Anthony Edwards (L) and Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves respond to a reporter's question about losing. Anthony Edwards (L) and Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves respond to a reporter’s question about losing. (CJ Fogler on X/Twitter.)

One of the more amusing things that can happen at a sports press conference (well, for the audience anyway, not for the reporter asking the question) is for the narrative of a reporter’s question to get completely rejected by the subject. And amazingly enough, that happened at two different press conferences about the same game Sunday night.

That game in question would be the Minnesota Timberwolves’ 98-90 Game 7 victory against the reigning NBA champion Denver Nuggets in the West semifinals. Following that, Nuggets’ coach Michael Malone went off on “stupid-a** questions” about if losing a 20-point lead made it harder, even dropping a f-bomb.

Meanwhile, the emotions from Timberwolves’ stars Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns were quite different following their victory. But they also didn’t agree with the narrative presented in a question after that game. That question came from Yahoo Sports’ Vincent Goodwill, who asked “Usually in NBA history, you have to lose and lose big before you win,” and wondered how their team was different. That led to hilarious riffing from Towns and Edwards on how they had, in fact, lost before, with a lot of laughter on their part. (Language warning.)

“We lost last year!” “But that’s different, you have to lose at a bigger stage, usually. Teams usually…” “It’s the playoffs! We lost last year!” “We lost the last two years too!” “G******! How much more we gotta lose?’ ‘How much you want us to lose?’ ‘We’ve been losing for 20 years!’ ‘I mean, that’s just the truth, dawg.’

For his part, Goodwill took this well:

This wasn’t the only riffing from Towns and Edwards on the Timberwolves’ recent history.

The idea of “you have to lose on a big stage before you can win” is certainly widespread in sports media, perhaps at least partly because it gives columnists from losing cities a potential moral victory to claim at the end of their team’s season. It’s been endorsed by some coaches as well, with J.A. Adande noting Pat Riley’s discussion of it in a X/Twitter response here:

Interestingly enough, Adande himself wrote one of the notable stories on that idea from Riley, way back in 2008 after Riley stepped down as head coach of the Miami Heat:

Pat Riley is about to put my Principle of Peak Preservation to the test. As he steps down as coach of the Miami Heat — again — will he be thought of as the man who coached five NBA champions, or the man who left whenever things went sour?

I’d guess for anyone who was in Los Angeles during the Lakers’ Showtime days in the 1980s, he will always be the league’s first coaching celebrity, the slick-haired star on the sidelines. A winner. His name was just as big as Magic Johnson’s, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s and James Worthy’s. He made coaching seem cool. Then he added to his own legend by going to New York and bringing the Knicks back to the NBA Finals.

He laced his sentences with memorable phrases, like “peripheral opponents” and “the disease of me.” My Principle of Peak Preservation even derives from a Rileyism, his “Principle of the Perfect Painful Progression,” which is the notion that teams must go through a tortuous evolution filled with heartbreaking defeats before they’re ready to win a championship.

The Principle of Peak Preservation suggests that we remember people for their greatest moments: Muhammad Ali in the Rumble in the Jungle, not getting pummeled by Leon Spinks.

Adande ultimately came to the conclusion there that Riley would be remembered for his peak more than his rough last few years on the sidelines. But what’s amusing with how that worked out is how much success quickly would come to the Heat with Riley in just the team president role.

At any rate, the “Principle of the Perfect Painful Progression” definitely has been discussed a lot over the years, both in Riley’s specific framing and beyond it. So it’s not like Goodwill’s question was unprecedented.

But there have been a lot of critics of this idea over the years as well. Some of the criticisms have covered how much individual teams change from year to year, how many teams have won championships without previous big-stage losses, and how many teams that have lost after a notable run on the biggest stage have fully fallen off the map afterwards. And it is interesting how little time Towns and Edwards had for that “lose to win” narrative idea.

[CJ Fogler on X/Twitter]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.