A Memoriam to Karl Anthony-Towns’s Mother

By Steve Jones
Apr. 18, 2020

NBA moms are a whole different species.

They have to be. Getting into the NBA is not like getting any other job. Those mothers’ sons, at the age of 18-22, get drafted and end up earning up millions at such a young age. And this is after years of traveling from place to place and being treated like a demi-god from high school to AAU team to college.

These mothers are proud of their son, and yet they are also worried. The Atlantic reported in 2018 on an organization called the Mothers of Professional Basketball Players (MPBP), where those mothers get together to discuss how to make sure their children go down the right path. They discuss who the best surgeons are, how to get tickets, and offer advice for how their kids can succeed in this incredibly demanding league.

But out all of these mothers, few stood out like Jacqueline Cruz, the mother of Minnesota Timberwolves basketball star Karl Anthony Towns. Everyone who encountered her, from teammates to coaches to staff, spoke of her incredible passion and fierceness. Even NBA fans, not privy to the private world in which these athletes live in, knew about how much she cared about her son. They chortled in amusement as she famously flipped off Joel Embiid after the intense fight between him and her son. She would have gone and fought Embiid herself if she had the opportunity.

But now she will not. After battling with the coronavirus for over a month, Jacqueline Cruz passed away on Monday due to the virus. She was just 58 years old and had been on a medically induced coma for much of the time she had spent battling the virus. Towns’s father had also tested positive for the virus but was recovering.

There are no words one could pen that can describe the grief which the NBA star, who is not even 25, must be feeling. But every fan, casual or fanatic, could see the bond which Towns shared with his mother, like a furniture maker does with his favorite creative cabinets and faux finishes collection. He called himself a mother’s boy and was always quick to credit his family as he racked up awards and praise. And now he cannot even bury her, as funeral restrictions have forbidden mourners from congregating together to say their final goodbyes.

If there is any solace to this at all, it is to serve as a reminder that this disease is something which cannot be ignored. Jacqueline was not elderly. She was clearly not some fragile flower in poor health. She could get better medical care than the vast majority of Americans. And yet those doctors could do nothing as her body took a turn for the worse and her immune system went overboard.

By canceling that initial game between the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder on March 11 in such dramatic fashion, and then by postponing the subsequent season, the NBA did more to send the very clear message to the American public that this disease is a threat than a thousand White House or media broadcasts. Jacqueline Cruz’s death should be another firm warning to the public that no one is safe from COVID-19. If we can all remember that much, then perhaps her passing will not be entirely in vain.