How Anthony Edwards became must-see TV during (and after) Wolves games (2024)

MINNEAPOLIS — Anthony Edwards has just staved off elimination and avoided a sweep in the Western Conference finals, finally solving the Dallas Mavericks’ crunchtime puzzle that plagued the Minnesota Timberwolves for the first three games of this best-of-seven series.

In a callback to their news conference after sweeping the Phoenix Suns last month, Edwards jokes with big man Karl-Anthony Towns about fouling out of Tuesday’s season-saving victory, which earns a solid chuckle from those in the press room. The guard also provides insight about his approach in the clutch, playing with joy and trying to find that against Dallas. But these are the vegetables on the plate, and everybody — assembled media and viewers at home — is waiting for the steak.

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Finally, Edwards delivers.

As Towns finishes answering a question, Edwards grabs the mic stand with his right hand and looks off to his left, where his beloved starting point guard waits to take the podium next.

Mike Conley’s over here, y’all,” Edwards said. “Y’all got any questions for Mike? Y’all want to ask me about Mike? Anybody want to ask me about Mike? Bite Bite?”

The Athletic’s Jon Krawczynski starts asking Edwards about how Conley (whom Edwards refers to as “Bite Bite”) played in the first half, and Edwards cuts him off halfway through the question.

“Mike is old as f—.”

The room erupts in laughter as Conley’s disembodied voice reacts with, “Damn!” Edwards continues.

“And he was getting downhill, laying the ball up, so shoutout to Bite Bite, and he’s coming in here with these clown pants on. So, y’all about to see him in a minute, but that’s my OG. That’s my point guard. He played great tonight, and I couldn’t ask nothing more from him. So, thank you, Mike Conley.”

Conley — and his “clown pants” — then sit next to Towns as Edwards remains standing, fielding more questions. He details an interaction with Dallas Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons following Minnesota’s victory and is asked about telling Parsons that he’ll bring him some AE1s — Edwards’ signature shoe with Adidas — for Game 6 in Dallas. Of course, the Wolves must win Game 5 in Minneapolis for that to happen, and only 11 of the 155 teams down 3-0 in NBA playoff history have ever forced a Game 6.

A reporter asks Edwards where that confidence comes from, hearkening back to the second round, when Edwards told a locker room attendant in Denver that he’d see them again for Game 7 when the Wolves needed to stave off elimination at home in Game 6.

“What am I supposed to say? I’m supposed to say, ‘We’re gonna lose Game 5?’ No, I’m not gonna never say that,” Edwards said. “Micah Parsons, he was rocking the AE1s, and I told him he wears a size 14. I’ll bring him back some nice shoes for Game 6.”

Anthony Edwards on his confidence saying he’ll see them for Game 6: What am I supposed to say? I’m supposed to say we gonna lose Game 5? No. I’m not gonna never say that. pic.twitter.com/tLNcNN4xZo

— Nadine Babu (@NadineBabu) May 29, 2024

Edwards and Towns exit, but Edwards keeps heckling Conley before the 36-year-old finally requests being left alone.

That’s the Anthony Edwards postgame news conference experience in a nutshell. In a sports world of PR training, cliché soundbites and answers often designed to diffuse or prevent criticism, Edwards is almost shockingly genuine. Nothing is calculated, and everything is improvised. He has an authenticity that shouts out loud in a quiet classroom and levels it with laughter.

And basketball fans near and far are loving it.

Before Game 1 of the West finals, I was walking around Minneapolis, a city I lived in for four years during the Kevin Love-Ricky Rubio days, and was blown away by how the city has embraced this Wolves team. The fandom was always there, and it helped foster one of the better internet hoops communities in the late aughts and early 2010s — the Roaring Twenties of the sports blogging era. But the city was dominated by Vikings, Twins and Wild merchandise and clothing.

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It’s funny how the tide has turned, culminating thus far in this conference finals run that included eliminating the defending champions.

Billboards with Edwards, Towns, Jaden McDaniels and the Wolves in general populated the rooftops like gargoyles. There’s a team mural that envelops the entire side of a building adjacent to Target Center. “NAZ REID” is written on the wall-sized windows of an abandoned retail spot downtown to recognize this season’s Sixth Man of the Year. Seemingly every crosswalk stoplight featured an LED message on a blue-and-green sign — the colors of the early incarnation of the Wolves’ expansion franchise. The message simply said: “Wolves back.”

The team’s merchandise is also now represented everywhere. A Wolves renaissance has taken over the Twin Cities as the franchise has finally provided something truly hopeful to root for, this season and beyond. But the reason can’t just be that the Wolves are good and reached the conference finals for the first time in two decades, right?

“It’s Ant,” one Wolves fan outside a late-night pizza spot explained to me as he expelled a plume of smoke from his lungs. “He’s [Kevin Garnett] all over again, but different.”

How is he different?

“As dope as KG was, and we still love him here,” the fan said, “Ant has the team to lead this time around. We love him for it. We hang on every dunk, every basket. It just feels like we can get a ring with him. The way he talks gives us all that belief.”

Ah, the way he talks.

Edwards is about as Atlanta as you can expect and then some. My dad is from Georgia and grew up around Atlanta. I recognize that level of brash yet unassuming purity that oozes from Edwards. It’s part of what makes his postgame moments so heart-warming.

“Not gonna lie,” oneWolves fan named Jared from Eden Prairie, Minn., told me outside the arena before Game 2 against Dallas, “it’s very disappointing when the Wolves win and he’s not the on-court interview. He should always have to do that interview to the crowd.”

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Less than four years into his pro career, Edwards is already one of the rare players in the league’s history from whom you must hear after the game as much as you must watch during it.

“Started as [online] clips,” Trevor from Maple Grove, Minn., said. “Now, it’s must-see TV.

Wolves fans have actually changed viewing habits to adapt to the Edwards experience after games. Being the last to see what he said in your friend group is like being the last one to like a popular band that finally made it big. And much like a successful standup comedian, the expectations for how Edwards might deliver as a repeatable one-liner continue to rise up.

“When they win, I’ll definitely check X for clips,” a Wolves fan named Adam told me. “Started with the, ‘Just stop f—— fouling’ clip, and now I’m expecting gold.”

That’s mostly what Edwards delivers. Sometimes, he will even keep the media from starting questions while he finishes a DoorDash order. Following losses in this Mavs series, he’s remained relaxed. Edwards exudes confidence as he preaches not to panic.

Popeyes Order pic.twitter.com/ITpOjkZq56

— Frank Michael Smith (@frankmikesmith) May 20, 2024

“Ant talking gets shared in our group chats more than most memes,” Chris from downtown Minneapolis told me while we waited for our coffee orders. “He’s comedy. He’s actually funny. … The rest of the basketball country finally gets a taste of what we’ve seen this whole time.”

Edwards’ unpredictability is something to which even the league has seemingly adapted. Criticizing officials will always get you a fine, and as Edwards’ teammate Rudy Gobert can tell you, certain criticism and accusations can result in a six-figure reprimand. The league has also fined players in the past for swearing, though the most recent fine I could find for a player swearing with the media came in February 2023 for Brooklyn Nets guard Cam Thomas.

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In 2022, NBA reporter Howard Beck wrote about about the league attempting to curb swearing. Byron Spruell, the NBA’s president of league operations, mentioned the word “decorum” when talking about the league’s efforts to cut down on it during news conferences and public comments. But according to league sources, Edwards has not been fined for any of his colorful language.

Perhaps it’s protection of a budding star. Edwards has quickly become one of the future faces of the league, as the NBA prepares its next stardom campaign once LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant retire. Edwards’ authenticity and personality are traits the league seemingly celebrates and embraces, and the NBA is adapting to growing social norms in how young people — including stars — communicate and express themselves.

This is a good thing. As the league negotiates its next media rights deal, creating authentic brands for players is what might capture the next generation of fans. It might sound dramatic to say that, but the league is trying to make sure games are watched, profiles are boosted and eyeballs are swarming whatever screen has NBA products on it. Maybe more players like Edwards will come forward if they see his realness as an example and safe space for them to be themselves — something that is also being explored on so many player-led podcasts.

As I watched Games 1 and 2 in Minnesota, you could see Edwards’ fingerprints all over the crowd’s adopted persona. Newspaper pages were being held up. Bootleg shirts and towels were on display. “Bring ya a–” was the calling card for the latest step in the Wolves moving from a punchline to a basketball brand fans are trusting to believe in.

More and more, the Wolves are experiencing as much attention after their games as they do during them. And we’ll all bring our a– to the television or phone screen for the next golden moment Edwards delivers.

Required Reading

  • Chris Finch and his Timberwolves won’t go down without a fight
  • KAT comes through to help Minnesota force Game 5
  • Can Anthony Edwards turn the Timberwolves into America’s new favorite team?

(Top photo: David Sherman / Getty Images )

How Anthony Edwards became must-see TV during (and after) Wolves games (1)How Anthony Edwards became must-see TV during (and after) Wolves games (2)

Zach Harper is a staff writer for The Athletic, covering the NBA. Zach joined The Athletic after covering the NBA for ESPN.com, CBS Sports and FRS Sports since 2009. He also hosts radio for SiriusXM NBA and SiriusXM Mad Dog Sports Radio. Follow Zach on Twitter @talkhoops

How Anthony Edwards became must-see TV during (and after) Wolves games (2024)
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