The end of the 2015-16 season marked the retirement of three big names in the NBA: Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, and Kevin Garnett. All of these players spent two decades (or close to) in the NBA, and there is no doubt the league will be different without them.
For most of the 2000s, the NBA was dominated by two teams: the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs. The Lakers, led by Bryant, and the Spurs, led by Duncan, accounted for six championships from 2000 to 2009. In three of these years, San Antonio and Los Angeles faced off in the playoffs, and their rivalry was certainly one to watch.
Both Bryant and Duncan spent their entire careers with their respective teams, which is a feat in itself. In the NBA today, we rarely see players with such loyalty to their teams. The Black Mamba and the Big Fundamental are great examples of players who stood by these values that were first evident by players in the 1980s, such as Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.
Meanwhile, Garnett does not have the single team story to represent his career, but his time in the NBA is not any less significant. In the late 2000s, the Boston Celtics emerged after the Big Three of Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen convened at TD Garden. The year prior, Boston finished second-to-last in the entire NBA with a record of 24-58. That made their championship run in 2008 even more unbelievable, and it was deemed one of the most remarkable comebacks in NBA history.
Although the only championship ring Garnett has is from his stint with the Celtics, his career is most known for his time with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He spent his first 12 season in the NBA with the Wolves, where he established himself as a dominant big man in the league. Garnett then went on to help bring a championship to Boston where he stayed for six years, before joining the Brooklyn Nets for one-and-a-half seasons. From there, Garnett’s NBA journey came full circle, as he returned to Minnesota two years ago.
Now, Bryant, Duncan, and Garnett are gone, marking the losses of three more players from the 90s draft classes. The only players who were drafted in the 90s and still remain in the NBA are Pierce, Vince Carter, and Dirk Nowitzki.
Regardless of whether you’re a Lakers, Spurs, Celtics, or Wolves fan, these players should receive nothing but respect for their remarkable NBA careers. There will never be a player as quiet but deadly as Duncan, a player with such a killer instinct as Bryant, nor a player as trash-talkative as Garnett. The entire dynamic of the NBA is shaken up without their presences.
All three stars are sure Hall-of-Famers, and their legacies will never be forgotten.