On May 20 2000, Game 1 of the Western Conference finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trail Blazers was preceded by the shocking news that Minnesota Timberwolves swingman Malik Sealy had died in a car crash just hours before the tip. The widely respected veteran had just celebrated the birthday of teammate Kevin Garnett the night before, and was driving back to his house when a previously-convicted drunk driver jumped the center line to crash head-on into Sealy’s SUV. Garnett was the last person Sealy saw before his untimely death.
Sealy was an inspiration to KG, as the young forward sported No. 21 as a member of the Timberwolves in response to Sealy wearing the same number while at St. John’s. So when the Timberwolves traded for Garnett’s idol in 1999, KG was through the roof. Sealy spent two seasons as Garnett’s teammate, and though the team failed to get out of the first round in 1999-00, perhaps their season’s top highlight came when Sealy banked in a game-winning three-pointer in a nationally televised game on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Some 13 years later, Garnett is still grinding away. Now a member of the Brooklyn Nets, he’s paid tribute to his late friend and teammate by choosing to wear No. 2 for his new team. Garnett hasn’t commented on the switch, but for the man who already sports a tattoo with that number in tribute to Sealy, it is obvious what his motivations are. Garnett was precluded from wearing the number in Boston, as it is retired in honor of Red Auerbach; and the Timberwolves retired Sealy’s number in 2000-01, in an emotional, stirring game that saw KG score 40 points as the Timberwolves won their 11th straight contest.
(Hat tip to For the Win for the heads-up on NetsStore.com.)
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