Here's Adrian Wojnarowski, fondling his rosaries again:
Nevertheless, it's stained his legacy. This one promises to chase him into retirement. Beyond that of an MVP and an NBA champion, Garnett has gone to inexplicable lengths to craft a parallel legacy: a vicious bully, a cold and cruel jerk.
(The column also features what has become Wojnarowski's trademark rhetorical bank shot whereby he criticizes someone by way of praising someone else. In this case, the late Maurice Lucas becomes the good bully to Garnett's bad bully, which is really a distinction without a difference. Wojnarowski's moral universe always has to be in perfect balance, though — every villain must have a corresponding saint. He writes columns the way boxing promoters used to pimp their next bout.)
Garnett's legacy? Well, first of all, beware any sportswriter who starts talking about an athlete's "legacy." It's often just a mealy-mouthed way for him to talk about his own feelings. (Who besides Nike helps create those legacies, after all?) And secondly, we're talking about Kevin Garnett here. What does this particular episode tell us about him that we didn't know already? It's well-established by now that Garnett behaves like someone on a perpetual ether binge. This is a man who spends a few moments before preseason games beating his head against the hoops stanchion. If he took the floor wearing a buffalo pelt, would anyone be truly surprised? Seriously, you could tell me that he recites French symbolist poetry in the ear of whoever he's guarding, and I'd just nod. He is a very tall, very talented fruitcake. The fact that he's also something of a dick shouldn't surprise anyone who watched him all but swallow Jose Calderon whole a few years back. There are absolutely zero illusions about Garnett and who he is on the court.
And yet here we are anyway, freaking out over the impolite thing Garnett said to Charlie Villaneuva, which is surely no more offensive than any of the hundred impolite things that players say to each other during every game (to say nothing of the coaches). I realize that this is CBA season, and that the coarse behavior of NBA players is once again a media-sanctioned Serious Issue. But does anyone really think these guys don't talk like this to each other all the time? To cite just one example:
You fucking flaming faggot. You don't get a foul on a goddamn little touch foul, you fucking faggot. You don't bring that faggoty shit here. Get your goddamn ass back on the floor and play. I don't want to hear that fucking shit out of you again. Get your ass back and play, you faggot.
That was Michael Jordan talking to Kwame Brown at a Wizards practice long ago. It is the sort of unpleasant thing men say to one another when they're trying to dunk each other through a basketball hoop. It is also, by my lights, an order of magnitude crueler than whatever it was Garnett said. The consensus is that this incident did not stain Michael Jordan's legacy.