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If you’re a basketball fan, you know all about Karl-Anthony Towns. While big men have become a dying breed in the NBA, the Minnesota Timberwolves center isn’ going anywhere; in a few seasons on the NBA scene, he’s already established himself as a legitimate star. His stardom and talent, however, can’t overcome every issue.

While 2020 has been a challenge for everyone, things have been especially tough for Karl-Anthony Towns. The NBA star isn’t suffering in silence, though; he recently took to Youtube to share the tragic details of his mother’s death and “the toughest year” of his young life.

Karl-Anthony Towns is a talented young star

In the modern NBA, jump shooter and stretch-forwards rule the roost. Karl-Anthony Towns, however, is showing that there’s still room for a big man on the court.

Towns burst onto the high school scene in New Jersey and, after graduation, headed to the University of Kentucky. While his NCAA stats weren’t that impressive—the center averaged 10.3 points and 6.7 rebounds in roughly 21 minutes of action per outing—his talent shone still through.

Like most of John Calipari’s players, Towns left college after one season and entered into the 2015 NBA draft. He joined the Minnesota Timberwolves as the first-overall pick and promptly proved his worth; he averaged 18.3 points and 10.5 rebounds per game, taking home the Rookie of the Year title.

While the Timberwolves haven’t won many games, the center has grown into a legitimate star. Between his size, strength, and shooting touch, there’s very little that he can’t do.

Karl-Anthony Towns tragically lost his mother during ‘the toughest year’ of his life

In March, the coronavirus pandemic reached North America and shut down the NBA season. Shortly after, Karl-Anthony Towns shared that his mother, Jacqueline Cruz, had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and was in a medically induced coma. The bad news, however, didn’t end there.

As explained in a YouTube video titled, “The Toughest Year Of My Life,” Towns thought his mother was getting better; plans were even being made to bring her out of her coma. They wouldn’t come to fruition, though.

Towns’ mother suffered a stroke; after that, the doctors determined there was no chance for a meaningful recovery. That set the stage for Karl-Anthony to perform two of the worst tasks imaginable.

“I proceeded to make the most difficult calls of my life,” the center explained. “I had to call her sisters. I had to call my dad’s family. I think the worst call, the most difficult one, was calling her mom; it was calling my grandmother, telling her, ‘you lost your daughter.”

After everyone had said their goodbyes, Towns had one last duty to perform. “At that moment, I pulled the plug,” he recalled.

Everyone, even NBA stars, can be affected by tragedy

From afar, it’s easy to say that professional athletes live perfect lives; at the end of the day, they earn millions of dollars to play a children’s game. As Karl-Anthony Towns reminds us, though, no amount of money can undo a tragedy.

When we’re watching a game, the player can almost seem like actors in an elaborate performance; they’re there to show off their unique talents and give us a few hours of enjoyment. During that time frame, we, as fans, feel free to boo them, cheer them, and call them a full range of names from afar. While perception, however, can make it easy to overlook one central reality: pro athletes are people, too.

While the entirety of his video spoke to that point—there was virtually no mention of basketball, beyond some pictures of the family together—Karl-Anthony Towns also made reference to that reality in the Youtube description.

“Thank you everyone for the prayers, well wishes, and condolences during this time,” he wrote. “I also want to give a double thank you to all the true fans that support me as more than just a basketball player. My love for ya knows no bounds. Stay tuned for all the content coming your way and can’t wait to continue our journey together through this blessing we call life.”

Stats courtesy of Sports-Reference and Basketball-Reference