When the NBA introduced big men into the mix for this year’s Taco Bell Skills Challenge, many thought it was a nice gesture. Big men are changing in this league, but they couldn’t possibly beat guards at their own game, right?
Karl-Anthony Towns won the Minnesota Timberwolves’ second trophy of the weekend by winning the 2016 Skills Challenge on Saturday night in Toronto.
His first matchup came against Golden State’s Draymond Green, one of the best running big men in the league. Towns got off to a rough start, missing his passes. Green looked to have the edge, but missed his first two 3-pointers. Towns missed his first, but nailed his second to advance to the second round.
In the second round, Towns went up against DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings. This time, Towns was perfect. He beat Boogie up the court, hit his first shot and nailed his first 3-pointer. Easy, breezy. Or so he made it seem.
Towns noted after that despite his calm demeanor, he was actually very nervous going into the event. One thing that calmed him down, though, was a teammate who has been mentoring him all season long.
“It's funny, the one thing I remember right before I got nervous was [Kevin Garnett] teaching just to breathe,” Towns said. “He taught me how to breathe a certain way. While I was nervous, I was a lot less nervous because of that breathing technique he taught me. I just went out there and tried to do my best."
His final matchup came against speedy point guard Isaiah Thomas of the Boston Celtics. Both players were neck-and-neck after both hitting the first pass. The two went in the air simutalously and Thomas was able to make the layup first, but Towns actually beat Thomas down to the 3-point line. Towns missed his first 3-pointer, but the time he earned himself didn’t hurt as he was able to nail the fourth, clinching his first All-Star trophy and the first Skills Competition trophy for big men everywhere.
“The bigs were amazing today, and we were able to just come out with a W, and I'm glad I was able to help the bigs come out with this trophy,” Towns said. “This is bigger than me. This is for all the bigs out there, with the game changing the way it is, to show that bigs can stand up with guards and skillwise.”
Perhaps this truly is a changing of the guard… into the big man.
"This is a moment that hopefully the NBA can cherish for a long time to see the transition of guards and bigs only having to be on the post, but also can be outside dribbling the ball, dribble up the court and shoot threes. So I think this moment was much bigger than myself, but it shows that bigs are translating into a new facet of their games."