Timberwolves

Anthony Edwards Can Shine In Mid-Market Minnesota

Photo Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Edwards quickly became must-see TV when he entered the NBA scene in 2020. He averaged 17 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists on 39% from the floor through the first half of his rookie year. Those were beyond solid numbers for a 19-year-old, but Edwards’ on-court play didn’t fully drive his popularity. Instead, it was his media appearances.

After an early February game against the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2021, Dane Moore asked Edwards a question that sparked his popularity amongst Minnesota Timberwolves fans, starting a chain of hilarious interactions from Ant in post-game press conferences.

Moore: “Do you have Popeyes, Ant?”

Edwards: “Yeah, man. I had to get some Popeyes after the game.”

Moore: “Where do Popeyes fries rank?”

Edwards: “Fries? They top-four, they top-four.”

If you are interested, here is an 8-minute compilation I found on YouTube of Ant’s funniest pressers from his rookie year:

When I say that Edwards was must-see TV early in his career, I mean locally. The Timberwolves finished with a 23-49 record during Ant’s rookie campaign. That didn’t call for a large-scale following. However, Wolves fans knew what they had – a young, charismatic player who possessed the ability to be the face of Minnesota sports.

Looking back on that time, Edwards has lived up to those early hopes. After being named to his first All-Star game and leading his team to their second straight playoff berth, it became apparent that the Timberwolves found a franchise player in Ant.

It didn’t take long for someone of notoriety, in this case old friend Patrick Beverley, to suggest that Edwards would force his way out of Minnesota. Beverley was beloved in the Twin Cities. After they sent him to the Utah Jazz in summer 2022, fans have wanted to see him back in a Timberwolves uniform. However, after this clip from Gilbert Arenas‘ podcast went viral, some of the Wolves community turned on Pat Bev.

Timberwolves fans have every right to be upset. Ant is the Wolves’ saving grace; there’s no other way to put it. Without him, I don’t even want to think about the trajectory of this team. Not only does the fanbase love Edwards and have confidence in his abilities, but so does the man himself – saying he felt like Black Jesus in 2022.

Beverley was right that stars moving to larger markets are becoming increasingly more common. For example, big-name players like Kevin Durant, James Harden, and even LeBron “The Decision” James – who chose to sign with Miami, a smaller market than Minneapolis-St. Paul – has significantly impacted the shifting market for franchise players in recent years.

Times aren’t like they used to be. From the 1970s to the early 2000s, for example, star players remained with one or maybe two teams throughout their careers. Another contrasting aspect between that era and now is the ability to keep tabs and stay updated on all 30 teams all season long. Much credit needs to be given to apps and websites like Bleacher Report and ESPN.

If Shai Gilgeous-Alexander drops 40 points against the Washington Wizards on a Wednesday night with only local streaming available, everyone who has Bleacher Report notifications turned on will know about it in real-time. Before social media developed a chokehold on modern-day society, the only way the public would gain access to stellar sports performances was through the good ol’ black and white newspaper or mainstream TV news stations.

Photo of news clipping via New York Daily News (published June 15th, 1998)

Of course, the large amount of National TV coverage plays a part in a star player’s persona. Outlets like TNT and ESPN are the two giants in the sports streaming world. When a team doesn’t get many games featured on those channels, the national audience can overlook them.

“There’s no way Minnesota should have, I don’t know, 9-10 [National] TV games right now,” said Beverley on Arenas’ podcast. “So all the work he’s [Edwards] putting in right now looks different when you get to see it, then like go through an app and get it, or I can’t really get it the way I need to get it. It’s different when you got 30 games on [National] TV, and you get to see that shit every night.”

Minnesota’s lack of a National TV spotlight bummed Timberwolves fans out. They know how good Ant is and are waiting for the rest of the NBA community to discover him. However, if the Wolves develop a winner around Edwards, they’ll get Kevin Harlan or Mike Breen calling more of their games. Ultimately, it’s a business. Why would ESPN or TNT want to stream a team that has issues with winning games at home against sub-.500 clubs when they could stream 30+ Los Angeles Lakers games and pull in far more revenue?

It all boils down to winning, not the market size. Look at the Milwaukee Bucks, for example. Giannis Antetokounmpo has transformed Milwaukee from a basketball point of view. Milwaukee is a much smaller market than Minneapolis, according to ustvdb.com. Yet, they will be featured on National TV 19 games times coming season. Furthermore, I’d bet that most, if not every single NBA fan, knows Antentokounmpo. They may be unable to spell his name, but they know who the Greek Freak is.

Anthony Edwards may not be a household name across the nation yet. After all, he’s still only 22 years old. However, if the Timberwolves front office can build a winner around him, and Edwards can lead that team to deep postseason runs year after year, there should be no reason the self-proclaimed Black Jesus can’t change the world with basketball here in the Twin Cities.

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Photo Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Edwards finished the best season of his NBA career, achieving individual and team success. He made the All-NBA second team after averaging 25.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, […]

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