Kevin Garnett Opens Up About Friendship with Kobe Bryant — and How Trash-Talking Michael Jordan Backfired

The former Boston Celtics player reminisced about the the NBA legends on Wednesday’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant
Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant. Photo: Jean Baptiste Lacroix/Getty; Rich Fury/Getty

NBA great Kevin Garnett learned from an early age not to mess with the G.O.A.T.

While appearing on Wednesday's episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live!, the 44-year-old recalled facing Michael Jordan during his rookie season on the Minnesota Timberwolves.

At that point, Jordan had already won three NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls and was on his way to winning three more from 1996 to 1998.

Garnett — along with this teammate, J.R. Rider — had a great performance against Jordan and the Bulls during the matchup, and he let his enthusiasm get the best of him.

"I'm young, I'm 19 years old, I'm in the league, I'm fresh, I graduated out of high school in Chicago," Garnett told Kimmel, 53, while promoting his new memoir, KG: A to Z. "We come back, we play the Bulls. ... And I was playing great, probably the best I'd ever played in my life at this point, right? And it's against the Bulls, and J.R. Rider is having an unbelievable game, too."

"I woke up a sleeping dog," he added. "And it wasn't pleasant."

Though Rider warned Garnett about trash-talking Jordan, the then-rookie kept egging him on, to the point Jordan, 58, went off on a scoring binge that secured the win for Chicago.

"He bites, and he bit hard," Garnett said. "And I kind of got a warning shot, but I didn't really take warning to the warning shot, and it just turned bad. It turned really bad, and it turned back quickly."

As Garnett tells it, Jordan hasn't forgotten about that game and even has an assistant pull up footage of it whenever he and Garnett meet.

"Whenever I see Jordan, he does the same thing every time," Garnett said. "He palms my head and he says, 'Remember the game I gave you 40 in three quarters?' And then he has this sidekick ... around him and he's like, 'Pull that [footage] up.' And then a guy goes and pulls it up!"

"I'm like, 'What is this?' " he added. "Who walks around with content? Like, tee it up. It was an experience in which I quit talking trash to Michael."

Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers talks to Kevin Garnett #5 of the Boston Celtics in Game Three of the 2008 NBA Finals on June 10, 2008
Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett. Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty

During his appearance on Kimmel, Garnett also spoke about his bond with the late Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash in January 2020. Bryant, a five-time NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers, was drafted in 1996, one year after Garnett.

"Kobe was one of my dear friends," said the former Boston Celtics player who won the 2008 NBA championship against Bryant's Lakers.

RELATED VIDEO: Shaquille O'Neal on How He'll Pay Tribute to Kobe Bryant on Anniversary of Former Teammate's Death

Related Articles