Playing his first official game since his mother died in April due to complications from COVID-19, an emotional, reflective Karl-Anthony Towns walked off the court following the Minnesota Timberwolves‘ season-opening win with the game ball tucked under his arm.
Towns said he’s going to give the game ball to his father to put next to his mom at their family home.
“I’m just happy I got this for her,” Towns said. “I told her I wanted to get her this win and get her this ball, so I’m just happy to be able to get it done.”
Towns’ mother, Jacqueline Cruz-Towns, died at 59 on April 13 after dealing with the virus for a month. Towns called the game “heavy,” and when asked how he has changed mentally throughout this year, he said he’s essentially a new person.
“I don’t even recognize most of my other games and years I’ve played and how I felt those days,” he said. “If I can be honest with y’all for a second, I mean, I don’t really recall or really care.
“I only know what happened from April 13 on. Because you may see me smiling and stuff, but that Karl died on April 13. He’s never coming back. I don’t remember that man. I don’t know that man. You’re talking to the physical me, but my soul has been killed off a long time ago.
“I want to answer your question,” he continued, “but that man you’re talking about from April 13 or before, I don’t know him. I don’t recall any parts of him.”
Towns, 25, grew up in a tight family and was very close to his mother. He said he has tried to channel his emotions from her death and find a “different source of strength.” He has been transparent about his devastation, posting an 18-minute mini-documentary on YouTube in early November called “The Toughest Year of My Life.”
But he said he did his best to focus on the game Wednesday, and played a key part in leading the Wolves to a comeback win. Towns scored 22 points with 11 rebounds and 7 assists.
“No matter how bad my situation is, how f—ed up my life is, I’m gonna keep being here for these guys,” Towns said. “I’m gonna let them see me smile even though inside I’m not smiling whatsoever. I owe that to these guys as a leader, I owe that to them as a teammate.”