By: Zachariah Blott
Sunday’s brilliant 90-89 contest between the Celtics and Lakers featured two of the most dominant big men of the previous decade: Kevin Garnett and Pau Gasol. And much like their quiet and efficient performances in the Laker victory (11-11 and 10-9), the careers of this pair are beginning to show a lot of similarities.
Starting with their entrances into the league and continuing into the recent titles they each helped deliver to their new clubs, KG and Gasol have trekked similar paths in the NBA. There is no question that Garnett is the bigger star and always will be, but there is also no question that the peaks and dips of their careers have more than a passing resemblance to each other.
Here are 25 common facts and themes shared by Kevin Garnett and Pau Gasol:
The Basic Back-of-a-Basketball Card Stuff
1. Their last names both start with G.
2. Their first initials use the same hand shape in American Sign Language.
3. Both are 7-feet tall. (Garnett has notoriously understated his height forever – I once read that he’s the first 6-13 player.)
4. Both are 225-ish.
5. Both are usually listed as PFs, but they can easily fill another position (Garnett, SF; Gasol, C).
6. Garnett played soccer in high school and follows the English Premier League. Gasol … well, he’s from Spain, so I’m just guessing there’s a similarity here.
Early Career, Original NBA Team
7. Garnett played for Mauldin HS in South Carolina (winning a state title) before transferring to powerhouse Farragut Career Academy in Chicago. Gasol signed with Cornella as a teenager before playing for Barcelona’s junior team (winning the FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship).
8. Gasol was the MVP of the Spanish National Cup championship game in 2001. Garnett was the MVP of the McDonald’s All-American Game in 1995.
9. Gasol was the first international player with no college experience to get drafted in the top 5 (#3 in 2001). Garnett was the first high-school player to get drafted in the top 5 in 20 years (#5 in 1995).
10. Gasol’s Memphis Grizzlies were 23-59 before he showed up, and 23-59 in his first season. Garnett’s Minnesota Timberwolves were 21-61 before he showed up, and 26-56 in his first season.
15 more similarities between Gasol and Garnett after the jump…
11. Garnett made the All-Rookie Second Team. Gasol was on the All-Rookie First Team, and won the Rookie of the Year.
12. Garnett’s T-Wolves made their first-ever playoff appearance in his second year, with a drastically improved 40-42 record, chiefly behind Garnett’s emerging talents (17-8-3-2). Gasol’s Grizzlies made their first-ever playoff appearance in his third year, with a drastically improved 50-32 record, chiefly behind Gasol’s emerging talents (18-8-3-2).
13. Gasol started turning in consistent 18-21 point, 8-10 rebound seasons, eventually earning an All-Star nod while in Memphis. Garnett started turning in consistent 20-24 point, 10-14 rebound seasons, earning annual All-Star nods with Minnesota.
14. Apparently both needed the help of Yao Ming, Dirk Nowitzki, and Tim Duncan in order to stop Shaquille O’Neal in the 2006 All-Star Game.
15. As they become stars, their original teams regularly made the playoffs. Garnett’s Timberwolves went to eight straight postseasons with him and haven’t been back since his departure. Gasol’s Grizzlies went to three straight with him, and also haven’t been back since he left.
16. Because of a lack of talent and due to poor management, the Grizzlies missed the playoffs in Gasol’s final season in Memphis, while the Timberwolves missed the playoffs in Garnett’s final three seasons in Minnesota.
18. Both are great passing power forwards, regularly posting A-TO rates higher than most big men and many guards (Garnett’s career: 4.2-2.4, Gasol’s career: 3.2-2.4).
19. Gasol’s Spanish national team won gold at the 2006 FIBA World Championship. Garnett’s USA national team won gold at the 2000 Olympics.
Getting Traded, New Teams
20. In (a), (b) was traded in a huge deal that later didn’t look as bad—notably because of (c)—to the (d), a storied club that was coming off a not-so-hot, 3-year span in which their best record was (e), and that already had franchise player (f).
Fill in those letter blanks with either (2007, Garnett, Al Jefferson, Celtics, 45-37, Paul Pierce) or (the middle of the 2007-2008 season, Gasol, Marc Gasol, Lakers, 45-37, Kobe Bryant).
21. Both of their new teams quickly turned it around in dramatic fashion. They faced each other in the 2008 NBA Finals, which saw Garnett’s Celtics raise their 17th banner. Of particular note, both squads improved their defenses immensely once these stars arrived.
22. Both of their new teams continued their dominance into the 2008-09 season, in which both clubs won over 60 games, tops in their conferences. Garnett’s late-season knee injury got in the way of Boston’s return to the NBA Finals, however, allowing Gasol’s Lakers to raise their 15th banner.
23. Each player’s influence on their team’s success continues to be quite noticeable this season. Both Garnett and Gasol have missed time with injuries, and both clubs have shown a clear decline without them. The Celtics are 24-9 with Garnett, and 5-7 in his absence. The Lakers are 25-5 with Gasol, and 11-6 in his absence.
24. Beyond the two squads continuing to get constant title buzz for the third season these two have been with the Lakers and Celtics, respectively, their stats are fairly similar. In 30 minutes per, KG is putting up 15 points (54% FG, 84% FT), grabbing 7 rebounds, blocking 1 shot, and posting 2.5-1.5 A-TO. In 36 minutes per, Gasol is putting up 18 points (53% FG, 83% FT), grabbing 11 rebounds, blocking 1.6 shots, and posting 3.3-2.1 A-TO.
25. Garnett earns $16.4 million; Gasol earns $16.45 million.
Zachariah Blott cannot recommend Rick Telander’s “Heaven Is A Playground” enough.