As the NBA prepares for the 2020-21 season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s difficult to comprehend what Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns is going through.
Of course, there is grief. Towns revealed during a Zoom call with media on Friday that, in addition to his mother, six other family members have died of complications from COVID-19, including an uncle who died Thursday.
“I’ve seen a lot of coffins in the last seven months,” Towns said. “I have a lot of people who have — in my family and my mom’s family — gotten COVID. I’m the one looking for answers still, trying to find how to keep them healthy. It’s just a lot of responsibility on me to keep my family well-informed and to make all the moves necessary to keep them alive.”
MORE: NBA players send condolences to Towns after mother dies of COVID-19
Towns posted a tear-jerking video on Instagram last March in which he talked about the toll the virus had taken on his mother, Jacqueline Cruz-Towns, who had just been placed on a ventilator and medically induced into a coma. She died April 13 at age 58. In the months since, Towns has made multiple posts dedicated to his mother in which he opened up about his loss.
“I didn’t want people to feel the way I felt,” Towns said. “I wanted to try to keep them from having the ordeal and the situation I was going through. It just came from a place that I didn’t want people to feel as lonely and upset as I was. I really made that video just to protect others and keep others well-informed, even though I knew it was going to take the most emotionally out of me that I’ve ever been asked to do.”
It’s clear that the loss of seven family members weighs heavily on Towns, but none as much as the loss of his mother. Last season, upon returning from a knee injury that sidelined him for 15 games, Towns referred to basketball as a sort of therapy. But things are different now.
“It always brought a smile to my mom and it always brought a smile for me when I saw my mom at the baseline and in the stands watching me play,” Towns said. “It’s going to be hard to play. It’s going to be difficult to say that this is therapy. I don’t think this will ever be therapy again for me. But it gives me a chance to relive good memories I had.”
As hard as it must be for Towns, it’s encouraging to see him open up about the tremendous loss he has experienced. It helps normalize the grieving process and will, hopefully, help him learn to live with that loss.