In the year 2023, virtually everything is on social media — especially in the sports world. Just like any other famous figure, most pro athletes’ life is broadcasted for the world to see whether they intended for that to happen or not. However, hopping on the seventh most-heard basketball podcast (according to Chartable) is going to warrant national media attention. That being both positive and negative.
Earlier this week, Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns joined his good friend and former teammate Patrick Beverley on The Pat Bev Podcast with Rone. Listening to two hoop stars with larger-than-life personalities is always a blast, so I recommend you give it a listen before continuing with the article if you haven't already.
The reason I say you should listen to the entire hour that Towns accompanied Beverley is due to the large-scale, national media attention the episode got. The two of them both laid down some pretty heavy quotes, most of which got taken out of context for social media clicks. However, there is one quote that I’ve seen floating around my timeline on Twitter more than any other.
“I feel like when my time is up, and I retire, and I put the shoes up, and I say ‘you know what, Pat, me, the kids and the wife, we’re going to head out to the sunset and enjoy life,’ I feel like there is going to be people that are going to say I changed the game. I’m going to be very appreciative of that.”
“Everything’s [perception]. You know what I like to say, when this is all over, that there’s going to be kids coming up saying that they’re going to be able to play a different way because I played in the NBA and did it a different way.”
NBA fans everywhere all have different opinions on KAT. Most attack the 27-year-old for no particularly good reason. However, this quote broke NBA Twitter over the course of the last week with fans and media laying into Towns’ confident self-assessment.
.@KendrickPerkins reacts to KAT saying that at the end of his career, people will say he changed the game:— First Take (@FirstTake) June 15, 2023
"How can you change the game when at times we don't even know you exist?" pic.twitter.com/thbLYE0uGN
If I was a betting man, which I’m not, I’d say you likely only know Kendrick Perkins for his common appearances on ESPN and not his 14-year NBA career. Perkins is known for poking jabs at star players, just like some of his coworkers. However, Perk went too far with this one and frankly, he’s just wrong. Saying certain things like, “KAT needs to win a Playoff series before this happens,” or “How could you change the game when you fade in games where your team needs you the most” would have been more fair criticism here.
Before we go any further, just take into consideration that Perkins’ career high in the NBA was 26 points and Towns’ career average in the league is 26.5 points... Telling.
Now that we’ve got the cleared up, I’m sure you might be asking yourself what truly makes KAT a game changer. Well, let’s dive into that laundry list now.
The Generational Offensive Talent
Becoming the Greatest 3-Point Shooting Center
Coming out of college, Towns was a back-to-the-basket center. Through his 39 total games with the Kentucky Wildcats, KAT only attempted eight threes — making just two of them. Minnesota’s front office thought they were getting yet another dominant low post big man which was commonplace up until that point. Aside from DeMarcus Cousins, the NBA really didn't have any center who was capable of dominating from inside and out when Towns got drafted back in 2015.
Towns’ rise from beyond the arc didn't come right away. In his rookie campaign, KAT only attempted 1.1 three per game while shooting 34.1% from beyond. However, as Towns quickly became Minnesota’s franchise player, his game evolution was parallel. By his sophomore season, the three-time All-Star was attempting 3.4 triples per game and connecting on 36.7% of them.
It wasn't until the 2017-18 season that Towns began to truly dominate from 23-plus feet out. Above, you see a comparison between KAT’s shot chart in his rookie year and 2018 provided by cleaningtheglass.com. It’s obvious that as the NBA game continued to evolve, so did KAT’s skill set. However, I’d go as far as to say Towns played a role in that evolution.
As I said, there weren't many centers shooting threes before KAT entered the league, let alone dominating from that area. As Towns’ rookie shot chart shows, most bigs were attempting the bulk of their shots from inside the restricted area and mid-range.
An Incredibly Versatile Offensive Skillset
Sure, when Towns is engaging in pick-and-pop actions, he is very lethal. However, that’s far from the only way KAT can dominate on that side of the ball.
“There’s only a handful of guys like that in the NBA,” said Beverley in regard to Towns’ offensive skill set. “Obviously, if you’re clever and good to the free throw line — 18 free throws, 10 field goals — you’re at 36 [points] right there. I’m not talking about that, I’m talking about take free throws out, just give the ball, watch them hoop. Skill-set, just straight skill set? Man, there’s just five of yall.”
We all know KAT has not had a favorable whistle over the years. Some of that may be due to the way Towns attacks his defenders or how much complaining to the officials he’s done over the years. Regardless of the why or how, as Pat Bev said, when you just put the ball in Towns’ hands offensively, great things happen.
One of, if not the greatest displays of personal excellence in the NBA I’ve ever witnessed with my two eyes was put on display by KAT himself against the San Antonio Spurs on March 14th, 2022.
His final line score: 60 points and 15 rebounds on 19-for-31 from the floor and 7-for-11 from deep.
Towns became one of only five other centers to score 60 points in a ball game, those players being Shaquille O’Neal, Wilt Chamberlain, George Mikan, and David Robinson. The only difference? KAT was able to eclipse 60 points on 31 shot attempts. For most players, dropping 40 points on 20 attempts is a great game. However, Towns proved that night that greatness sits on a higher pedestal for him.
Okay, He Hasn’t Won in Minnesota, Though
The common difference of KAT’s skills — not bringing winning basketball to the Twin Cities. I get it, the Wolves haven't made it out of the first round with Towns on the roster. However, what mainstream NBA fans don’t take into account is everything that KAT has had to endure during his time in the league.
Through his first four seasons in the NBA, Towns’ reliability was among the best in the NBA. He played, and started, in 323 of the Timberwolves’ first 328 games with KAT on the roster. However, ever since then, he has not been blessed with relative health.
- 2019-20: Towns dealt with both a wrist and knee injury that kept him out of 47 total games.
- 2020-21: Towns had a tailbone and contracted COVID which kept him out of 32 total games.
- 2022-23; Towns had a calf injury that, as we all know, kept him out of 52 total games.
Not only has KAT struggled with personal health, but he’s also been a part of an ever-changing NBA franchise. Towns had gone through five head coaches with the Wolves, three Presidents of Basketball Operations, and a couple of roster rebuilds. Yet, fans from around the game still expect him to put up MVP-type of numbers.
I understand Towns has had issues leading his team in games where they need him the most. And while I don’t have an answer for why that occurs, I can tell you one thing for certain, Karl-Anthony Towns has changed the game for good. Personally, when I used to play basketball, I started attempting 3s because KAT was doing it. When I was younger, I modeled my game after Gorgui Dieng, yes really. However, I’ve been watching KAT dominate from beyond the arc for years — that lead me to think why can’t I do it, too?
To say that Towns was just a part of an evolution is just false. He was the evolution.