Kevin Garnett has a knack for aggravating his opponents during games. He's loud. He's physical. He talks trash. Shortly after Game 1 of the Celtics-Hawks first-round series, Atlanta's Ivan Johnson called Garnett a dirty player for giving him "a lot of elbows."
After Atlanta's Game 5 victory, Hawks co-owner Michael Gearon Jr. echoed Johnson's perception of the future Hall of Famer during his speech at the Third Annual Art of It Luncheon at the Piedmont Park Conservancy.
"We don’t get any calls, which I know everybody always hears," he said, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "But I'll give you a stat. Last night, we are playing this old, physical team. They are old. I know what happens when you play basketball, old guys foul. [Kevin] Garnett is the dirtiest guy in the league. We are playing Boston last night and they had two fouls the whole first half. We had five times that and we're athletic."
Garnett has found himself in the "dirtiest player" debate before. It was just last year when the Celtics' star was handed two technical fouls and an ejection after he hit Phoenix's Channing Frye in the groin. Although the shot below the belt was blatant, Garnett boldly stated a few weeks later that he would not apologize for his actions.
"I'm far from dirty. Dirty is like hate. Don't use that word," Garnett said when asked if thought of himself as a "dirty" player. "I'm competitive and I play hard, but don't call me dirty. Just like if you dislike me, dislike me. 'Hate' is a very strong word, just like 'dirty' is a very strong word."
The perception of Garnett goes beyond dirty, though. Some players have accused him of being downright cruel.
In November of last season, Detroit forward Charlie Villanueva accused Garnett of taking trash talk too far by calling him a "cancer patient." Garnett later denied Villanueva's claims in a statement.
Days later, Chicago's Joakin Noah accused Garnett of being mean only to the young guys and the European players.
For all of his fire-breathing antics and questionable interactions with opponents, it's hard to believe that Noah, Frye and Villanueva wouldn't like to have a guy like Garnett on their side.