BOSTON -- The gestures might have been understated, but the career behind them certainly hasn't been.
During a timeout shortly after Kevin Garnett reached the 25,000-point mark in the Celtics' 116-95 blowout of the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday, the TD Garden JumboTron displayed a graphic acknowledging the milestone. As the fans rose collectively to applaud Garnett's accomplishment, he at first kept his head down in the huddle, focusing on coach Doc Rivers' whiteboard and the play that was being diagrammed.
But not long after, as his teammates began applauding and patting him on the back, Garnett stood and gave the crowd an appreciative wave before saluting toward the far sideline, where his family sat, taking in the celebration. The gestures were brief but meaningful, coming from a player who has historically dismissed personal accomplishments in favor of greater team goals. But people wanted Garnett to break his mold, if only for a moment. One moment of individual recognition wouldn't take away from a team-first career. Afterward, Garnett struck a balance when discussing his team versus himself.
"First priority was the Lakers tonight. So I didn't even notice [the milestone's approach] until, I think, somebody said it to me in passing [Wednesday] night, and it kind of went in one ear and out the other," said Garnett, who finished with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting. "You know, it means a lot, obviously, to be in a Celtic uniform. So that's first, coming from me. Priority being the Lakers tonight, us getting the win, and it being a monumental night second. And my family, my little baby, Capri, she got to be at the game and see it. Thank you for snow days. She got to come to the game tonight, which is something unusual, so it was good to have her there, family and everything, my sister and everything, so it was great."
As for the history part of it, Garnett became just the 16th NBA player to hit the 25,000-point plateau, joining a list that includes the likes of Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain.
Garnett entered Thursday's bout needing just six points for the scoring feat after he posted a season-high 27 in Wednesday's win over the Raptors. But those who figured six points would be a sure thing for Garnett on Thursday became a little uneasy when he picked up two personal fouls in just more than two minutes of play and spent the remainder of the first quarter on the bench, scoreless. He returned for the start of the second frame gunning, though, knocking down a jump shot to start the quarter and adding a shorter one in the lane less than a minute later.
And then came history.
With just more than eight minutes remaining in the second quarter, Garnett inbounded the ball in front of the Celtics' bench and gravitated toward the left side of the floor, just outside of the lane, where he posted up the Lakers' Earl Clark. Leandro Barbosa fed Garnett the ball, and he responded with a quick fake-spin to his right before turning back left and fading over Clark's outstretched arm. The ball sailed through the net, and Garnett cemented his spot in the 25,000-point club.
Per Garnett's standards, he couldn't acknowledge what he did without praising everyone else around him.
"I'm sure someday when I fall back and I'm rocking in a rocking chair having a cigar or something and thinking about what I've done, I'm sure it'll make some sense to me," Garnett said. "But I told Doc when I came in here, to all the coaches and ex-players and current players and systems and this great organization I play for, I'm more than honored. Because without the systems and the coaches and, obviously, the players that put you in a position to score the basketball, none of this would be possible.
"I try to keep my body up and pieced together, but there's so many different components that go into some of the individual wars, and I'd just like to, obviously, say I'm more than honored, but thank you, to all the ones that you guys don't see. So I guess all that said and done, I'm more than flattered and honored."
If 25,000 points takes a while to sink in for Garnett, he might never fully process this one: He is the only player in NBA history to post 25,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 5,000 assists, 1,500 blocks and 1,500 steals.
"Kevin has so many accomplishments in this league," Paul Pierce said. "He's one of the greatest players of all time, whether it be his scoring, his steals, his rebounds -- he's just a remarkable player. I'm happy that I have the opportunity to just spend some time with him on and off the court, share some of these moments with him. He's a special player. Not everybody gets a chance to play against a once-in-a-generation type player. Just to be in the locker room with him, talking and seeing his work each and every day, how he got to that point. It's been a wonderful ride."
Added Rivers: "You know what's funny -- he's a great offensive player, but he's so good defensively that you rarely hear about Kevin being a great offensive player. That just tells you how good he is overall. He's a great passer, he's a great rebounder, he's a great offensive player."
Garnett can likely relish his milestone a bit more knowing the Celtics captured their sixth consecutive win Thursday night. Had Boston lost, Garnett might not have been so forthcoming in his discussion of what he accomplished.
From here, it'll be back to the day-to-day grind for Garnett as he continues to help keep Boston afloat in the wake of losing Rajon Rondo and Jared Sullinger for the season. But for one moment on Thursday, as brief as it was, he stuck his hand into the air and embraced the Garden crowd in celebration of what has been a career for the NBA history books.