Timberwolves

For Better Or Worse, It's Championship Or Bust In Minnesota

Photo Credit: Chuck Cook (USA TODAY Sports)

Being a fan of Minnesota sports teams is one of the toughest jobs in the world. Accounting for the traditional four major sports in America, Minnesota has suffered the third most seasons without winning a championship in the country behind Buffalo and San Diego.

  • The Vikings have been so close but have never won a Super Bowl while constantly finding new and hilarious ways to crash out of the playoffs.
  • Neither the North Stars nor the Wild have hoisted Lord Stanley’s Mug, while the Timberwolves are one of the worst sports franchises in modern history.
  • The Twins’ last championship came in 1991, three months after I was born, and they are currently riding an 18-game postseason losing streak.
  • I’m not going to even mention how bad the Gophers have been over the last 60 years.
  • We’ve been able to lick our wounds over the last decade with the Lynx dynasty winning four championships between 2011 and 2017. But the OG diehards who came around just after the Lakers and their five titles moved the show to Los Angeles have been dying for sustained success their entire lives.

Considering the futility of an entire state, not to mention his experience on terrible teams during his first seven years in the NBA, it’s curious that it’s Karl-Anthony Towns who has raised the stakes for the Minnesota Timberwolves ahead of the 2022-23 season. Sitting alongside his head coach Chris Finch and newly poached President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly at a press conference last week, the three-time All-Star stuck his whole chest out and said this season is “championship or bust” for the Timberwolves.

That phrase has been bandied about every offseason by someone who thinks his team is the next big thing. It culminated in the infamous video of LeBron James touting the Heatles wouldn’t win five, six, or seven championships but many, many more. (They won two.) It’s a sentiment that hasn’t been used for a non-Lynx Minnesota franchise since Brad Childress pulled a Kylie Jenner to pick Brett Favre up in Mississippi. (They did not win a championship.)

It’s tough talk for a player who has won three playoff games in seven years. But Towns has been talking about winning a championship in Minnesota since the moment he was drafted. With the addition of three-time DPOY Rudy Gobert and a potential third-year superstar breakout in play for Anthony Edwards, Towns could be on to something. This is the best Timberwolves roster since their only real run at a championship when they came one Sam Cassell hip short of fulfilling their championship dreams. But this is also one of the most fragile sports fanbases imaginable prone to disappointment.

Towns saying championship or bust in Minnesota could be a rallying cry to downtrodden sports fans across the state. A bold statement meant to bring the team together and make them believe they can do the impossible. But it could also be the Timberwolves’ downfall — a premature call to glory that could end up a lot like Icarus.

The statement already drew ridicule from one of the league’s biggest bullies, four-time champion Draymond Green. It could also put a target on Minnesota’s backs and make the proven championship teams try to beat the confidence out of the Wolves before they have the chance to take off. Immediately after the press conference, Chris Finch and Tim Connelly downplayed the championship or bust mentality and offered a more realistic “walk before you can run” take. Towns might just be trying to manifest a title and attempting to create a new winning culture in the Target Center, but it’s telling that the two architects of this team pumped the breaks on their stars’ title dreams.

It’s interesting to think about the reaction if someone other than Karl-Anthony Towns mentioned bringing a championship to the Twin Cities. Timberwolves fans have characterized KAT as a little too corny when talking about his plans in Minnesota, his legacy, and how he sees his career going. It’s great that he seemingly wants to retire a Timberwolf. But sometimes it comes off as almost a little too sincere, like the kid in high school always trying to schmooze their friends’ parents to pretend like they’re better than you for some reason.

Would we be reacting differently if Anthony Edwards had said the same thing? The answer is an obvious yes. Instead of questioning his sanity, we’d be crowing Edwards as a 20-year-old king who has the right mix of confidence and cockiness to succeed in the NBA. Remember, this is the same guy who said he was the best at every sport before he ever stepped on an NBA court and picked himself in his all-time starting five. We ate it up.

I’m not saying that worshipping a kid after two years in the league is a bad thing. I’ll be the first to say that I think he will be a superstar sooner rather than later. But it’s interesting to note the difference in how we perceive things from different sources. Towns is a far more accomplished NBA player who should have more cache around the league. But his words fall on deaf ears or invite ridicule.

Towns obviously should want to win a championship. That is kind of the point. You don’t want your star out there saying they don’t really give a shit if they ever win a ring. So Towns is right. Every year should be championship or bust unless you’re the Sacramento Kings. But in Minnesota, some things are better left unsaid or offered privately to teammates. We’re too fragile to get our hopes up and believe we deserve to win anything. We should be cautiously optimistic than have our dreams torn to shreds like almost every time the Vikings make the playoffs.

KAT has the right idea but should know better after spending seven years in Minnesota. You can think good thoughts but bury those thoughts deep down in your soul where nobody can hurt you.

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