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The Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Denver Nuggets playoff series is dividing some family members

Todd Beeson and his family are from Minnesota.

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

Despite the move, the family remained loyal to their hometown NBA team, the Minnesota Timberwolves. During the 2004 playoffs, Beeson's father and brother personally watched the Timberwolves defeat the Denver Nuggets in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs.

“Back then, my dad was cheering for the Wolves,” Beeson said.

Over time, however, Beeson's father and brother became real Nuggets fans. Beeson was excited about the Nuggets while visiting family in Colorado. Meanwhile, Beeson continued to follow the Timberwolves from LA, made possible by a streaming package that allowed him to watch all of the team's games.

For many other Minnesotans, the battle between the Nuggets and Timberwolves goes 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 die-hard Timberwolves fans. However, during the Nuggets vs. Wolves playoff series, a texting disturbance with an uncle living in Denver escalated, leading to the two agreeing on a small bet – $5.

“He’s 70 and he told me he has Venmo,” Schaal said.

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

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

The reach of the Timberwolves' fan base has made life in Denver somewhat comfortable for Minnesotan Jon Savitt, who lives just a few blocks from Ball Arena. In recent weeks, Savitt has had a few encounters with other Timberwolves fans.

“You nod your head a little and talk a little about Ant (Anthony Edwards) before you go on with your day,” he said. “Maybe a little fist bump if it was a good win last night.”

There is mutual respect among the Denver fan base, Savitt said, especially for Minnesota fan favorite Naz Reid.

However, in 2023, Savitt had to watch as the city celebrated the Nuggets' first NBA championship. He closed the windows of his apartment during the championship parade “purely out of jealousy.”

Due to high ticket prices, Savitt will not attend Sunday's game at Ball Arena. Like other Minnesotans, he plans to pace the living room with a few close friends.

“Having watched this franchise since I was practically in diapers, nothing can really shake me or make me reconsider my loyalties,” he said. “I think I’m in this for life, for better or for worse.”

Anna Harden

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