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Sports

October 26, 2008

The Garnett Effect

Fiery big man has transformed Celtics from also-rans into world champions

Throwing a basketball at Kevin Garnett's head requires an almost inhuman level of fearlessness. It might explain why Tom Hammonds, a man nicknamed "The Terminator," did exactly that 10 years ago.

"He had muscles coming out of his earlobes," former teammate Bill Curley said.

One early spring afternoon in 1998, The Terminator was ready to bring the pain. Garnett had just thrown down a huge dunk, practically leaving a Spalding imprint on Hammonds' forehead.

They quickly started jawing at each other. Then Hammonds unloaded his bazooka.

"All of a sudden," Curley said, "they were tangled up."

The day the Minnesota Timberwolves were scheduled to fly west to face the Seattle SuperSonics in the first round of the playoffs, Hammonds and Garnett were going at it at practice.¬�

"Crap," Curley thought. "We can't have these two fighting."

The scuffle was quickly broken up, but not before Garnett let every single person inside University of Minnesota's Williams Arena know that The Terminator didn't scare him.

"I'm not afraid of your kung fu (expletive)," Garnett screamed.

But a few minutes later, they were buddies again. It was like the whole thing never happened.

"That's just the type of competitor he is," Hammonds said from his office in Florida. "Him and I, we were a couple of best friends. We respected each other."

A decade later, nothing's changed. Hammonds, 41, may have retired from the NBA seven years ago, but he's still a huge Garnett fan. In addition to Bernard King, Hammonds said, KG was the most influential superstar he ever played with.

"He's a high energy player and a high energy person," said the 6-foot-9 Hammonds, who's moved on to the drag racing world — he's the only African-American owner/driver in the National Hot Rod Association. "That's just the way he plays the game. He wouldn't be the same player otherwise."

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