wonder, if we simply switched the two players, would the results be the same or different?
I say the results would be eerily similar, as no one man can win a championship by himself. The precursor to this comparison proves that point–Wilt Chamberlain, the man who put up 30 points, 23 rebounds, and 4 and a half assists per game over his career, the man who averaged a whopping 48.5 minutes and 50.4 points per game in the 1961-62 season, could not do it alone. (Unfortunately steals and blocks were not recorded as official NBA statistics until after Wilt and Russell’s careers ended, so the defensive part of the debate is much more difficult to quantify statistically.)
There really is no definitive answer in this debate; this is not like Brady vs. Manning, where both are great, but one has proven he can elevate lesser surrounding talent to championship levels OR take his team to historic dominance when supplied with comparable talent. This debate features two equally talented, sure-fire Hall-of-Famers: one who has won with great teams and one who has toiled in mediocrity for the majority of his professional life.
The beauty of this debate is that we don’t yet have to come to a conclusion, the battle still rages on. After a reprisal from basketball purgatory, Garnett finds himself leading the Boston Celtics to an NBA-best record of 21-3, with a legitimate chance to meet up with Duncan’s Spurs in this year’s Finals.
Now that The Big Ticket and The Big Fundamentals find themselves competing in a fair fight, the only real justice would be for the two greatest power forwards of their generation to meet in June and finally settle this debate once and for all.