What if Kevin Garnett's Hall of Fame career began with the Toronto Raptors instead of the Minnesota Timberwolves?
In the new Showtime documentary, "Kevin Garnett: Anything Is Possible," former Raptors executive Isiah Thomas spoke on just how close the expansion team was to taking the big man in 1995. Had it not been for a phone call that Thomas received from an adversary-turned-friend, Garnett could have been a Raptor.
𝗣𝗢𝗪𝗘𝗥. 𝙁𝙊𝙍𝙒𝘼𝙍𝘿.@KevinGarnett5KG: #AnythingIsPossible documentary Friday, Nov. 12 on @Showtime.- SHOWTIME Basketball (@shobasketball) November 1, 2021
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"Kevin McHale calls me up a week before the draft and he goes 'are you going to draft him?'" Thomas recalled in the documentary. "And I said, 'if he's at seven, I'm going to take him. And he said, 'do you think I should draft him at five? It's between [him] and [Damon] Stoudamire' - that's what I have on my board also."
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"I couldn't lie to McHale," Thomas said laughing, "so he ended up taking him, and I ended up with Stoudamire."
Months after retiring from the NBA in 1994, Thomas joined the Raptors organization as a part-owner and executive vice president of basketball operations.
As the Raptors prepared for their first season in 1995, Thomas, who is a native of Chicago, got his first look at Garnett as a high school senior in the Chicagoland area. In "Anything Is Possible," the two recall their first interactions and Garnett cites Thomas as a major influence in his decision to enter the NBA Draft out of high school.
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One of two expansion teams, the Raptors were locked into selecting seventh, with the Timberwolves (fifth) and Vancouver Grizzlies (sixth) selecting before them.
As fate would have it, the Timberwolves indeed took Garnett off the board at fifth, while the Grizzlies selected Bryant Reeves and the Raptors went with Damon Stoudamire, as Thomas explained.
While the 19-year-old Garnett earned All-Rookie Second Team honours with averages of 10.4 points and 6.3 rebounds over 80 games, Stoudamire took the city of Toronto and the league by storm, re-introducing Canada to professional basketball with averages of 19.0 points, 9.3 assists and 4.0 rebounds en route to winning Rookie of the Year.
Stoudamire's career in Toronto ended after just 200 games, while Garnett ascended into superstardom in Minnesota, earning league MVP honours for his work in the 2003-04 season.
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Over 25 years later, both the Raptors franchise and Garnett each have one title to their names, so things seemed to have worked out for the best.
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