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While the year 2020 has been tough for virtually everyone, Karl-Anthony Towns dealt with more challenges than most. Since the COVID-19 pandemic reached the United States, the Minnesota Timberwolves big man has tragically lost his mother and six other family members. On Wednesday night, though, he and his teammates returned to the court.

After the game, though, Karl-Anthony Towns revealed that, despite playing basketball again, he would never be the same after his tragic 2020. The center even went as far as saying that his “soul has been killed off.”

Karl-Anthony Towns lost his mother during a tragic 2020

On the basketball court, Karl-Anthony Towns is a talented big man who’s capable of making a major impact every time he takes the floor. During 2020, though, he was powerless to watch as the coronavirus decimated his family.

Shortly after the NBA season was suspended in March, Towns shared that his mother, Jacqueline Cruz, had been diagnosed with COVID-19 and was in a medically induced coma. Unfortunately for the family, that was only the start of the bad news.

As Towns explained in a Youtube video called “The Toughest Year Of My Life,” Cruz seemed to be on the road to recovery when a stroke derailed her progress. The Timberwolves star was faced with the daunting task of informing his relatives that his mother had no meaningful chance of recovery; once everyone had said their goodbyes, he “pulled the plug.”

The tragic deaths didn’t end there, though. As documented by CNN, Towns told reporters in early December that six other members of his family had died from COVID-19; his father also had the virus but recovered.

Returning to the basketball court in a big way

On Wednesday, December 23, the Minnesota Timberwolves returned to the basketball court to kick-off the 2020-21 NBA season. Fortunately for the franchise, Karl-Anthony Towns also returned to the court in a big way.

While the big man only played 30 minutes in Minnesota’s opening-night win over the Detroit Pistons, he still made quite an impact. After a pre-game video tribute and moment of silence for his mother, Towns scored 22 points, dished out seven assists, and pulled down 11 rebounds.

After the game’s final whistle, Towns also took home the game ball in honor of his late mother. In that moment, it almost seemed like the tragedy of 2020 had come to a fairy-tale ending.

Karl-Anthony Towns reveals that his ‘soul has been killed off’

After the game ended, Karl-Anthony Towns explained that retaking the court (understandably) meant a great deal to him. Returning to the floor with his teammates, however, couldn’t undo everything that happened in 2020.

“You may see me smiling and stuff, but that Karl died on April 13th,” Towns explained, according to ESPN. “He’s never coming back. I don’t remember that man. I don’t know that man. You’re talking to the physical me, but my soul has been killed off a long time ago.”

After their opening night win, the Timberwolves will embark on a three-game road trip; it’s an only sports cliche that hitting can be a bonding experience and a chance to get away from the pressures awaiting at home. While that may be true for some, Karl-Anthony Towns isn’t going to forget his tragic 2020. As the center said, he’s quite literally a different man now.