Kevin Garnett is the most accomplished Midwest athlete, in any sport, since Michael Jordan. The only reason he was not recognized as such when he played here (except by extreme hoopheads, junkies and savants) was because of the historic failures of the Minnesota Timberwolves’ front office, which are too numerous and desultory to list here.
I call him a “Midwest” athlete because he really spent his formative years in and around the Great Lakes – born in South Carolina, Garnett and his family moved to Chicago when he was 17, then was drafted by my beloved Wolves in 1995. After a dozen years of service to a franchise that chose not one but two “Joe Smith eras,” (the second at the cost of millions of dollars in fines and 3 first round draft picks . . . oops. My apologies for drifting into the land of front office stupidity.) – KG was shipped to Boston where he immediately provided Beantown a title and two more Finals appearances.
Now 36 years of age, Garnett is a man of the world, having led Boston back to the promised land, Team USA in the Olympics and even Stephon Marbury before he went, um http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5eUtSV519vU . . . wherever this is. The point I’m trying to make, gentle readers, is that while KG is the NBA now, precursor to LeBron, belonging to the league and rightly embraced as one of the league’s ambassadors, he came of age in the Midwest. On the court, he went from hyped rookie (the first high schooler drafted since 1975) to All-Star to franchise player. Off the court, he learned to be a leader, was exposed to personal tragedy (the death of teammate Malik Sealy in 2000) and high finance (his $126 million contract, signed in 1997, was widely pointed to as Exhibit A for the owner’s participation in the 1998 lockout). His personal and career arcs are a source of pride to the 48 Timberwolves fans who’ve stuck around from since the franchise’s beginning It’s tough to criticize someone who’s been part of 99 of 100 good memories the Wolves have provided over the years.
Still, I feel compelled to point this out: KG is the first person I ever heard, publicly or privately, use the term “Sota” to describe my home state. He used the term regularly when he played here, and it became part of the national lexicon after KG used the abbreviation to thank his longtime fans in his famous “Anything is possibllllllllle!” interview following the Celtics’ 2008 championship. — http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyjOy7fRzs0
I think national writers treated “Sota” as a little piece of Minnesotan-ness that Garnett picked up and used during his time here, akin perhaps to Bostonians dropping their “R’s” in conversation, or Texans talking about the size of their . . . stadiums. But here’s the thing – no one from MN says Sota. KG invented the term, as far as I can see. Which is amusing, since it’s now dropped with some regularity on ESPN and other, biased major sports outlets. It’s become part of a local marketing campaign for a very tasty type of mash bourbon (the tagline being “Maker’s Mark and ‘sota”). Please don’t read that last citation as criticism, as I like mash bourbon better than most white, middle-aged NBA writers.
But again, those of us who were born and bred in the land of 10,000 lakes don’t use that term, any more than we sound like Chief Marge Gunderson from Fargo (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uRu6_mJiVAo). So what better place to start than KG and the term “Sota” to discuss the background of this column. To wit:
- I’ve lived most of my life in MN, with a couple of years in Chicago for good behavior.
- I’m a MN sports fan. In case you aren’t from here, that means 2 World Series titles, but none since 1991. No NBA titles since the ‘50s. An NFL team that’s lost as many Super Bowls as the Buffalo Bills, but had that stretch even longer ago than the Bills’ run. No Stanley Cups. Not a lot of winning up here.
- From those two facts I’m sure you’ll be able to divine any bias you may see in my writing. No town is more provincial, from a sports standpoint, than Chicago. Add that to my natural Minnesota passive-aggressiveness (locally called “Minnesota Nice”) and you’ll have the recipe for the pit of bile that most of my columns here will be drawn from.
- I’m mostly a Wolves and Vikings fan. I have a passing interest in the Wild and NHL hockey, but make no claim to be an expert.
- I refuse to discuss the Major League Baseball team in MN (despite the fact that that team brought this city its only championships in the four major sports) until the MLB fixes its competitive balance issues. Until you can get payrolls within 200% of one another (for example this year’s Yankees, Phillies, Red Sox and Angels spent more than $150 million on player salaries, while the Royals, Padres, Astros and Athletics spent less than $65 million), I’m not interested in talking about their exploits on the field. It’s not the same field.
One of my personal heroes, Maynard James Keenan, starts each of his shows here in Minneapolis by greeting the “little apples” in the audience. Sincerely, from this little apple to you, thanks for reading. Bring your eyeballs back real soon.
Mike Lipetzky is a Leo who enjoys long walks on the beach, romantic sunsets, and point guards who pass before they shoot. He’s a regular contributor at NoCoastBias. Find him on Facebook.