25 Historical Moments as Minnesota Timberwolves Celebrate 25 Years in the NBA

Fred Katz@@FredKatzFeatured ColumnistDecember 14, 2013

25 Historical Moments as Minnesota Timberwolves Celebrate 25 Years in the NBA

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    It's hard to win right away in the NBA. The Minnesota Timberwolves learned that the hard way.

    After entering the league as an expansion team in the 1989-90 season, it took the Wolves eight years before they made the playoffs. It took them nine before they could finish above .500. But the T'Wolves have progressed.

    Since then, we've seen Kevin Garnett blossom into one of the best players ever to put on a uniform. We've seen a Western Conference Finals appearance. And now, in the franchise's 25th year, it seems like we're starting to see the Wolves' front office shape some semblance of a team around Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin.

    Though it hasn't been the best 25 years for the Timberwolves, that doesn't mean the franchise hasn't had its moments. 

    From Isaiah Rider to Kevin Garnett to Al Jefferson to Kevin Love, the Wolves have always found a way to be entertaining in one way or another. So to celebrate the Minnesota's 25th year of existence, here is a look at the 25 best moments in franchise history. May the next 25 years be even better.

    Stats are courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com unless noted otherwise.

25. Wes Johnson and Kevin Love's Inability to Shake Hands

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    Kevin Love won't give up. Wes Johnson won't stop walking. Handshakes shouldn't be this hard, but apparently they are in Minnesota. 

    The guys at Timberwolves.com can explain it better than anyone else. Apparently, handshakes are harder than they seem.

24. Kevin Love Wins the 2012 Footlocker Three-Point Contest

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    The Wolves got their first and only Foot Locker Three-Point Contest winner in Love, who defeated Kevin Durant 16-14 in the final round. 

    Love was actually a surprise selection going into the night. Plenty of people didn't know if he should have been there. But in the end, he was the one who walked away with the hardware.

23. Kevin Garnett Wins 2003 All-Star Game MVP

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    Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

    Garnett played an outrageous 41 minutes on the night, and he didn't waste one second of that time.

    When it was all said and done, he finished with 37 points, nine rebounds, three assists and five steals. He also shot 17-of-24 from the field. That's not too bad when you're playing against the best competition in the NBA.

22. The Move to the Target Center

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    The Timberwolves spent their first year of existence playing in the Metrodome, but really, that was never going to last. A basketball team in a football stadium usually isn't something that works long-term.

    So the T'Wolves moved across town the following year and set up shop in a more permanent residence— the Target Center—a place the Wolves still call home more than two decades later.

21. Isaiah Rider's No-Look Three

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    There's no skill here. There's no aim. There's nothing.

    It's all luck.

    Sometimes, though, luck is way more fun than any sort of planned result.

20. Kevin Love's Mustache

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    (From Emily Love's Twitter)

    Apparently, Kevin Love looks like his father. At least he does when he's 'stached up.

    Back in April 2012, Love decided to grow some hair on his upper lip and his sister, Emily, figured she would point out the resemblance on Twitter. Really, how are there as many as 19 moments in T'Wolves history better than this facial hair?

19. Drafting Ricky Rubio in 2009

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    There's happiness and sadness alike here. 

    The good: Rubio is coming to Minnesota! T'Wolves fans now get a chance to watch one of the three or four most fluid, smooth and aesthetically beautiful players in the NBA play in their city. That's pretty darn cool.

    The bad: The Wolves took Rubio No. 5 overall in the 2009 NBA draft but also had the No. 6 pick, with which they selected Jonny Flynn. Stephen Curry, another guy who could be classified in that one-of-the-smoothest-players-in-the-NBA category, went one pick later. 

18. Drafting Stephon Marbury in 1996

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    Sure, Stephon Marbury brought plenty of bad with his good. And sure, Marbury eventually forced his way out of Minnesota because he wanted to run his own team. But at least the Wolves started to become a playoff team with a Marbury-Garnett, one-two combo. 

    Technically, the Milwaukee Bucks actually drafted Marbury and then traded him to Minnesota on draft day for No. 5 pick Ray Allen. Maybe the T'Wolves would've been better off with Allen in the long run, but once Marbury showed up in Minneapolis, there was hope. And at that moment, hope was a rare commodity in the Target Center.

17. Beating Jordan's Bulls for the First Time

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    The Timberwolves' first-ever home game was a 96-84 loss to the Chicago Bulls to fall to 0-3 on the season. They probably didn't know that losing to the Bulls would become a trend over the years.

    It took eight years, but on the eve of New Year's Eve in 1997, Minnesota finally beat Chicago.

    It was a year after the Wolves' first-ever playoff berth. It was in the midst of their first-ever winning season. The Wolves were trying to show themselves off to the rest of the league. And they did.

    Tom Gugliotta, Garnett and Marbury combined for 66 points, 18 rebounds, 15 assists and eight steals and Minnesota won one of the bigger regular-season home games in its history 99-95.

16. Isaiah Rider Wins the 1994 Dunk Contest

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    Robert Pack bounced the ball off the floor.

    Allan Houston bounced the ball off his head.

    Isaiah Rider bounced the ball off the backboard. And he finished. 

    It's funny to watch the old dunk contests, which "wear so much less makeup" than today's with all the props and extra tools players like to use now. Rider, though, was the deserving winner in 1994.

15. Firing David Kahn

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    The Darko Milicic deal, drafting Flynn after Rubio, choosing to keep Flynn and trading Ty Lawson in that same draft, keeping around Kurt Rambis for too long, drafting Wesley Johnson and then having to give up a draft pick in order to get rid of him. OK, I'll stop.

    David Kahn was not exactly the best general manager in NBA history. At least he learned he should never compare Darko to Chris Webber.

14. Drafting/Trading for Kevin Love

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    David Dow/Getty Images

    Now, this was actually a good move before the Kahn era. Would you rather have Kevin Love or O.J. Mayo? Yep, that's what I thought. 

    On draft night in 2008, the Wolves swapped the recently drafted Mayo and three veterans for the just-as-recently-drafted Love and three vets. It's probably safe to say one worked out pretty well for the Wolves.

13. Kevin Garnett's Long-Term Deal

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    In a lot of ways, Garnett's unprecedented six-year, $126 million deal, signed in 1998, was bad for the Timberwolves and the NBA on the whole. 

    It was one of the leading factors that led to the NBA's 1998 lockout, which forced the league to cancel 32 games for each team and play a 50-game season. Salaries escalated post-Garnett extension. The rest of the league wasn't happy.

    Meanwhile, the Wolves ended up having to reconfigure their roster to have to deal with having such a large salary on the books.

    All that said, though, if Garnett doesn't get all those dollars, does he really stay in Minnesota? And if the answer to that question is no, then the Wolves probably don't make their only Western Conference Finals appearance in 2004. With all the bad the contract brought, it brought a lot more good to the Wolves.

12. Kevin Love's 30-30 Game

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    This is sheer ridiculousness. 

    A player isn't supposed to be able to pull down 30 points and 30 rebounds in the same game. That just isn't humanly possible. 

    In November 2010, though, Love did just that against the New York Knicks, posting a 31-point, 31-rebound game. It was the NBA's first 30-30 game since Moses Malone accomplished the same feat way back in 1982.

11. Making the Playoffs for the First Time

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    It seems like such a small accomplishment, but making the playoffs is a big deal for a franchise that has never actually been to the postseason. In 1997, the Timberwolves made their first step forward.

    Led by the second-year Kevin Garnett, Minnesota finished the season 40-42 and got the No. 6 seed in a weak Western Conference. The Wolves got swept out of the first round by the Houston Rockets, but this playoff appearance was the first of seven in a row in Minnesota. 

10. Winning a Playoff Game for the First Time

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    It's all about baby steps. 

    The first step was making it to the postseason. The second step was actually winning a game. 

    Minnesota finished the year with a winning record for the first time in 1997-98, ending the season with 45 wins and 37 losses.

    The Wolves got the No. 7 seed and had to face the always tough Seattle SuperSonics. They actually took a 2-1 series lead after winning Games 2 and 3 98-83 and 98-90, respectively, but the Sonics won the next two games and took the series in five.

9. Kevin Love's Double-Double Streak

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    Fifty-three games. That's a lot of games.

    Love left the arena with a double-double in a record 53 consecutive contests back in the 2010-11 season. He averaged 21.8 points and 16.3 rebounds over that period and solidified himself as the NBA's premiere rebounder. 

    That season was pretty much Love's coming-out party. He finished the year averaging 20.2 points, 15.2 rebounds, all while earning his first-ever All-Star appearance.

8. Hosting the 1994 All-Star Game

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    One of the reasons those Isaiah Rider dunks in 1994 brought the house down so much was that the house was his. When you're dunking at home, you're going to bring out the cheers. 

    At the time, the Target Center was new, the T'Wolves were only a few years removed from entering the league and the All-Star Game was one of the biggest moments of the year for a fanbase who didn't get to see much good basketball on a night-in, night-out basis.

    Scottie Pippen eventually walked away with All-Star Game MVP honors after leading the Eastern Conference to a 127-118 victory over the West.

7. Kevin Garnett's MVP

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    Talk about an easy MVP choice.

    Garnett led the Wolves to their best season in franchise history on his way to winning the 2003-04 MVP. Minnesota won 58 games, finishing with the best record in the Western Conference, and Garnett didn't exactly have a small part in that. 

    The MVP averaged 24.2 points, 13.9 rebounds and 5.0 assists in what was probably the best individual season in franchise history. 

6. Setting the Single-Season Attendance Record

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    It's much easier to fill a football stadium than it is a basketball arena. The first year of the Wolves' existence, we learned just that.

    T'Wolves fans flooded the Metrodome throughout the 1989-90 season, all the way to setting the NBA's single-season attendance record. More than 1 million fans went to Wolves games that season. 

5. Filling Up the Metrodome

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    So you're telling me the Wolves set even more attendance records in the 1989-90 season? 

    In April 1990, the T'Wolves set up a fan-appreciation night. And apparently, the fans appreciated it.

    On that day, 49,551 fans ended up heading to the Metrodome, the final home game of the season. Minnesota ended up falling 99-89 to the Denver Nuggets, but that game remains the third-most attended game in NBA history.

4. The NBA Starts the Timberwolves Franchise

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    Actually, this might be the most important moment in Timberwolves' history, right? Isn't it hard for anything to happen to a franchise if it doesn't actually exist?

    After the Lakers left for Los Angeles in 1960, the city of Minneapolis went 29 dry years without an NBA team. There were some stopgaps (the Minnesota Muskies and the Minnesota Pipers both lived short ABA lives in the late 1960s), but that was it. That is, until the T'Wolves came to the rescue. 

3. Going to the 2004 Western Conference Finals

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    The 2003-04 Wolves finished with the best record in the conference for the first and only time in franchise history. They made it to the Western Conference Finals for the first and only time in franchise history. They sported the league's MVP for the first and only time in franchise history.

    There's not much debate: The 2003-04 season was the best ever for the Timberwolves. They even had a classic playoff game, an 83-80, Game 7 win over the Sacramento Kings in the Western Conference Semifinals that led to Garnett celebrating on top of the scorer's table.

    It all seemed like the perfect season until Minnesota lost in six games to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. Still, the Sam Cassell-Latrell Sprewell-Kevin Garnett Wolves were one of the more fun teams of the past 10 years.

2. Drafting Kevin Garnett

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    He's the franchise-saver. He's the best thing that ever happened to basketball in Minnesota.

    Garnett brought the Wolves to the playoffs. He took them within steps of the NBA Finals. He brought in recognition, branding, relevance and everything else that comes with it. 

    He's the one of the fiercest competitors of his generation. He's the best defender of his generation. And when you consider the fact that drafting a high school kid fifth in the 1995 NBA draft was somewhat of a risk, you have to hand it to the Wolves for reaping the rewards.

1. Glen Taylor Keeps the Team in Minnesota

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    Greg Smith-USA TODAY Sports

    The Minnesota Timberwolves weren't supposed to be the Minnesota Timberwolves for very long. 

    In the mid-1990s, the team's owners were financially struggling and looking to sell. Only six years after the franchise started, there were heavy rumors about a New Orleans ownership group trying to purchase the team and move it down to the Big Easy. 

    But that didn't last for long. In March 1995, Glen Taylor stepped in and bought the Wolves, keeping them at the Target Center and in Minnesota. And the rest is history.