When Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns was younger and in a Walmart with his mother, Jacqueline, he really wanted an Alex Rodriguez Yankees jersey. The family didn't have much money at the time, Towns said and after the jersey fit when he tried it on, his mother said, "Great. Leave it on."
Towns laughed as he recalled going up to the cash register, his mom buying a few things and Towns walking right out the door with the jersey on.
"I have that jersey still to this day in my house. That jersey meant everything," Towns said. "I wouldn't recommend doing that to the young kids watching this. Don't do that. But if you're struggling and really like a player, I'm not going to say anything."
It was a story that connected the worlds that collided Sunday night as the Wolves beat the Bulls 121-117.
On one hand, the organization recognized a hard day for Towns as it held a pregame ceremony to commemorate Tuesday's one-year anniversary of Jacqueline Towns' death to COVID-19.
There was a pregame photo reel, and Towns had to leave during the national anthem because he was overcome by emotion. He then sank a deciding three-pointer to put the Wolves up by six points with 44.8 seconds remaining just feet from his father, Karl Sr., who was sitting courtside. Towns, who had 27 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists, then shared a postgame hug with his father and former Wolves guard Zach LaVine, who had 30 points for Chicago.
"It means everything to me," Towns said. "Obviously, you know what the next two days are for me. Life just sometimes ain't fair. … I just remember when [LaVine] got traded, my mom called me so upset, she was like, 'Not Zach!' I remember how upset she was. It just shows how much love she had for him."
Towns was able to look over and see his father Sunday sitting courtside. Perhaps sitting in those seats Monday might be Rodriguez and his billionaire associate Marc Lore, who agreed to an exclusive letter of intent Saturday to purchase the team from Glen Taylor in a tectonic shift for the future of the franchise. Rodriguez and Lore are expected to be in the building Monday. To bring Towns' anecdote full circle, Lore previously worked for Walmart.
Towns, the franchise's most important player, grew up a Yankees fan and was geeked to have one of his favorite players growing up involved with the Wolves.
"Just to have his charisma and his aura, it's going to make a lot of people gravitate towards here," Towns said. "The fans, to be able to have such a star like that as an owner, is going to bring an awareness to this team."
He also was glad the speculation about Taylor selling the team appears to have reached a conclusion.
"We players, especially older players, know that if this was something to happen, it affects all of us," Towns said. "So kind of just knowing that part is done, now we can kind of get to some more predictability."
There has been nothing predictable about the past 14 months, a time of profound change for the Wolves. There have been wholesale changes to the roster, COVID hitting and upending Towns' life, a coaching change and now a seeming ownership transfer in 2023, when Rodriguez and Lore would assume control of the franchise from Taylor.
The Wolves hope to have their bumpy rebuild on track by then, and there were glimmers of what could be late in the game with D'Angelo Russell (27 points) and Towns playing off each other effortlessly on pick-and-rolls. But there is still so much uncertainty, since nobody knows what life will be like under new ownership.
"I didn't know how to react to it," Russell said. "I never reacted to anything like that. So I didn't know if it was normal. But it sounds good. Hopefully it can play into our favor with whatever changes need to be done to bring positive vibes to the organization, I'm all for it."