This is a year the NBA will never forget, even though it definitely wants to.
In March, Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert became the first player in the league to test positive for COVID-19, the NCAA Tournament was canceled, and Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl Anthony Towns revealed his mother, Jacqueline Cruz, was in a medically induced coma due to the virus.
Tragically, Towns’ mother died at the age of 58 on Monday.
“Jackie was many things to many people – a wife, mother, daughter, grandmother, sister, aunt and friend,” said a family spokesperson in a statement. “The matriarch of the Towns family, she was an incredible source of strength; fiery, caring, and extremely loving person, who touched everyone she met. Her passion was palpable and her energy will never be replaced.”
The NBA is wrapping its arms around the 24-year-old two-time All-Star in his time of need.
“Jackie provided constant and positive energy for him and was beloved by our entire organization and staff at Target Center as she supported her son and the Timberwolves,” read a statement from the team. “The League, teams, and players have come together in their support of Jackie and Karl and we are grateful for our NBA family.”
“Man... thoughts and prayers with you and the entire family @KarlTowns 🙏🏾,” tweeted Chris Paul, president of the National Basketball Players Association.
It’s been a gut-wrenching season off the court that has already seen the deaths of David Stern and Kobe Bryant.
Last month I asked how Gobert’s teammates and the rest of the league would deal with him when games finally resume. Well, I guess we might be getting our answer, as Mitchell and Gobert’s relationship could be “beyond repair,” while the unforgettable video of Gobert initially mocking COVID-19 by touching every microphone at a media session is beyond triggering at this point.
But while the inner workings of a lone franchise can be sorted out in-house, watching one of the league’s young superstars lose his mother is a blow that will impact the entire league.
Last week, Seton Hall’s Stillman School of Business released a poll that found that 72 percent of Americans wouldn’t attend a sporting event until we have a COVID-19 vaccine.
And with the NBA still holding out hope of salvaging its season, deciding if players will play in empty arenas or not may be the least of their worries.
Because now they’ll have to deal with even more grieving hearts.