Nba Draft, 1995
Garnett was a senior at Farragut Academy in Chicago in the spring of 1995. He had already earned a great deal of national attention as a basketball player, but his SAT scores were not high enough to play college basketball in the NCAA, so he decided to take his chances with the NBA draft. He was a hot prospect, and even before the draft happened he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated under the headline Ready or Not.… Only hours before the draft started he learned that he had passed the SATs the last time he took them, but by then it was too late. In the first round of the draft, he was selected fifth overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Timberwolves were still a young team then, and in 1995 they had a new vice president, general manager, and owner. "I think we figured if [signing a high school kid] went bad, we'd just say, 'Hey, it was our first draft. We didn't know what we were doing,'" Timberwolves vice president Kevin McHale told Sports Illustrated reporter Leigh Montville in 1999. But the Timberwolves never needed any excuses.
From his first season, Garnett was an excellent player, scoring an average of 10.4 points per game and achieving a 49.1 percent shooting average. He started the season as the second-string small forward, behind veteran NBA player Sam Mitchell, but that did not last long. Several weeks into the season, Mitchell recalled to Montville, "I went to the coach and told him Kevin should be starting. The reason was simple: He was better. I was playing against him every day in practice, and I knew how good he was." But as good as his skills were, perhaps more impressive was the fact that Garnett quickly became the team's moral leader, calming down teammates who were angry and energizing those who felt tired or defeated.
From his first day in the NBA, Garnett was fighting a battle for respect. "Money comes and goes. Respect lasts a lifetime," McHale told Frank Clancy of Sporting News near the end of Garnett's first season. "He's got the right attitude." It didn't take long for Garnett to earn this respect, as he explained to Esquire's Mike Lupica early in 1997. "I think the way I've played, the way I've conducted myself, has done that…. All I ever heard from the first day was 'This is a man's league, kid.' The only way you can get them to treat you like a man is to play like a man."