Kevin Garnett is still leaving his mark on the game.
The retired NBA All-Star and Players Only Films recently launched “Next Up” — a Facebook Watch program featuring Garnett’s workouts and conversations with some of the top prospects from the 2018 NBA Draft.
Texas center Mo Bamba — the show’s first subject — was eager for the opportunity to participate. Bamba is projected to be a top-five pick in Thursday’s draft.
“I’m just ready to throw myself out there and be vulnerable, so I can be able to learn from one of the best to ever do it,” he said. “For me to not only be able to talk to KG, but to work out with him, it means the world to me.”
Before they hit the court, Bamba and Garnett sat in the sands of a Malibu beach. (When he was a player, an important part of Garnett’s morning routine was his three-mile run on the beach.) The pair chatted about Bamba’s background, his decision to go to school in New Hampshire, and his goals for the upcoming season.
“When you wake up to stuff like this, this should motivate you,” Garnett said. “This is to show you when you bust your ass and you do it right, you live like this . . . You put that work in, this is what the top looks like. This is what the top feels like.”
His message resonated.
“Looking out at the beach and looking at having the world in your hands, it just made you want more,” Bamba said. “It made you want to go out and just take it.”
Bamba told Garnett he wants to be a unicorn in the NBA, “making plays and doing things no one has ever done before.” He said he wants to enter the league and have “as much impact as possible,” but he also emphasized that’s just the beginning.
“I’d be sitting here lying if I’m saying I didn’t want it all,” Bamba said. “I want everything and anything I can get from this game. Because in reality, I owe this game my life.”
Garnett said he sees a lot of himself in Bamba, noting that the first things he notices in a player are their “desire” and “passion.”
“It wasn’t by coincidence I reached out to him,” Garnett said.
Once they moved the court, the pair worked on developing shots on different parts of the floor. Bamba said Garnett gave him “some counters, some A moves, some B moves, some C moves, and different things to get the defender off balance.” Garnett also shared a “cheat code” to help him with his free throws.
“Keep that on the wraps,” Garnett said. “If that cheat code come out, me and the crew going to come find you.”
Bamba said he enjoyed learning the new moves, especially the fadeaways.
“My shooting ability, at this size, that’s something guys are really looking for at the next level,” Bamba said. “He did a real good job of bringing fire into me. Personally coming into this, I always thought motivation came from within. But I think KG somehow pulled a little bit more out of me.”
Garnett left Bamba with three major pieces of advice:
- Before the workout: “Every day, push yourself. Every day, ask yourself, ‘How can I be better than that?’ One of the hardest things to do in this league is to be consistent. Pick your something and be great at it. Pick your something and say, ‘I’m going to dominate this.'”
- After the workout: “The things you really felt comfortable with, stay with [them]. Because that’s what’s embedded in your subconscious for when you get tired. I think everybody’s going to be surprised with your range. I want you to keep working on that.”
- “Always keep that drive. Always keep that love for why you love to do this. Don’t be afraid to be a kid. Don’t be afraid to express yourself. Understand presence is everything. Make sure everybody here respects you. They ain’t got to like you, but make sure everybody respect you.”
Bamba isn’t the first player to work one-on-one with Garnett. Bucks center Thon Maker and Garnett spent time together in Milwaukee during the regular season.
“This is my responsibility,” Garnett said. “I look at myself as a prophet. I’ve been able to go through things and survive it so much, I come back and I’m here to give it out. This is my duty. This is why I’m doing this. Teach mindset and make these players better, so when I look at them, I say, ‘You know what? Look, I helped them get that. I helped them develop that.’ It’s part of me out there.”