On February 23, 2021, the Timberwolves were 7-25 and President Gersson Rosas had just fired Ryan Saunders and installed Chris Finch as head coach. From Karl-Anthony Towns' view, this could have been just another wayward year in his tumultuous Timberwolves tenure.
Before the Wolves played the Bucks that night, Towns addressed the media and a reporter asked him if he was still committed to winning in Minnesota.
"I've said it before that I think one of my biggest weaknesses for me is loyalty," Towns said. "I'm a very loyal guy, to a fault. I've said it before, I would love to finish my career here in Minnesota. … I want to build something great here. I want to build a legacy in Minnesota."
Through all the losing, through all the rumors that he would be the next NBA star to ask for a trade, Towns remained steadfast in his commitment to the Wolves.
On Thursday night, Towns and a new Wolves front office under President Tim Connelly took a big step in their commitment to building a winner together, as Towns agreed to terms on a four-year supermax extension worth an estimated $214 million, a deal that would keep Towns with the Wolves through 2028.
The deal was largely a formality by the time Towns agreed to it Thursday night. Connelly spoke recently of wanting to have Towns with the Wolves for the long haul, when they can share in Towns having his jersey retired by the franchise.
"I hope he's here forever," Connelly said. "I hope we have the type of team success that would allow us to look up and see Karl's jersey being hung up in the rafters."
Despite frequent rumors over the years that he was unhappy and would want out of Minnesota, Towns has been steadfast in his public comments that he was committed to building a winner with the Wolves. The kind of money the Wolves are able to offer – which is significantly more than other teams would be able to offer him – certainly didn't hurt the pathway to a deal.
The NBA's salary-cap rules incentivizes players to stay with their current teams or the team that drafted them, and because of that, league rules allow the Wolves to offer more money than any other team could eventually. Towns' deal is for 35% of the salary cap, a number than can fluctuate year to year, hence why the total value of the contract is an estimate.
That kind of money may make some blanch, but this is what Towns qualified for by making the All-NBA team this season, and few players who make All-NBA teams aren't on maximum or supermax contracts.
The amount of money in Towns' contract is also a product of the ballooning fortunes of the league and the expanding salary cap thanks to its billion-dollar television deals. This is what it costs to keep players of Towns' stature, and if the Wolves didn't offer it, they would risk upsetting Towns and losing him.
There's little risk in this for Towns, who, if he is unhappy down the road, can always request a trade and get out of Minnesota.
Towns averaged 24.6 points per game and 9.8 rebounds last season in leading the Wolves to their second playoff appearance during his tenure, the first after his lone full season playing alongside Jimmy Butler. The Wolves finally got back above .500 for the first time since that season as Towns played some of his best defense under Finch, who utilized a defensive scheme that gave Towns more responsibility to play on the perimeter.
Finch acknowledged Tuesday that Towns signing the extension would be a monumental moment for the team.
"It's all of our hopes, really," Finch said. "We know he's happy. We were extremely happy for him, for All-NBA and the ability to have this extension. I know he worked hard for it. I know he's excited, so I think it'll be a good moment, special moment for him and for this organization."
Now, the hard part of contending for a title continues.