Karl-Anthony Towns is having a good run right now. The Timberwolves center, who turned 22 in November, was named to his first All-Star team in just his third NBA season. Along with fellow All-Star Jimmy Butler, teammate Andrew Wiggins, and everyone’s favorite heavy-minutes-loving head coach, Tom Thibodeau, KAT has helped Minnesota do something that was unthinkable until recently: drag the Wolves out of the NBA exurbs and relocate them to a much more exclusive neighborhood near the Rockets and Spurs.
At 32-20, Minnesota is moving toward its first playoff appearance in 14 years. But not only are the Wolves doing well, so is the team that Towns roots for. He was born in Edison, New Jersey, and grew up in Piscataway. As a result, he’s a Philadelphia Eagles fan—something he’s never been shy about, even when his childhood team played the team from the same town where he’s now employed. KAT hyped up the Eagles all over social media for their NFC championship win against the Vikings. Then he gushed about the victory on camera while dressed like he had just watched the game at Chickie’s & Pete’s in South Philly.
In advance of his two big upcoming games, I talked to Towns about the Super Bowl, the All-Star Game, the Timberwolves’ success this season and, most importantly, J.J. Redick’s hair. Here’s our lightly edited conversation:
They wanted me to talk to you because I’m from Philly and I’m also an Eagles fan.
Ah! That makes sense.
Where did you end up watching the NFC championship?
I was watching the Eagles game, we were in L.A., and we played the Clippers the next day. I was in my room. I was in my room, glued to the TV. I mean glued. No one could come to the door. I was in my own seclusion trying to enjoy the game. It was amazing—it was amazing to watch.
In your wildest dreams, when Carson Wentz went down, did you ever think they’d make the Super Bowl?
I did! I may be the only fan who actually had confidence. I thought they had a good chance. You know, their defense was solid. Offensively, we were good. We picked up Jay Ajayi, who was an amazing pickup for us. We had the brute, LeGarrette Blount, back there. He’s like Marshawn Lynch for us; we get close to the end zone, we throw him out there for us. Carson, obviously, you can’t replace an MVP candidate like Carson Wentz.
You know, people tend to forget, Nick Foles was a Pro Bowler a few years ago. It wasn’t like he was a Pro Bowler 10 years ago. It was . So [five] years ago. It wasn’t that long ago. I have total confidence that he can find that magic. Especially in a system like that where he has so many weapons. I know a lot of fans got spooked out by his first [playoff] game, but I thought that was just an adjustment period. I remember in the offseason, he wasn’t even part of their training camp. He was hurt. It takes an adjustment period, especially for a quarterback. … I knew he would settle down. The second [playoff] game, he came out and played well. He was ready to go. The best thing about it, Coach Pederson is going to do a great job helping his learning curve and his adjustment come quicker. I have total confidence in him. I knew when we had Nick coming in for Carson, I felt very confident he could lead us to the Super Bowl.
The Eagles have existed for I don’t know how many decades, but it took us until now to unearth the one positive Eagles fan. Which I guess is you! This is amazing. I’m like an archaeologist over here. So you got a lot of heat for being an Eagles fan in Minnesota, but you owned it. Which I thought was very Philadelphia-area of you.
If you’re gonna have a team, you gotta stay loyal. You can’t back away. I was with my Eagles through thick and thin. The best thing about it is, I remember people asked me before the game how I felt. I felt that, coming into the game, I wasn’t losing. I wanted Minnesota to beat the Saints. I wanted them. It meant, at the end of the day, no matter who won that game, I was gonna be winner of the Super Bowl because I would at least have some team to support in the Super Bowl. It’s always great to have a team in there. I made that clear. I’m a born and die-hard Eagles fan. I have friends on the Vikings who know that. I want them to play well. If they win, I’m going to congratulate them. I would have had full support for them in the Super Bowl. But, obviously, if my Eagles win, I have some things I’ve got to say, because I’m an Eagles fan. People have to understand, 13 years is a long time for me to not have seen my team even come close.
It has been a long time. That’s why Philly went nuts. Did you see the videos after the game of how crazy Philly went?
I missed the videos of how crazy Philly went because I myself was going crazy. I was being a pest to my teammates.
Oh man, you didn’t see the one where the guy was trying to run and catch the subway and ran into the pillar?!
Oh, I saw that one! I saw that. That was hilarious. That was the only loss the Eagles took that day.
Yeah, that makes it all worthwhile. All right, so, let me ask you some quick Philly/Jersey-area stuff. You have a cheesesteak preference?
You know what’s funny? I don’t have a cheesesteak preference. I don’t even eat pork or beef or red meat. People ask me, “Do you want to go have a cheesesteak?” And I’m like, “I don’t eat pork or beef,” so it’s kind of funny you asked me that.
OK, you are from Jersey, though. Even though you don’t eat it, do you call it Taylor Ham or do you call it Pork Roll?
Uhhhh … everyone I know calls it ham. So I’m gonna go with the ham more. But I really would say neither. Because I don’t eat them.
We should probably discuss basketball. All-Star teams came out. Congrats on that. Where do you think you were picked?
I don’t know. And I really don’t care. It’s all about just making the game.
Kevin Love was joking around. They asked Kevin Love the same question, and he was like “Dude, I think I was picked last.” It was hilarious.
So, Kevin Love, where were you picked in the All-Star draft? pic.twitter.com/CiR9pqT1Sy— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) January 26, 2018
[Laughs] Oh yeah? Honestly, I could care less. I just wanted to make the game. It’s a huge honor.
What do you think of the new format, by the way?
I think it’s great. I think it’s great for the fans. They get to see people they’ve never seen play together and they get to see their favorite players with their other favorite players with no conference limitations. The fans are really going to enjoy it.
It’s interesting. I think it’s also interesting that LeBron took Kyrie. Unexpected!
Uhhhh, I think, you know, trying to win.
Did you think they should televise it for the fans?
Um, I think the fans would love to see it. You know, I don’t know. It’s not my decision, you know? But I think the fans would really like it.
Who would you have picked first if you were a captain?
I would have picked Jimmy. I would have picked my teammate.
Speaking of your teammate, your jersey sales, you’re number 14. Your jersey is selling better than Jimmy Butler’s [at Dick’s Sporting Goods Jersey Report]. Did you give him a little heat for it?
No, no, no. Jimmy is also up there too with [Andrew] Wiggins. The best thing about it is, the fans, especially in Minnesota, respect our craft. They respect the time we put into this job. They see us and they’re willing to make an investment like that. That’s a very humbling experience.
The reason I ask is, I know Jimmy Butler likes to mess around and bust balls and stuff. He does that a little bit with you guys, no?
Yeah, he loves to tell jokes. He’s a jokester. He loves having a great time with us. And, you know, he’s a great teammate. That’s why we’re so blessed to have him. Not only is he one of the probably the best two-way players in the league, he’s one of the best teammates the NBA has to offer.
I saw his Instagram post after he made the All-Star Game, and he was sort of messing around with Taj [Gibson] and Tyus [Jones] and they gave it back to him a little bit.
I wasn’t even aware. Honestly, the moment was so big, I just kind of turned my phone off and enjoyed the whole day with my family.
Ah, that’s nice, man. Yeah, I’m looking at it right now. He was basically like, “Thanks to everyone for making me an All-Star again, except for Tyus and Taj.”
[Laughs] That would be something Jimmy would say.
Team-wise, you guys are playing much better. How do you feel about where you guys are, and what do you think you can do in the playoffs?
I mean, I think we’re doing great. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves and say playoffs. We still have a lot of work we have to do. We want to be a team we want to be. We have work to do. We understand that. We accept that. We’re just trying every day to get better so we can be the team we want to be.
A couple more quick ones and I’ll let you go. By the way, are you going to the Super Bowl?
I am going.
Nice. I am also going. OK, give me a prediction for the Super Bowl.
I’m going to say 30-24, Eagles. I think it’s going to be a high-scoring event. Tom Brady is going to be hard to stop, but we’ll get the job done.
Last one for you. This is your second Ringer interview of the year. Who was the better interview, me or J.J. Redick?
[Laughs] Ah, you know what … I love you man, but J.J. was great. J.J. was amazing. I got to give it to J.J. Your interview was amazing, but J.J., you know, when you have hair like that, it’s hard.
He’s got the jumper. He’s got the money. He’s got the hair. But sure, yeah, let’s give him this one, too.