Garnett's work off court earns citizenship award

Updated: November 1, 2006, 1:07 AM ET
Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS -- Kevin Garnett walked into the Target Center arena and looked at the large gathering of team officials, teammates, family, media and a family he has helped get back on its feet after being devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

Kevin Garnett
Garnett

He sat down next to his wife and whispered to her, "Wow, this is really a big deal, isn't it?"

Yes, KG, it is.

Garnett was honored on Tuesday with the NBA's J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award for outstanding service and dedication to the community. He certainly earned it.

Garnett set a remarkable standard for Katrina relief efforts, donating $1.2 million to Oprah Winfrey's Angel Network to build 24 houses over the next two years. He also played in a charity basketball game that benefited Katrina victims and donated $100,000 to the tsunami relief effort in Malaysia.

The Timberwolves showed a video that recapped some of his many charitable acts for the audience, and Garnett turned his head away from the big screen several times, almost as if he were embarrassed by the attention.

"I want to say out of the many awards I've won, I'd have to say that this is probably the most gratifying just because of the results, of what comes out of it," Garnett said. "I think we all give every day. But for some strange reason, I get an award for it."

Garnett has long been involved in community service projects, donating computers to inner city schools and helping local children and women with cancer, in addition to taking underprivileged kids on holiday shopping trips.

Intensely private and loathe to speak publicly about anything other than basketball, Garnett prefers to keep his service and giving "below the radar."

"A lot of the things I do I like to keep personal," Garnett said. "I never want to have it come off as PR, or something that I'm trying to get recognition for. These are things that I do personally myself. I felt like the relationships I have with the people I'm doing it for, I like to keep that private."

His enormous gift to Oprah and the other work he has done with Katrina victims made that impossible this year. Garnett joined the likes of Julius Erving, Magic Johnson and David Robinson on the list of Kennedy winners.

"We all know that you're one of the greats of our game today and a future Hall of Famer and you work so hard on the court," commissioner David Stern said in a taped message. "But we also know that, through your commitment to local charities, to Habitat for Humanity, to really anyone in need, you set a standard that I think is the highest that there is in the NBA."

One of the families he helped was at the ceremony. The Josephs relocated from outer New Orleans to the Twin Cities after the hurricane and struggled to recover until a chance meeting changed everything.

Trinette Joseph worked at a local UPS store and met Garnett's sister one day.

"As soon as she knew who I was, she went to her truck and came back with two suite tickets and said, 'You have to come.' ... And I did. And I met her and the family, and I'm glad. I'm glad I went."

Garnett took Trinette, her sons Denzel and E.J. and her daughter Courtney under his wing. He hosted the family for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner and bought the children computers and clothes.

The family now lives permanently in the Minneapolis suburb of Minnetonka.

"He's just been an angel and just so unselfish," Trinette said. "The main thing was him spending the holidays with us. He didn't have to do it, but he did.

"We were away from family, so that really meant a lot. You can tell it's genuine. It's not like somebody made him do it. He really wanted to be there. He enjoyed being there with us."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press