The sports abyss is finally coming to a close. It looks like sports will finally be returning in mid-to-late July and we can finally start watching, writing and talking about real sports again. Thankfully, this most meaningful athlete of Minnesota bracket was there to get us through the abyss and it is wrapping up this week with the championship matchup.
As a reminder, the goal is determine who the most meaningful athlete to play in Minnesota is based on many factors: seasons spent in Minnesota, Championships and playoff appearances while in Minnesota, All-Star appearances and other awards won while in Minnesota, franchise stats and memorable moments that stand out as well as overall popularity.
Here are the official results from this past week. Although Randy Moss was a popular athlete, it paled in comparison to Kirby Puckett, as Kirby garnered 62% of the vote to propel him to the finals. On the flip side, Lindsay Whalen was able to edge Adrian Peterson with 58% of the vote, but fell to the number two overall seed Kevin Garnett in a 72% to 28% vote.
Here is the championship match between the two most meaningful athletes of all time.
Final Matchup: 1) Kirby Puckett vs 1) Kevin Garnett
The number one overall seed squares off with the number two overall seed in a battle of longevity, success and popularity.
Kirby Puckett: Kirby Puckett was my number one overall seed for many reasons. First and foremost, he is perhaps the most famous athlete to play in Minnesota that was a critical aspect in two multiple championships. Minnesotans haven’t exactly experienced much winning in our sports history. The Vikings have four Super Bowl losses and a plethora of NFC Championship losses, the Timberwolves only made the Western Conference Finals once and the Wild have never really come close. The Lynx of course have had success but the WNBA has yet to rise to the level of interest that these other sports garner.
Puckett was essential to the 1987 and 1991 World Series championships. In ‘87, Kirby batted .357, leading the Twins in hits and runs scored. In 93, Puckett belted a walk-off home run in the 11th inning of Game 6 to propel Minnesota to a Game 7, which they would go on to win 1-0 thanks to Jack Morris. Anyone who is old enough to remember things from 1991 remembers that home run in the Metrodome.
When you consider Puckett’s 12 seasons with the Twins, he has the stats, the popularity and success to make the case to be the most meaningful athlete. He was a 10 time All-star, won six Gold Gloves, won the 1989 batting title, the 1991 ALCS MVP and the 1993 All-Star MVP award to top it off. Throw in his strong, lovable personality and you have one heck of a meaningful Minnesota Twin.
Kevin Garnett: The Timberwolves franchise has been mostly abysmal since 2005. In fact, before Jimmy Butler came to town and led the Wolves to the 8 seed, Minnesota had never even made the playoffs without Kevin Garnett. There is some belief that the franchise might not exist in Minnesota today if it wasn’t for the high school superstar that fell into the laps of the Timberwolves.
If you look at the franchise record books, virtually every major statistical category is led by Kevin Garnett. Although the franchise is young, it doesn’t exist elsewhere in the NBA where a single player is the leader in games, minutes, field goals, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and points. That both speaks to how amazing KG was and how awful the franchise has been without him.
The Timberwolves made the playoffs eight straight years with Garnett at the helm, losing in the first round each year until the 2003/04 season. In this season, with the addition of Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell, KG was an animal, averaging 24 points, 13.9 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 stocks (steals and blocks), winning the league MVP award and capturing the number one seed in the West.
In an era with other historic power forwards like Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki and Karl Malone, The Big Ticket was still a 10 time All-Star and made eight All-NBA teams. The highlight of the franchise’s history is game 7 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Sacramento Kings. KG played all five positions, including point guard, and led the T-Wolves with 45 minutes played, and shot 52% from the field with 32 points, 21 boards, 5 blocks and 4 steals, an incredible game on all accounts.
Unfortunately, the Los Angeles Lakers with Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal proved to be too much in the Western Conference Finals. Garnett sadly had to go elsewhere to win a title as Minnesota proved too inept to put the right pieces around him. This was something that KG was reluctant to do and he had to be convinced to allow himself to be traded. How many superstars in any sport have ever wanted to stay in Minnesota? Nobody played with more passion and heart than KG and Minnesota fans have loved him from the beginning. Even as he has had a feud with owner Glen Taylor, a feud where both sides have fault, fans only care about Garnett and bringing him back.
Garnett might not have had the same playoff success that Kirby Puckett did, but he did keep a franchise in existence simply due to his talent, effort and popularity. Can Kirby say that?