IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

NBA player Karl-Anthony Towns on losing 8 relatives from Covid-19

Towns was hospitalized with Covid in 2020. He speaks about what it's been like to lose several family members, including his mother, to the virus.
Jacqueline Cruz makes sure her son Karl-Anthony Towns looks good for his official team pictures after being named NBA Rookie of the Year in 2016.
Jacqueline Cruz makes sure her son Karl-Anthony Towns looks good for his official team pictures after being named NBA Rookie of the Year in 2016.Brian Peterson / Star Tribune via Getty Images file

NBA All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns opened up about the loss of his mother and seven other family members to Covid-19 during a candid episode of the Facebook Watch show “Peace of Mind with Taraji.”

The series, hosted by actor Taraji P. Henson and her friend Tracie Jade Jenkins, the executive director of Henson’s mental health advocacy group, tackles mental health awareness.

Towns spoke openly about his struggles with grief and survivor’s guilt. He was hospitalized with Covid-19 in early 2021, but he pulled through. His mother died due to the virus in April 2020, and during the course of the pandemic, he has lost seven more relatives, including a “close family member” who died last week.

“It was just one of those things,” Towns said of his mother’s struggle with the virus. “It just kept getting harder and harder and worse and worse on her, and no one really knew what they were doing. ... As her son and someone who loves her so dearly, I just didn’t want to see her in pain, so I was trying to do everything possible to make her comfortable and get her better quicker.”

The Minnesota Timberwolves center said that at one point, he and his family were able to transfer his mother to another hospital. However, on the day she was scheduled to be removed from the ventilator, she was diagnosed with a blood clot. Blood clots are a known complication of Covid-19, with potentially fatal results.

“I flew in, I put the hazmat suit on and everything, and I went in there, because I was like ‘If anyone’s going to see her out, I’m going to see her out,’” Towns said. “I knew it was going to be the last time, so I was kind of working that out.”

Towns’ mother died on April 13. His father was hospitalized at the same time, but he survived.

“That day changed me as a man,” Towns said. “I’m never going to get that innocent young boy back. That’s gone. ... Ever since that day, I feel like the world just made me a little colder. It took what was most valuable to me, so I don’t have that kind of feeling for it.”

Henson referred to the loss of a parent as “a hole that will never be filled,” a description that Towns agreed with.

“I don’t miss anything else. I don’t miss the awards, the accolades, that all don’t mean s---,” Towns said. “I only care about (my mom). She is what made all those memories great. It was her at the draft day going crazy, and that made it fun. It was her, when I graduated, that made it special. It was because of her that my birthdays were special.”

“My mom was fun. We were like peas in a pod,” Towns continued. “... Before every game, she always had a ritual. She made sure that all the security guards in the whole place knew, when she was at the game, you let her through to the court. ... She’d (wave) and just do that, then go back into the stands. ... She always wanted me to know, since I was young, ‘I’m here for you.’”

Now, his father still attends his games, but Towns said it’s not the same and is “weird” not having his mother there. He also still grapples with survivor’s guilt related to the passing of his mother and other relatives, and remains heavily affected by other stories of loss amid the pandemic.

“I feel bad because you know I wish when I went through my Covid thing, even as bad as it got ... I felt really bad because I wish that other families who weren’t making max money in the NBA could get the same treatment and share more memories with each other,” Towns said. “I don’t want anyone to feel the way I felt. I felt a lot of survivor’s guilt because I wish they had the resources I had.”

Despite his current emotional state, Towns said that he hasn’t yet sought therapy. He is an advocate for the process, he explained to Henson and Jade, but wants to make sure that he is in the right mental state to seek help.

“I didn’t want to go to therapy and not be ready to talk, because then I’m just sitting there,” Towns said. “I could bull---- my way through anything. I could give you a sense of feeling but no feelings. If I go in there I gotta be ready to talk and I’m not there.”

Follow NBCBLK on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.