Kevin Garnett was one of the NBA’s most notorious trash talkers throughout his two decades in the league, but he learned early on there was one opponent who deserved the silent treatment.
Michael Jordan, of course.
On Feb. 27, 1996, Jordan’s Bulls and Garnett’s Timberwolves were engaged in a tight contest at the United Center. Through three quarters, Chicago led by just six points, but Garnett changed the entire flow of the game when he told his teammate Isaiah “J.R.” Rider to keep “killing” Jordan in their individual matchup.
“As I say that, I feel it,” Garnett said on the “All the Smoke” podcast with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson. “Hands on hips. Legs locked. [Jordan] stared at me for about 15 seconds.”
Rider, who always stayed quiet against Jordan, did his best to calm a rookie KG down, but he kept going. Rider then went with a different strategy knowing Jordan could hear everything.
“I was like, ‘Mike, he don’t know the rules of the game, man, he’s just a young pup,'” Rider said in a separate radio interview.
(Note: Strong language in the clip below. That shouldn’t be a surprise because Garnett is talking.)
Yeah, that didn’t work out well for Minnesota.
The Bulls dominated the fourth quarter, outscoring the Timberwolves 38-23 on the way to an easy 120-99 victory. Jordan finished with a game-high 35 points, leaving both Garnett and Rider exhausted.
“Mike [walked] down [toward us], ‘OK, young fella, OK. Damn, young fella, damn, y’all done?'” Garnett said. “Never talked s— to Mike ever again in life.”
Garnett can take solace in the fact that the Bulls only lost 10 games over the course of the entire 1995-96 regular season before cruising through the Eastern Conference on their way to the NBA title.
That game likely would have ended in a loss for the Timberwolves. Garnett just guaranteed it wouldn’t be close.
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