Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert, once rivals, are allies in NBA’s biggest experiment

When it really comes down to it, one could argue that Rudy Gobert owes Karl-Anthony Towns $30 million.

In the spring of 2019, NBA media voted Gobert the All-NBA Third Team center over Towns after Gobert averaged 15.9 points, 12.9 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and helped the Utah Jazz finish fifth in the Western Conference. Towns beat Gobert out for a Western Conference All-Star spot that season and averaged 24.4 points, 12.4 rebounds and shot 40 percent from 3-point range. But his Minnesota Timberwolves finished in 11th place in the West, and voters gave the nod to Gobert based on his overpowering defense and team success.

Had Towns been voted All-NBA, it would have triggered extra incentives that raised the value of his contract to $190 million over five years. Because Gobert got the distinction, the value of the deal dropped to $158 million. Towns isn’t starving because of it, but $30 million is $30 million.

“I owe him a little dinner,” Gobert deadpanned. “But he stole mine last year. He got his payback. I didn’t lose as much money, though. Dinner is on me.”

Now that they are riding together in Minnesota as part of an oversized frontcourt and stand at the center of a leaguewide debate on the value of the big man in the modern game, they can smile about it. But for the previous seven years, there was no laughing allowed when Towns and Gobert squared off.

For so long they were enemies, going toe-to-toe at least three times per season in the Northwest Division.

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