Karl-Anthony Towns is in the middle of a career resurgence. Fresh off of a busy All-Star week where he captured the three-point shoutout crown, scored nine points off the bench for Team Durant, and even got f-bombed by Michael Jordan himself, Towns’ stock as an NBA superstar is pointing up for the first time in years. It seems weird to say the 26-year-old former first overall pick and a three-time NBA All-Star needed an image rehabilitation, but KAT’s seven-year career has seen its fair share of twists and turns.
Things were simple in the beginning. In 2015 the Minnesota Timberwolves drafted Towns No. 1 overall. He was the player whom they and fans had been waiting for since the Wolves traded Kevin Garnett to the Boston Celtics in 2007. Karl-Anthony Towns was heralded as a franchise-changing two-way big-man in the mold of Anthony Davis, his Kentucky Wildcat predecessor.
Paired with 2014’s No. 1 pick and Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins, Towns electrified crowds at the Target Center from Day 1 on his way to one of the best rookie seasons of all time. He followed that up by being picked by NBA GMs as the player they would most want to start a franchise with before both the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons. KAT was a unicorn, one of the best players in the game with a proven coach to finally guide a talented Wolves to perennial contention. They just needed a veteran presence to show them the way.
Enter Jimmy Butler. The biggest villain in Minnesota since Sean Payton, Gregg Williams, and the “Bountygate” New Orleans Saints, Butler built the Wolves into a contender before burning the house down with everyone inside it. The infamous practice and subsequent interview with Rachel Nichols highlighted some of Timberwolves fans’ biggest fears. He claimed that Towns was “soft” and didn’t have the desire to win, a death sentence for a professional athlete.
Now, there was no real evidence that KAT was “soft” outside of Jimmy’s tirades against his teammates. But the word seemed to stick to Towns for the next few years. KAT’s defense was subpar. He got beat up in his lone playoff appearance and hadn’t won anything in Minnesota without the help of tough-guy Jimmy Butler. Over the last three seasons, Towns battled coaching changes, injuries, COVID family tragedies, front office scandals, short-sighted trades, and rumor after rumor that he would eventually ask out of Minnesota. The Wolves kept losing, and it looked like Towns would never become the world-beating superstar that we all hoped for in 2015.
Things are finally starting to turn around for the second-best player in franchise history. The Wolves are actually good now and have a real chance to leapfrog the Denver Nuggets and get out of the play-in tournament. After five years trying to figure things out with Andrew Wiggins, Towns finally has a true young superstar in the making as a running mate in Anthony Edwards. He’s got his close friend as the third cog in an effective big-three with D’Angelo Russell. He also has a coach who believes in and utilizes his talents in Chris Finch, exciting new ownership, and the deepest supporting cast of his career.
Towns is arguably having his best season yet. He’s averaging 24.4 points, 9.7 rebounds, and four assists per game on 52/41/82 shooting splits. It was enough to get KAT into the All-Star Game for the third time in his career and first in three seasons.
If anyone knows not to waste the opportunities in this league, it is Karl-Anthony Towns. He seemed to be everywhere over All-Star Weekend. First, he entered the 3-point contest hoping to become the first big-man to win since former Timberwolf Kevin Love in 2012. He beat Luke Kennard and Trae Young with 29 points in the final, sparking people to ask if he was the best shooting big-man of all time.
Towns also had a moment with the greatest basketball player of all time go viral this week. On his weekly twitch stream, KAT narrated an interaction with Michael Jordan in which Jordan remembers Towns scored 39 points in a win over MJ’s Charlotte Hornets before the All-Star break and says, “I see what you did to my team, Fuck you!” I can’t think of a better way to know that you’re a star than to get cussed out by Michael Jordan.
KAT’s star is as bright as it’s been in years, and he has gone a long way in rehabilitating his image across the league. But the only way to get the proverbial monkey off his back and finally become the full-fledged superstar he was meant to become in 2015 is by making several deep playoff runs. Towns’ lone trip to the playoffs as the eighth seed in 2018 was a disaster. The Wolves got destroyed by the Houston Rockets in five games, and Towns had a miserable series, averaging just 15.2 points per game on 46.7 percent shooting from the field and 27.3 percent from three.
With the Western Conference at its weakest point in years, this year is as good as any for the Wolves to exceed expectations and Towns to cement himself with Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic as one of the best big men in the league.
The big performance at the All-Star Game was the first step. Karl-Anthony Towns is getting back on track to becoming the franchise-altering player he was touted as coming out of Kentucky all those years ago. It’s been a ride. But for now, he’s right back in the conversation and is one huge playoff performance away from becoming a bonafide superstar.