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.
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
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
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
"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."