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Karl-Anthony Towns owned an A-Rod jersey from Walmart long before A-Rod and the former head of Walmart owned Karl-Anthony Towns’ basketball team.
On a night when the Minnesota Timberwolves honored Towns’ late mother, Jacqueline, in advance of Tuesday’s one-year anniversary of her death due to COVID-19, Towns wiped away tears and broke out a smile to tell a story of how much a mother loved her son.
Maybe it’s a sign from above that the crazy coincidental memory was fresh in his mind because former Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez and his friend Marc Lore — the former CEO of Walmart — are negotiating to purchase the Timberwolves from Glen Taylor for about $1.5 billion.
“I remember how big a fan I was of A-Rod. Still am,” Towns said late Sunday night. “I went to Walmart and Walmart had just got these new super replica off-the-way A-Rod jerseys. I was like, ‘Mom, I got to get this A-Rod jersey.’ It was like $35.
“She’s like, ‘Go try it on in the fitting room.’ I feel like the biggest man on campus. I know damn well I can’t afford one at Modell’s. I know that’s too much money for us. But Walmart? I may be able to finagle this. She goes, ‘Great! Leave it on.’ You ain’t got to tell me twice. You know how bad I want this jersey?”
Jacqueline and Karl-Anthony, who used to have after-school adventures as Karl Sr. worked “six jobs” to help pay the bills, walked around Walmart and went to the cash register, paying only for some frozen groceries.
“They were like, ‘That’s a nice A-Rod jersey,’ ” Towns recalled. “I’m like, ‘I appreciate you, man.’ I was young. I walked right out. I have that jersey still to this day in my house. That jersey meant everything.”
Towns, 25, grew up about 50 miles from Yankee Stadium, in Piscataway, N.J., and was 8 years old when the Yankees traded for Rodriguez before the 2004 season. Now? He’s an NBA All-Star and a role model heavily involved in charity.
“I wouldn’t recommend doing that,” Towns said. “To the young kids watching this, don’t do that. But if you are struggling, and you really like a player, I’m not going to say anything.”
The Timberwolves honored the late Jacqueline Towns by reserving her a seat with a No. 32 jersey with “Jackie” on the back and a bouquet of flowers for the win against the Bulls. The Nets — who once played in Towns’ hometown of Piscataway — visit Monday.
And here’s another too-coincidental-to-believe moment: Rodriguez’s girlfriend is icon Jennifer Lopez.
“My mom was the biggest J.Lo fan,” Towns said, “so it’s like, ‘Man, I wish she was here to see this and most likely meet J.Lo and get a chance to have a conversation with her. Jenny from the block? C’mon now. When my mom passed away, at her procession, we drove her around the city [of Piscataway] one more time.
“I was driving her car and I was playing her favorite music. I knew her better than anybody. Most of the songs were Jennifer Lopez. It was me and my sister in the car, following the hearse, showing her Piscataway one more time before she was cremated — and it was just so much J.Lo.”
Towns’ girlfriend, model Jordyn Woods, gave him a painting of his mother in her younger days. His father was in Minnesota for the tribute, too.
“It was touching,” Towns said. “I know my dad was emotional. I didn’t even make it through the national anthem. It meant a lot to me that the organization would do that for me and my family.”
As Towns sat down in front of the Zoom screen to recap the emotional night, he was well aware of newcomer Rougned Odor leading the Yankees to an extra-inning win against the Rays earlier in the day. He wore a Yankees cap and jersey on a Timberwolves team plane in 2019, during a Yankees-Twins playoff series, to reaffirm where his baseball loyalties lie.
“A-Rod is one of the best baseball players that ever lived,” Towns said. “To have his charisma and his aura is going to make a lot of people gravitate towards here. From the standpoint of understanding players and the grind you go through, it’s something a former professional athlete can know.”
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