Two-time NBA All-Star Carlos Boozer had a solid rookie season for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2002-03 campaign, but as one would expect, it came with some bumps in the road.
According to Boozer himself, one moment that sticks out to him as a “thorn” of his NBA career came when he and the Cavs were facing Kevin Garnett and the Minnesota Timberwolves in Boozer’s rookie season.
He spoke about the memory during an appearance on “Culture Rich Conversations.”
“I’m gonna go with the thorn first, it’s always good to get out the way first,” Boozer said when speaking of the roses and thorns of his NBA career. “So, obviously, like I said, I won the starting spot early on in my rookie year, and so I’m pumped, I’m excited. But what I didn’t tell you was when you win the starting job, that means you’re playing against starters. That means you’re playing against some of the best players on the planet.
“Iʼm going up against Minnesota, and they got a guy on their team named Kevin Garnett. And then he was like, one of my idols. Like, I idolized the way that he played the game with that much passion. He was like seven feet. … And then the other thing about K.G. was he’s so psychological with his attack on you. It wasn’t just his physical game on the court. He talked to you the whole game. So I’m over here thinking he’s struggling. Next thing you know, he goes — his nickname was the Big Ticket — He goes, ‘Ticket, this boy can’t mess with you!’ He said this. And he said it so loud. The whole arena, I thought, could hear him. And I’m like, ‘Dude, heʼs talking to me.’ And then he went off and went crazy. Got like 37 points, like 19 rebounds.
“The thorn is when you work your butt off, and you really want to be a starter in the NBA. Sometimes they’re gonna grant you because you earned it, you worked so hard for it, so I became a starter. But I was getting torched.”
The game in question seemingly took place on Feb. 12, 2003. Boozer may have given Garnett a little extra credit during his recollection of the game, as the Hall of Famer actually finished with 26 points and 17 boards — not 37 and 19.
Boozer had a pretty rocky game, as he finished with nine points on 4-for-13 shooting. The Wolves came away with a 102-91 win.
The former Cavs big man went on to have a really solid career. He retired with lifetime averages of 16.2 points and 9.5 rebounds per game.
Boozer spent two seasons with the Cavs after being drafted by them in the second round in 2002. Given where he was drafted, many would say he exceeded expectations.
Some of his best seasons came with the Utah Jazz, the team with which he earned back-to-back All-Star nods. Over those two seasons, he averaged 21.0 points and 11.0 rebounds per contest.
Boozer also experienced a lot of playoff basketball. He appeared in the playoffs in eight different seasons, totaling 83 games (all starts) on that stage. The Duke University product never won an NBA title but did have some good postseason runs.
Garnett, meanwhile, became an NBA champion in 2008 with the Boston Celtics, just one of countless boxes he checked during his fantastic basketball career.
Boozer’s last NBA season was the 2014-15 campaign, and Garnett’s was the 2015-16 season. That fact speaks to Garnett’s longevity, especially since he had already been in the NBA for several years when Boozer debuted. In the end, both players had careers worth being proud of.