WALTHAM When it comes to Kevin Garnett, intensity is never in short supply.
Neither is motivation, something that he traces back to his days as a high school basketball star in Chicago.
One of the first superstars to make it coming straight from the high school ranks, Garnett had plenty of naysayers who didn't believe he would be anything other than another NBA bust.
Instead, the 7-foot big man has been one of the best players of this generation, a perennial all-star and a first ballot Hall of Famer whenever he decides to call it quits on his NBA career.
More and more these days, Garnett reflects on the many accomplishments he has throughout his career.
And when that happens, it's only natural that his mind drifts back to when he was one of the nation's top prep players whose size, length, athleticism and overall game made him a natural fit to someday play in the NBA.
But because of his age, there were many who weren't sure the skinny kid from South Carolina would ever develop into a decent NBA player, let alone a dominant force whose list of NBA achievements is lengthy.
It is those people - the critics - that for so long drove him to be more than just a good player, but one of the greatest to ever play in the NBA.
"When I came into the league, I was on just trying to prove something to myself and everybody who doubted me," Garnett said. "To this day, I'm still driven by them same things. I've never been short of encouragement, inspiration, things that are going to get me going. I've always found an edge and have been able to keep that."
And that edge is obvious to anyone who has played with or against him.
Current Celtic Paul Pierce has known Garnett ever since they were high school stars.
"He had it then, the spirit, the enthusiasm, he had the drive," Pierce said. "And it just seems like knowing him then to being around him now, it's still the same. It's unbelievable for a guy who has been playing basketball his whole life, has won pretty much every award, to still have the type of drive he has."
And now that he's nearing the end of his NBA basketball odyssey, Garnett finds himself playing the role of teacher for many of the game's young bigs.
This is particularly noticeable with Jared Sullinger, who has said on more than one occasion that he sees Kevin Garnett as a big brother-figure.
"Performance-wise, if I can help someone with anything that comes with this game, then I will share that," Garnett said. "I try to give myself as much to the team as I can. If you want to label that a big brother or a mentor, yeah, that's me."
Garnett is simply passing along the many lessons learned that when he was a young player trying to find his way in the league, were taught to him.
He credits former Minnesota Timberwolves forward Sam Mitchell as playing an instrumental role in his development; that and him moving from South Carolina to Chicago.
"Ever since I moved from the south to the north; you understand that Northern people are a lot more aggressive than Southern people," Garnett said. "One of the lessons I learned in living in Chicago, nobody's going to give you anything. You have to take it. I've carried that mentality into the league with me. Sam Mitchell has helped kind of massage that mentality.
Garnett added, "this is a man's league. I've never thought of it any other kind of way."