Kevin Garnett vs. Tim Duncan: The Great Debate Rages On

The debate has been renewed since Garnett was traded to Boston for a package of 7 players and future draft picks July 31st, 2007.

KG vs. TD.

In a way, this is the modern day version of Wilt vs. Russell

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.

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11 Responses to Kevin Garnett vs. Tim Duncan: The Great Debate Rages On

  1. B says:

    I love how you think that Brady e”elevates his play” or that this year’s patriots has “comparable talent” to the colts. Defense wins championships. Every year the Patriots have won it has been their defense who has stepped up. The only game where Brady did win it was against Carolina. People really have to look at how the defense has played in big games and that will tell you why they have won 3 championships

  2. obeese says:

    Just to clarify, I was talking about comparable offensive talent, and given that talent Brady has surpassed Manning. Also, scoring more points than the other team wins championships, regardless of how it is done. 6-3 and 46-44 are both wins in my book.

  3. Dannie says:

    Well said. I had planned on writing a similar post and still may if these two match up in the finals. I think KG is the better player overall by a hair. They lead their teams with different personalities. Duncan is quiet and leads by example, only rarely getting fired up. Whereas KG also leads with his play but is more vocal, displays more energy with his mannerisms. Neither style is better than the other but I think all around talent combined with the intangibles gives KG just a slight edge. And I am praying that we get a Spurs/Boston Finals only because my beloved Sixers are clearly playing for the draft right now.

  4. Jack says:

    Duncan is the better player, 4 rings and 3 final mvps. He also has been putting up better numbers this season, just check the stats. He is a 2 time regular season mvp, rookie of the year 11 time nba all star and 11 time all nba team member. He is better than Garnett in all areas of the court

    • CY says:

      The amount of rings you have really mean nothing in terms of skill. It simply means you have a good team (which Tim Duncan obviously has had his entire career.) I’m sure KG would have had as many final MVPs as Duncan had he the luxury of appearing so many times to the NBA Finals. This season, Tim Duncan is posting up better stats this season because Kevin Garnett has just joined a team where there are 3 consistent all-stars (Pierce, Allen, Himself) and an up and coming point guard (Rondo). With that much talent/skill on a team, you’ll obviously have to share the ball instead of shooting it every possession you get. As you can see, the Spurs are getting worse over time (4-1 loss to the Mavericks this year) and Tim has to carry and shoot the ball more than ever, leading to higher stats. Meanwhile, KG has a championship team with many prolific scorers.

      Although KG doesn’t have as many All-Time NBA Team Member/Defensive Team appearances, he still has 9 and is a year younger than Tim Duncan. Also, he is a 12 time NBA all star. KG has also been MVP (although not twice) and Defensive Player of the Year (a feat not achieved by Tim Duncan).

      Your statement “He is better than Garnett in all areas of the court” is an ignorant comment. I cannot believe you are calling Duncan a better free throw shooter, a better team leader, a better defender and a better passer, because he clearly isn’t.

  5. Shiv says:

    There should not be any comparison between Duncan and Garnett. Duncan is, by far, a better player than Garnett. The thing always makes me uncomfortable is: Garnett being so famous and Duncan not a bit. Take a look at both player’s statistics:
    This Season: Duncan- 15.8 pts, 11.5 rebounds
    Garnett-13.6 pts, 7.5 rebounds.
    Career: Dancan-21.4 pts, 11.7 rebounds
    Garnett-20.1 pts, 11.0 rebounds.
    All star: Duncan-11 games, 10 started, in 13 seasons
    Garnett-11 games, 9 started, in 15 seasons.
    This pretty much proves everything. There is no need to compare these two players. Stats. prove that Duncan is a better player, and Garnett is just an overrated player.

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