25 Moments in 25 Years

25 years of Timberwolves basketball!

25 years of Timberwolves basketball!

The 2013/14 NBA season is a time to celebrate for Minnesota Timberwolves fans, as the franchise is celebrating their silvery anniversary in the NBA.  I wanted to celebrate these 25 years with 25 special moments from the franchise’s history.  Are you ready for this?  Let’s get started with the countdown … because everything in the world today has to be done via countdown and ranking apparently.

(Quick note: YouTube clips are also hyperlinks below and will open in a separate window.)

#25 – 2008 NBA Draft night trade that yields Kevin Love for the Wolves

While I still would have demanded a PG (Lowry, it worked within the cap) in the trade, the Wolves traded OJ Mayo to the Memphis Grizzlies for Kevin Love with other pieces all around.  This trade would have been ranked higher if Mike Miller didn’t stink up the Target Center for two seasons.

#24 – Isaiah Rider’s circus shot in Sacramento

Preface: I loved Rider.  There, I said it.  You’ll see him again in this countdown.  This shot was on national TV and I talked about it for two days in school.  Have a look.

#23 – One of two 2nd round draft gems: Nikola Pekovic

Perhaps for the 30 year anniversary, this is ranked a bit higher.  You know how (12 adjectives worse than…) bad the franchise’s draft history is.  This pick also wasn’t too much of a “find” for McHale, as Pekovic was a 1st round talent that teams knew wasn’t coming over for a few years and the team swooped him up as the first pick of the 2nd round in 2008.

#22 – Two of two 2nd round draft gems: Doug West

In the franchise’s first draft (1989), the team wound up with a pretty decent backcourt consisting of Pooh Richardson and Doug West.  While his career got off to a slow start, West did overtake Tony Campbell as the franchise’s leading scorer for a while and had several solid seasons for the club.

#21 – 1992 Slam Dunk Contest w/ West

We really won’t talk too much about the early days and for good reason; Doug West simply appearing in the Slam Dunk Contest is a top 25 moment in franchise history.  Around the 8:45 mark of the clip below you will find the start of West’s performance.  However, you’ll miss Grandmama, Plastic Man, and Shawn Kemp if you skip ahead.  (In other words, watch the whole thing!)

#20 – Ricky Rubio’s first triple-double

Any time a Pup throws up a triple-double against the Spurs, you have my attention.  But when the Unicorn does so in spectacular fashion, it is a top moment for the franchise.

#19 – 2009 NBA Draft – Hello Ricky!

David Kahn somehow convinced the Washington Wizards to give up the 5th pick of the draft for Randy Foye and Mike Miller.  Sure, we picked up Stewie Griffin and a few other spare pieces, but the Wolves were able to land Ricky Rubio with the pick and the rest will become history.

Let’s forget about the 2009 draft in its entirety though: Point Guard-apolooza, Kevin Love’s “What are we doing?!?!?!” tweet, etc.  It never happened, OK?

#18 – Timberwolves fire David Kahn

Yep, this is a franchise highlight.  We’ve covered off on the 2009 draft, but we didn’t mention the selection of Wes Johnson the following year – the worst draft pick in the history of the Timberwolves.  Trust me, I’ve been watching this unfold for a long time.  There were none worse.  Throw in trying to freeze Kevin Love out of Minnesota and you have a train wreck for the ages that needed to be fixed.

#17 – Timberwolves hire Rick Adelman

Where Kahn deserves an iota of credit is in the hiring of Rick Adelman, by far the greatest basketball mind to ever grace the sidelines of the Metrodome or Target Center 41 times a season.

#16 – Isaiah Rider blocks Patrick Ewing

Earlier I mentioned talking about Rider’s shot in Sacramento for two days.  Being from the NY area, this play allowed me a full week of gloating in high school.  This was AWESOME

#15 – “Loser, Loser, Loser, Loser, Loser, Loser, Loser, Loser, Loser, Loser, Loser, … Winner!” – The Timberwolves select Christian Laettner in the 1992 NBA Draft

Look, everyone will focus on the negative: we missed out on Shaq and Zo, Laettner was a locker room cancer (as referenced above perhaps?), that he wasn’t around for the long term, etc.  All of this is valid.  However, where would I be without the Wolves selecting Laettner in 1992?  I can assure you that I wouldn’t be writing for a Wolves blog.

As I started to hone in on the NBA around 5th-6th grade, the franchise came into existence.  That was a nice way for me to get a fresh start on a new NBA team.  What distinguished the Wolves over the three other new teams?  1. Team colors and 2. My dad was making business trips to the area every month and could bring home souvenirs.  Relatively sold, but not completely …

What took my fandom to the next level?  “With the third pick of the NBA Draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves select … Christian Laettner from Duke University” – Stern, David.  How is this for a history lesson?

There is one more thing I want to cover here, completely realizing that I’ve already spent too much time on #15 in this list.  How is this locker room speech not more popular than Derrick Coleman’s “Whoopty-damn-doo”?  I mean, this should really be closer to Iverson’s “We talkin’ ‘bout practice?!  Not a game, not a game, but practice!”  Honestly, this can be used in so many aspects of life, at the very least in Minnesota.  Example: imagine giving the “Loser, Loser … Winner” speech for any of the following:

  1. Leaving a board meeting
  2. Quitting a job
  3. Leaving the bar
  4. Exiting a holiday house party
  5. Deflecting blame when caught by multiple boy/girl-friends

Seriously, this needs to become a more acceptable way of living your life.  Do it!  Vine it!  I will pay you at least $1.

#14 – Final home game of 1990 at the Metrodome

The third largest NBA crowd (49,551) packed the Metrodome for the last home game of the inaugural, 89/90 season.  The Wolves drew over 1 million fans into the stadium for the season!

#13 – First Franchise Win – 11/10/89

It took four tries and overtime, but the Timberwolves earned their first win in franchise history on 11/10/89 against the Philadelphia 76ers, 125-118.  Tony Campbell and Tyrone Corbin = Monsters!

#12 – Michael Williams Free Throw Record

What better way to get a jolt through your body than covering off on one of the few places you will find a Pup in the record books?  In 1993, the PG broke the record for the most FT’s hit in a row, finally ending the streak at 97.  (More fun facts on free throws)

#11 – Kevin Love’s double-double streak

Continuing a run of streaks (ba-da-bum) there aren’t many more impressive performances compared to the 53 games in a row in which Love put up a double-double.  From November 2010 through March 2011, Love poured it on night in and night out.  However, the run came to an end against the Warriors.   Oddly enough, the streak ended because Love only scored 6 points in a blowout loss.

#10 – A double overtime loss to OKC – 3/23/12

Wow, a loss winds up being a top moment in franchise history.  Why?  This is my list and I’ll do as I please.  This is the best regular season game I can remember.  From the opponent’s side, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook each went for 40+ points.  JJ Barea put up a triple double.  Kevin Love put up a modest 51 and 14.  This game was spectacular … including Wesley Johnson’s 0-1, 0 points effort.  Have I talked about him before?

#9 – Glen Taylor saves the Timberwolves

Say what you will about Taylor, and you have/will, but he saved this franchise back in 1995.  With the owners looking to sell the team to a group down in New Orleans, Taylor swooped in to purchase the club and leaving it in the Twin Cities.

#8 – Timberwolves retire Malik Sealy’s jersey

I debated whether or not this belonged in the countdown because the reasons that led to the jersey retirement suck, but also thought it might provide some perspective for some of the younger fans as to why the #2 hangs in the rafters.  We covered this tragedy in a VOTW last year.

(I’m still surprised that the entire halftime ceremony isn’t on YouTube.)

#7 – The original Big Three?  KG, Marbury, and Gugliotta

A second VOTW of focus in the top 10 … of course!  Before he ate a jar of Vaseline on YouTube, Stephon Marbury was a phenomenal addition to the KG-led Wolves.  Therein lied the problem, it was KG’s team and ‘Starbury’ wanted nothing to do with that.  Naturally, before a resolution could be found there, Tom Gugliotta decided that he had enough and went to greener pastures.  But before all of this … these three were awesome!  (Where are my Tums?!)

#6 – 1997 – Playoffs?  Playoffs?!  You kidding me?!

It took a while, but the Timberwolves made their first trip to the playoffs in 1997.  The team was quickly swept off the floor by the Rockets … but still … progress!

#5 – KG leads the Timberwolves in … everything in ‘02/’03

For just the third time in NBA history, a player led his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks for the season.  KG was good.

#4 – Kevin Love’s 30/30 game against the Knicks

The only reason this is #4 and KG’s season above is listed at #5 is because it was against the Knicks.  I’ve never claimed to be fair or unbiased.  Early on in the 2010 season, Kevin Love went off … way off … on the Knicks, to the tune of 31 points and 31 rebounds.  I don’t think this needs any further description.

#3 – The ‘East Bay Funk Dunk’

The NBA All-Star Weekend came to Minneapolis in 1994 and Isaiah Rider stole the show, winning the Slam Dunk Contest with his ‘East Bay Funk Dunk’.  A crowning achievement for the franchise who had yet to make the playoffs.  This too was awesome!

#2 – The 2004 Playoffs

Since 1989, the Timberwolves were the team to beat in the NBA exactly once, in ‘03/’04.  Everything was in place for a deep playoff run and more.  The team disposed of the Nuggets rather easily and then had an epic battle against the Kings.  KG jumping on the top of the scorer’s table after game 7 anyone?!  I still remember these series and locking myself in my Hoboken apartment.  With the great, however, came the ultimate disappointment in that Sam Cassell’s injured hip was not going to make a miraculous recovery for the series against the Lakers.  The Wolves didn’t have enough to compete with Shaq and Kobe.

However, if Sam was healthy, this team was going to the Finals and winning it all.  That injury still haunts me.  That injury also prevents the ‘03/’04 season from being #1 on this list.  If the team had at least the Conference Championship, it would be #1.  Alas …

#1 – The 1995 Draft

Before he was “The Big Ticket”, he was “The Kid”.  The Timberwolves selected KG with the 5th pick of the 1995 draft and the franchise was altered for a decade (and you could argue more, but we won’t).  There isn’t anything to say about KG that won’t ruin a future post about his career.  KG provided more than enough memories.  I rarely care about a player when they leave one of my favorite teams.  I became a Celtics fan so that KG could get a ring.  Best of luck to “The Kid” this season in Brooklyn and quite simply, “Thank you!”

So there you have it, 25 memories from 25 years of Timberwolves basketball.  What moments stick out the most to you?

Timberwolves VOTW – Christian Laettner Highlights

I cannot tell a lie; while I have been a fan of the Timberwolves since their inception, the drafting of Christian Laettner put my fandom over the edge and drove me to diehard status. Yes, that is a true story and please, do not judge me.   This week’s VOTW takes us back to Laettner’s NBA career with some mixed beats in the background for your listening pleasure. The majority of the highlights here are from his early career in Minnesota and Atlanta. [Read more…]