SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Karl-Anthony Towns had to take a shower. Josh Okogie had to go to sleep.
The 90 minutes from when a verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial was reached to when it was announced in the courtroom in downtown Minneapolis on Tuesday, April 20, were too much to bear.
Towns was sweating profusely. He was nervous, as many were. When you’re growing up, Towns noted your parents teach you the difference between right and wrong. They tell you justice will be served, and good will always win in the end.
“Recently, in life, especially for all of us of color and for me personally, sometimes the good people don’t win,” Towns said. “It’s a tough fact that you gotta swallow.”
That reality is why Towns didn’t know how Tuesday’s verdict would land.
“We’ve seen moments like this so much that go the opposite way, that even with how quick the verdict came in, you still have no idea where it’s going to go,” he said.
And what would happen if the verdict didn’t go the way so many thought it should? The NBA had hinted at possibilities of game postponements. The Timberwolves were in the early stages of a West Coast road trip. Would they get the chance to go home and see their families? What would the city look like upon their return?
“We live in a world where you can catch someone in high-definition video and still we’re talking about, ‘Is there going to be a guilty verdict?’ That’s a scary world we live in. You can have something in 4K, have it clear as day, showing the people, and still have concern that accountability will be actually given and justice will be served. That’s the world we live in, unfortunately,” Towns said.
“It was tense, because I just didn’t know. I was worried about the safety of everyone’s family in that locker room, and also everyone there and all the people that were looking for the worst to happen, as I was. Our community is grieving so much, so god knows how the city would’ve been if things went the other way. But it’s a troubling time in American history, and we’re just trying to figure out how not to be on the bad time of history.”
Timberwolves coach Chris Finch noted the past few months have likely been harder on his players than any of them would ever admit to the public, or even their own coaches.
“I think it’s something that’s weighing on them every day. We see the visual reinforcement of what’s happening, whether it be national guards in our street or the Brooklyn Center protests,” Finch said. “These are things we can’t escape, and it’s perfectly OK to not think about basketball when we think about these other larger things in life that are right in our face and we’re trying to deal with that as a community.”
Okogie didn’t want to watch the reading of the verdict unfold live. So when the verdict was in, the Wolves guard decided to take a nap, preferring to wake up to the news, whatever it was.
On the other side of his slumber, Okogie found his phone full of messages. Chauvin was found guilty of all three charges.
“That was a good thing to wake up to, and it seems like most people were happy, put it that way,” Okogie said. “Just accountability, and obviously the officer got what he deserved.”
“Accountability” was the word used by many players after the team’s win over Sacramento on Tuesday. It’s a word, an action, that is used in sports all the time. Teammates hold one another accountable. As do coaches. The media does, too. Accountability is present at all times on the court or field.
“It feels like everywhere other than sports media, you don’t see the word accountability coming into play, especially in politics,” Towns said. “It’s just a great moment for the word accountability gaining some actual meaning, gaining some actual value. Justice, while being bittersweet, also showed itself today. It’s bittersweet because it cost a life to see a moment like this.”
Okogie was relieved to see accountability make an appearance Tuesday after it had been a no-show in many similar instances in the past. But he wouldn’t go as far to say justice was served.
“To me, if justice was really served, George Floyd would still be here today. Obviously we don’t have no control of that now, but what we did have control over was the court case and what we decided to do with Derek Chauvin,” Okogie said. “I think the court made the right decisions, and I hope this sets a precedent for other cops around the world who, you know, I don’t want to say try to, but kill innocent minorities. I hope this slows down the amount of shootings that are happening in the world right now. I don’t want to say I’m happy for the family of George Floyd, because they should’ve never been in this position in the first place, but I am glad that we’re taking steps in the right direction.”
Both Okogie and Towns noted Tuesday was one step, and there are many more to go. Okogie cited several changes that need to be made in regards to both police and educational reform — areas he has studied heavily over the past year-plus.
“There’s a lot of work to do and there’s a lot of conversations that need to be had to make sure that this doesn’t happen again, or at least try to save the next generation from having moments like this,” Towns said. “It’s one of those moments (where) you worry that if reform’s not done, we’ll be having the same situation again, and that’s the most unfortunate, disheartening thing.”
D’Angelo Russell noted everyone wants change to be big and grand.
“But I think looking at this small window that we have here, I think change is happening every day,” he said. “Accountability, first and foremost, I think that’s a start.”
Okogie was going to take the win Tuesday — and he wasn’t referring to the Timberwolves’ victory.
“And tomorrow try to get another win,” he said, “just like a season.”