Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards is quickly becoming face of the NBA

His answers to questions in media availabilities have been viral sensations ever since he bragged about his ability to dominate any activity to local sports broadcaster Marney Gellner for a “Wolves +” podcast.

His highlights are just as enthralling, dating back to his epic dunk over then-Toronto forward Yuta Watanabe.

Since his rookie season, everything Anthony Edwards has done has screamed superstar. And there were moments when the Timberwolves guard would get his 15 minutes of fame. But then his name would again fade to the backdrop of the national basketball conversation in favor of the likes of LeBron James, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant.

His jersey sales have never threatened the top of the NBA store’s best-selling charts. He has never received an exorbitant number of all-star votes.

The question always lingered: When would this made-for-TV 22-year-old star finally achieve high-end, sustained stardom?

The time has officially come.

There was a week between the Timberwolves finishing off a four-game sweep of Phoenix in Round 1 of the NBA playoffs and the opening of their Western Conference semifinal series Saturday in Denver. The official NBA social media accounts still managed to fill the feeds with Edwards content throughout the week. Edwards’ top 10 dunks of his career, his top 10 blocks of his career, his top 10 toughest shots of his career. Even his best “mic’d up moments” made an appearance.

You name it – if Edwards’ face was on it, it was going on an NBA account. Because people can’t get enough of him.

The Wolves’ guard was the seventh-most-viewed player on NBA social channels during the regular season, per the league. Over the first week of the playoffs, he generated 100 million video views across all NBA digital platforms, trailing only James.

A video of Edwards dancing his way out of Phoenix’s arena after Game 4 generated 6.6 million views on Twitter.

His new Adidas signature shoe flies off shelves. He has starred in recent commercials for Sprite and Bose.

“He’s the face of the league, I’ve been saying that,” Wolves forward Karl-Anthony Towns said. “He hates when I say it, but it’s true.”

That title for so long has been held by James. James, Durant and Curry have been the superstars on which the entire NBA centered. But they’re all in the back half of their 30s now. Curry didn’t make the playoffs, and Durant and James were each ousted in Round 1.

There have long been questions about who basketball fans would throw their support behind after those three were gone. International players such as Luka Doncic, NIkola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo have emerged in recent years, but Edwards — whether he likes it or not — has thrown his hat into the ring.

“He is the future of American basketball,” ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on NBA Today.

It’s partially because of his personality. Edwards has a magnetic quality to him, which quickly sucked in Timberwolves fans and teammates alike. He has a strong sense of humor and the charisma to take over any room. Even when he yells at teammates, they can’t help but smile back.

“I think that the people gravitated to him because he was just a likable dude,” Wolves assistant coach Micah Nori said. “I think anytime that you’re not putting on a front or you’re not faking, you don’t have to change who you are, whether you’re in front of the media, or you’re out doing commercials or playing a game. Anthony Edwards is who he is, he knows who he is, and I think that’s why he’s able to accept it so well.”

But that’s always been the case since Edwards entered the NBA as the No. 1 overall pick in 2020. What has changed between then and now is the winning.

It’s easy to overlook a young star playing up in Minnesota for a team that is scraping through the play-in, only to get bounced in the first round of the playoffs.

But there’s no ignoring a young guard who’s jawing in Durant’s face after burying a jumper over the future hall of famer, spiking his crotch after a full-court assist resulting in a Rudy Gobert and-1 and pouring in 31 points in the second half of a closeout game that sent Durant and Devin Booker home via a series sweep.

That’s the stuff of legends.

Wolves guard Mike Conley was asked this week on TNT’s pregame show who Edwards reminded him of. His answer: “A young Michael Jordan.”

“Honestly. He’s unbelievable. I think more than anything with him has been his mentality,” Conley said. “I’ve never met a guy or been a teammate with a guy who believes more in himself than Anthony Edwards. I think he thinks he’s the best player ever to play the game, to walk on earth. You can’t tell him any different. He’s going to go out there and he has a mean streak to him.”

That exact mean streak reminds NBA analyst and hall of famer Charles Barkley of Jordan and even the late Kobe Bryant.

“They would kill you to win a game. There’s not many players (like that) in today’s game — everybody wants to be buddy-buddy,” Barkley said on TNT after Edwards put the Wolves up 3-0 on Phoenix. “But man, Anthony Edwards is (putting) everyone on notice: ‘Yeah, I’m not going to wait for y’all to give me anything, I’m going to take it all.’ And I love it.”

“A superstar is official. He is here, do you understand? There was MJ. There was Kobe. And now there is Anthony Edwards,” ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said recently on First Take. “It’s like that. Ladies and gentlemen, a superstar has officially arrived in the NBA.”

Yet this superstar often shies away from taking credit. He declined to even do local media in Minnesota on Thursday. He initially walked away from the chance to do a national postgame interview after the Wolves’ Game 1 victory over Phoenix, before circling back to fulfill the obligation.

Any interview Edwards does is opened with praise for those around him. Timberwolves president of basketball operations Tim Connelly said the young guard is just concerned about his teammates, family, friends and competition. It’s why the Wolves are so confident Edwards will take his newfound leap in fame in stride.

“There’s not a right or wrong approach. Some guys are really about the ancillary things — the brand. I think Ant’s about the competition,” Connelly said. “He’s got a great support system, wonderful people around him. He’s allowed himself to be coached hard, which is really a testament to both Ant and coach (Chris) Finch. I think for Ant, he’s just focused on Game 1 and the other stuff is just noise.”

Nori noted Edwards is flush with swagger. He knows how good he is.

“But the fact that he still doesn’t push people away, and … everybody talks about between confidence and arrogance — and he’s just a very, very confident person, and he puts in the work and he trusts his abilities,” Nori said. “And that’s fun.”

For teammates, coaches and spectators alike.

“Anthony Edwards has moved into that tier 1 of, if he’s on, I’m watching the T-Wolves,” NBA analyst and former player J.J. Redick recently said on the Pardon My Take podcast.

Redick noted whoever the “face of the league” is needs to be someone who wins at a high level. Edwards currently has one series victory, though even that has proven to be enough to thrust him into the discussion.

“He’s certainly going to be in that conversation for the next 10 years. He is entertaining as a player. He’s got the game that I think people gravitate to, the same way that Jordan had a certain game, Kobe had a certain game, AI had a certain game, Steph, right?” Redick said on Pardon My Take. “There’s the flash, the fundamentals. Some of the footwork stuff that he does is so underrated. And then he’s got the (edge) to him, because he’s brash, he’s competitive.”

And he might be just a few wins away from being the first name sports fans think of when the NBA comes to mind. After every Timberwolves playoff victory, a swarm of people race to social media to profess their fandom for their new favorite player.

“I think No. 5, that we have running around here in Minnesota, has a chance to be the face of this league,” Nori said to Chad Hartman on WCCO Radio on Thursday, “and be one of those guys that’s up there battling to take that MVP from a Nikola Jokic.”

“Right now, I’ll say Jokic,” Smith said on First Take when asked who’s the face of the league. “But if (Edwards) sends him home, it’s a different answer.”

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