Anthony Edwards, the Minnesota Timberwolves

I’ve rooted for the Minnesota Timberwolves my whole life. I mean we’re literally the same age, as has been reminded to fans this season in the team’s ’89 til Infinity marketing.

The best season in franchise history was 2003-04, when league MVP Kevin Garnett, flanked by Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell, won two thrilling playoff series to reach the Western Conference Finals (where they lost to the Kobe/Shaq/Payton/Malone Los Angeles Lakers super team in 6 games.) Coming into the 2023-24 NBA season, that pair of series’ victories remains the only two the Wolves have ever won.

Even though the Wolves did a lot of losing during that stretch, it never felt painful to watch as a fan. In fact it was fun just being in the mix and watching Kevin Garnett lead a rotating cast of misfits into the playoffs for eight straight seasons. The fact that the team was instantly sent home year after year was okay because the mere fact that the Wolves made the playoffs at all meant we weren’t that bad, and that meant we had hope to be better next year.

It’s funny to reflect on that today, as that’s become an outdated mindset in professional sports. Here’s how we think about teams now: being great is great, being bad is good, and being decent is terrible. Basically, franchises collectively realized that in any given season only a tiny number of teams have a real shot at winning the championship (the whole point of this pro sports exercise), and if you don’t have a path to winning the ‘ship, you’re much better off bottoming out by trading all your good players and amassing top draft picks to rebuild for the future where you could become one of a “tiny number”.

When the Wolves had their brush with greatness in ’03-04, it felt like the beginning of an era of greatness. It wasn’t. It was still a team of misfits, and the franchise swiftly reverted back to its place in the middle of the pack. A few years later true mediocrity set in (the kind without any semblance of hope one way or the other) when the franchise traded KG to the Boston Celtics and officially ended the era of the best player in team history.

There are a lot of paths a team get take that end in mediocrity, and over the next 15 years the Wolves walked most of them. It didn’t matter how many genius ideas our various failed team execs and coaches had in the off-season, every year ended in more or less the same disappointing way. Even for someone as fanatical as me, hearing the same hopeful story with the same depressing ending over and over has a repelling effect, and as I grew older and my appreciation for the finite nature of life grew with me, I increasingly felt the pull to spend my time on things that could more reliably make me happy.

When COVID-19 struck in early 2020 and all pro sports were cancelled, I learned what it was like to truly live without them. With my addiction broken for me, I felt free, and I knew this freeness would last forever! I didn’t blink an eye when the NBA eventually announced it would start up again with its Bubble season in Orlando; I was ready to live my new Wolves-free life.

(Un)Fortunately, that’s the year the franchise drafted Anthony Edwards.

Really? After all that, am I really saying that it took this one guy to pull me right back in? The answer is yes, because that “one guy”, Ant Man, was so instantly electric on the court, while being incredibly charismatic off it, that the all-around joy I felt in relation to him literally gave me no choice but to continue obsessing over the team, MY team, simply because I wanted to follow him closely.  

Genuinely, each time AE steps foot on the court he has the potential to top himself for the best thing he’s ever put on video. Early on in a basketball career that may not be saying much, but four years in and the bar he’s set for excellence is so high in the sky that it’s hard to see. So, straight up, I’d be doing myself a disservice as a sports fan not watching the team. I mean look what he just did a few weeks ago, this is quite possibly the best dunk of the 2023-24 season, and he dislocated his finger in the process.

As for the ‘23-24 season as a whole, the Wolves demonstrated throughout the regular season that their floor was the second-best team in club history. Even for a franchise short on highlights, that’s pretty damn good, and in Round 1 they swept the Phoenix Suns straight out of the playoffs to achieve only their third playoff series victory ever! Tonight begins Round 2 against the reigning champion Denver Nuggets, and this series will determine whether this year’s Timberwolves assume the mantle of best team in franchise history.

Make no mistake, it’s not just Anthony Edwards doing the heavy lifting, the team is loaded with stars like Rudy Gobert & Jaden McDaniels & Karl-Anthony Towns & Mike Conley & Naz Reid. But make no mistake, Ant has imbued the team and fan base with a killer instinct they’ve never had. And credit to everyone involved, this new mindset has been adapted to quite well, and the resulting air of confidence is a comfortable surprise. I guess AE makes it pretty easy to follow his lead when he’s shown everyone his immense capability over the last four seasons. Watch the greatness for yourself:

These days after wins, fans like to hit play on a Warren Zevon-inspired Timberwolves remix filled with inside jokes and memes. So whadda ya say we do that a few more times before summer break, eh? Awooooooooooooooooooooo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *