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Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Denver Nuggets playoff series splits some household allegiances

Todd Beeson and his family are native Minnesotans.

In 1996, Beeson's parents moved to Denver. A few years later, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music.

Despite the move, the family kept their allegiance to their hometown NBA team, the Minnesota Timberwolves. During the 2004 playoffs, Beeson's father and brother watched in person as the Timberwolves eliminated the Denver Nuggets in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs.

"At the time my dad was cheering for the Wolves," Beeson said.

As time passed, however, Beeson's father and brother became full-on Nuggets fans. Beeson found himself rooting for the Nuggets when visiting his family in Colorado. Meanwhile, from L.A., Beeson continued to follow the Timberwolves, made possible through a streaming package that allowed him to view all the team's games.

For many other Minnesotans, the battle between the Nuggets and Timberwolves has extended beyond the basketball court.

Jenn Schaal, vice president of operations and strategy for Visit St. Paul, the city's tourism agency, and her family are devout Timberwolves fans. During the Nuggets vs. Wolves playoff series, though, banter via text with an uncle living in Denver escalated, leading the two to agree to a small bet — $5.

"He's 70 and told me he has Venmo," Schaal said.

Across most of the upper Midwest and central parts of the U.S., sports fans are torn between the two franchises, especially along the southern and western borders of South Dakota and North Dakota, and parts of northern Montana and southern Nebraska, according to an interactive map created by ticket provider Vivid Seats, which ranked teams based on which team was the most popular in each county.

Entering the current season, the Timberwolves had the largest fan base of any NBA team in the country by county, with 270 counties choosing the team as their favorite, the ticket provider stated. The team's footprint captures fans not only in Minnesota, but also Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota and western Wisconsin, per Vivid's data.

The reach of Timberwolves' fandom has made it somewhat pleasant living in Denver for Minnesotan Jon Savitt, who lives just blocks away from Ball Arena, the home of the Nuggets, who host the Timberwolves in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinals Sunday night. The past few weeks, Savitt has had a few encounters with other Timberwolves fans.

"You give a little head nod and talk about Ant (Anthony Edwards) a bit before going on with your day," he said. "Maybe a little fist bump if it was a good win the previous night."

There is a mutual respect among the fan bases in Denver, Savitt said, particularly for Minnesota fan favorite Naz Reid.

In 2023, though, Savitt had to watch the city celebrate the Nuggets' first NBA championship. He closed his apartment windows during the championship parade "purely out of jealousy."

Citing the high cost of tickets, Savitt won't be attending Sunday's game at Ball Arena. Like other Minnesotans, he plans on pacing around the living room with a few close friends.

"After watching this franchise since I was basically in diapers, nothing can really shake me or push me to rethink my allegiance," he said. "I think I'm in it for life, for better or for worse."