A challenge for Timberwolves fans as 2005 approaches.
I couldn't pick the Bulls. Even though all the other kids at school were doing it. Even though I knew it meant that I would get to celebrate a championship. I just couldn't do it. They weren't a team I could identify with. As the short kid who always got picked last, there was just one team that felt right to me - the Minnesota Timberwolves. I couldn't name a player on the team. I didn't even know where Minnesota was. But I knew that they were the worst team in the league, with no chance of getting better any time soon. They became a part of me, and I, a part of them. And as I was taunted for my choice of team, and as I endured all the other kids' bragging, I hoped that someday things would get better...
Sixteen years have passed, and things have most definitely gotten better. I'm much taller, I don't get picked anywhere close to last, and the Wolves are undoubtedly the most talented team in the league. Every lost season, every first round exit, and every heart-break of the past is just that - the past. We don't have an MJ, but we've got a KG. He's surrounded by the finest group of athletes this franchise has ever known. And we've got a serious chance to do what was utterly unthinkable just two years ago. We have an opportunity to win a championship. You would think that everything was perfect, but you would be wrong.
Eleven. That's the number of losses that the Timberwolves have through twenty-seven games. That's good enough for the Western Conference's sixth seed and no home court advantage at all in the playoffs. Whether or not that's good enough to earn us our first championship remains to be seen. But seeding is the last thing on my mind. I believe that if the Wolves had to play all seven games of the Western Conference Finals in San Antonio, they'd have what it takes to advance. Because I believe that the Wolves have the ability to be the best team in this league. And that's where my concern comes in. Having the ability to be the best team in the league, and actually being the best team in the league are two entirely different things. And as of now, the Timberwolves are only one of them.
This is where the resolution comes in. It would be nice to be able to flip a switch come April and take that ability and turn it into reality, but it just doesn't work that way. Being the best takes hard work, day in, day out. It takes dedication, preparation, and determination. Most importantly, it takes time. And with the playoffs a mere four months away, time is something that this team is running out of. And so as the Wolves step onto the court to play the Grizzlies on January 1st, I challenge every member of the Timberwolves family to make the resolution to actually be the best.
It would be so easy to give up now. It would be so easy to take a look at how the past two months have gone and just admit that things aren't going to change. It would be so easy to let mediocrity be acceptable. It would be so easy to hover around .500, and hope to hit a hot streak in the playoffs. It would be easy, but it would also go against everything this team has ever stood for.
This isn't just about basketball. It's never been. From day one this franchise has been about giving the dejected an opportunity to succeed, about giving failures a second chance. There's been so many times in my life where people have asked my why I didn't quit when things got difficult. My answer was, "I'm a Timberwolves fan. We don't give up." If seven straight years of being at the very bottom, followed by seven straight years of getting knocked out of the first round doesn't make you lose hope, what will? And whether you've been a part of this team for ten years, or if you've only been around for ten weeks, that's what you're about. That's what you represent when you put on the jersey or wear the Timberwolves logo.
Every single player on this team has felt the sting of being labeled. Every man on this team has at one point been called too young, too old, too selfish, too unselfish, too slow, too one-dimensional, too uncontrollable, too unmotivated, or just too far gone. They've even turned our strengths into weaknesses, saying we're too talented, too deep, and we've got too many scorers. And to let things continue the way they are, would only prove them right. Because unless the Timberwolves win it all, they've got nothing that proves otherwise. Nobody can argue with a ring.
This is our team. This is our time. And that's more than just a catchy slogan. That's the truth. There has never been, and I believe never will be, another Wolves team with this much potential. And that being said, there has never been, and I believe never will be, another opportunity to win the title like this one. And that's why my heart breaks every time this team throws away one more game into that loss column. Because each lost game makes it that much easier for our dream of a championship to slip away. The Timberwolves nation endured seven years of failure, followed by seven years of frustration, and the one chance we had to finally feel free from all of it was snatched away by injuries. And now, in what is perhaps our one final opportunity, that chance to be free rests solely on the shoulders of this year's team.
In this game of all or nothing, all we have is each other. All we have is this moment. But that's all we need to win the title. It's there for the taking, this team just has to care enough to go out there and grab it. And that's what I'm asking this team to do. I don't know what good asking does, coming from some fan they've never met, on some web page they'll never see, but I'm asking anyway. Be the best. Don't just be content knowing that you could be or that someday you might be. Be the best now. Be the best each and every day, in every single game you play. Whether it's the Suns or the Hornets, whether you're ahead of the Spurs by two games, or behind by twenty-two. Do everything you know how to be the team you know you can be. If that means getting the ball to Kevin, making the extra pass, playing tough defense, crashing the boards, stepping up in crunch time, or cheering on the bench, do it. Don't let your confidence squander a lead. Don't let your complacency turn four point deficits into a fourteen point hole. Take those fourty-eight minutes you've been given and use them to build your legacy.
2005 is just around the corner, and with it comes our date with destiny. This year, don't make a resolution about eating less chocolate or shedding extra pounds. Look at who you are and decide who you could be. Look at the way things are and make them how they should be. Yesterday is gone, and today is all we have. When that ball drops, our moment has come. Don't let it pass us by.
Be the best.