Naz Reid has a confession. As a young NBA player, he would check social media after games to see what fans were saying about him.
The answer was always two words:
That's it. That was the entire composition of most tweets about the Timberwolves backup big man. No explanation, no details. Just his name.
Even now, same thing. Wednesday night, a fan held up a poster at Target Center that read: Two words. Naz Reid.
His name is no longer just a name. It's become a greeting among Wolves fans, something of a secret handshake. Those who know, get it.
Fan Jordan Alamat spotted a guy wearing a Wolves shirt at the state fair this summer. He said "Naz Reid" as he walked by. The man replied simply, "Naz Reid."
"It's like the 'Peace be with you and also with you' [greeting]," Alamat said. "It's a religious experience."
Something is happening here. Something authentic and organic. Something ridiculously cool.
Reid has become a fan favorite, and not in the way that sports fans always love the backup quarterback. This feels different. The connection is personal.
Wolves fans saved their loudest cheers at the home opener for star guard Anthony Edwards and the team's third center. Chants of "Naz Reid" break out during games.
One fan posted on X (formerly Twitter) a picture of a Naz Reid shower curtain in his bathroom.
Kai Glinsek, manager of Parkway Pizza in northeast Minneapolis, put a sign outside the store that stated: "Honk if you love Naz Reid." People are honking and stopping to take pictures with the sign.
As a contestant on quiz show "Jeopardy!" this summer, season-ticket holder Anji Nyquist revealed on air that she named her cat NAZ REID — all caps. She picked that name because her cat bounces around the room nonstop, just like her favorite player on the court.
"He's larger than life to us," Nyquist said in a phone call this past week.
Michelle Sichak runs a fan group on Facebook that has 7,000 members worldwide. "Nobody says a bad word about Naz Reid," she said. "Everybody just loves him."
Mary Baue Little has been a season-ticket holder with her husband, Steve, for 18 years. Mary attended the Pink concert in August and met a fellow Wolves fan. The two "bonded over our love for Naz," she said.
Alamat, who hosts a Wolves-related podcast, described this lovefest as a "Naz-aissance."
"It's such a uniquely Minnesotan thing," he said.
So how did this happen? Start at Day 1 when Reid signed with the Wolves as an undrafted free agent out of Louisiana State in 2019. He was a project who needed to lose weight and develop his game.
He worked tirelessly to improve his skills and prove himself. The transformation has been remarkable, and he has now a valuable player off the bench. Sports fans cherish an underdog success story.
"Everybody hears about the superstars all the time," said Brian Miller, a season-ticket holder for 22 years. "They're the ones that carry the headlines. The underdog story is always going to be a fan favorite."
Having a cool name helps, too. Naz Reid is catchy.
"Two-syllable statement name," Alamat said.
The substance behind his name is what makes Reid so endearing to fans. They love that he constantly hustles, that he rarely complains, that he plays an entertaining style. He's a big man who does the dirty work but also possesses a flair for the dramatic.
"He's the people's player because he doesn't expect a lot of accolades," Little said.
Fans also love Reid because he genuinely loves Minnesota. That is a sacred covenant. Reid turned down the potential of more money and more playing time to re-sign (three years, $42 million) with the Wolves over the summer. He said he didn't want to be anywhere else but here. His popularity couldn't have shot up any higher if he shouted you betcha as he signed the paperwork.
"He has created this friendship with the city and the fans," Miller said.
The diehards have been there since the beginning, back when Reid was merely a project. Alamat knew something was special and different the first time he saw Reid's "trillion-dollar smile and cool vibe."
Sichak's appreciation for Reid multiplied after she met him at an autograph signing.
"He's just a very friendly, pleasant person," she said. "He's really easy to root for."
Naz-aissance goes beyond cheering for a player. This relationship between an athlete and fan base feels unique in the way that it formed and spread and now has become ingrained.
"It really has become this phenomenon," said Nyquist, the "Jeopardy!" contestant. "There's no other way to describe it."
Only one way to capture its essence: