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The Minnesota Timberwolves dedicated their game ball to George Floyd’s family after defeating the Sacramento Kings 134-120 on Tuesday night.
The win came hours after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the murder of Floyd in Minneapolis last May.
“I think for all of us, we all felt that this game was bigger than basketball,” Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns said after the game. “This was a moment that wasn’t meant for us, this was meant for our city and for George Floyd’s family. I think everyone in America right now is grieving with them and sending our prayers, blessings and love towards them.
“They need it for countless days. They’ve been reminded of the tragedy that has taken place in their family and never truly got a chance to grieve and recover in any sort of way. So I think for us we were just trying to do our part to let them know that we’re here with them, that this game of basketball is only just a little part of who we are. And this organization in us wanted to really show them that we’re going to be with them every step of the way we possibly can to help them in this process, in this grieving process … just to repair their lives as much as we possibly can.”
Towns acknowledged that he was nervous throughout the day because of the uncertainty over how the verdict would play out. He said he was worried for the safety of the community.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen,” Towns said. “I had sweated so much I had to take a shower because I didn’t know how it was going to go. My feelings towards it was, we’ve seen moments like this so much that go the opposite way, that even with how quick the verdict came in, you still have no idea where it’s going to go.
“I was worried. I was worried for our community. I was worried for if justice was going to be served. I was worried about all the family our team has, every player, and wondering if their safety was going to be guaranteed tonight and how they would feel. On our team, we’ve got guys who have kids, who are kids of color, wondering if we’re going to show them if the word accountability actually lives in the world we live in today.
Like many others, Towns was filled with a variety of emotions after the verdict was announced, saying it was “a bittersweet moment that justice was served, but it was served at the cost of a life.”
“It’s unfortunate that our city has been going through this so much, but I hope that today was a step towards reform and a step towards bringing this whole thing to an end for all the families involved,” Towns said. “Just because justice was served today for Mr. Floyd, doesn’t mean that we are going to be bringing him back home and that’s the most unfortunate part of all of this.
“It was a day where a step towards reform was made, but there’s a lot of work to do and there’s a lot of conversations that need to be had to make sure that this doesn’t happen again or at least try to save the next generations from having moments like this.”
Wolves guard D’Angelo Russell spoke with reporters after Tuesday night’s game and actually turned it into an open forum, asking reporters from the Twin Cities to share their reflections from the day. Russell, who noted he’s still just working in Minneapolis and continues to make his new team and city feel like home after being acquired by the Timberwolves last season, said he has been embraced by the community but wanted to get a feel for what local reporters thought.
Wolves swingman Josh Okogie echoed a point made by many others on Tuesday, saying that the Chauvin verdict wasn’t just about justice, it was about more accountability.
“More than everything for me, if justice was really, really, really served George Floyd would still be here today, but obviously we don’t have no control of that,” Okogie said. “But what we do have control of is the court case and what we decided to do with Derek Chauvin, I think the court made the right decisions, and … I hope this slows down the amount of shootings that are happening in the world right now.”
While Towns acknowledged a sense of “relief” after the verdict, he also felt hopeful that the state and community could start to move forward.
“It’s just a moment in time that we get to realize … when you grow up, your parents tell you what’s right and wrong, and they tell you that you know better,” Towns said. “They try to teach you accountability for your actions. They try to teach you that justice will always be served, the good will always win in the end. Recently, in life, especially for all of us of color and for me personally, sometimes the good people don’t win.
“It’s a tough fact that you gotta swallow. … It’s just a great moment for the word accountability gaining some actual meaning, gaining some actual value. Justice, while being bittersweet, also showed itself today. It’s bittersweet because it costed a life to see a moment like this. It’s one of those moments you worry that if reform’s not done, we’ll be having the same situation again, and that’s the most unfortunate, disheartening thing.”