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Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.


For just a moment during Sunday's chaotic conclusion to the 2024 legislative session, spirited unity replaced spiteful division among lawmakers. The reason? News of the Minnesota Timberwolves' gritty Game 7 comeback win over the Denver Nuggets in the NBA playoffs, which sparked spontaneous bipartisan applause from legislators from all parts of the state.

The accolades have echoed across Minnesota — and increasingly, across the country — as the long-struggling squad ascends to the league's Western Conference Finals for only the second time in its often tumultuous, even torturous, 35-year run.

The Wolves, as most fans now know, are led by stars with animal nicknames of their own: Ant (Anthony Edwards) and KAT (Karl-Anthony Towns) as well as others with catlike quickness, from Rudy Gobert (the NBA's defensive player of the year) and Mike Conley (the league's teammate of the year), as well as a superb supporting cast that includes Jaden McDaniels and the NBA's sixth man of the year, Naz Reid. An off-court award attests to the team's community impact, too: Towns received the league's Social Justice Champion Award for upholding the NBA's "decadeslong values of equality, respect and inclusion." And, yes, we'll acknowledge that the team's No. 1 fan is likely its owner, Glen Taylor, who also owns the Star Tribune.

These on- and off-court standouts take on the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Wednesday night at Target Center in Minneapolis. On Friday, when Game 2 occurs, a Twins game in nearby Target Field will mean downtown will really be hopping, with the throngs just the latest indicator that the post-pandemic recovery — tops in North America, according to a recent report from the University of Toronto — is building. And the rebound may be boosted by basketball fans during an extended playoff run (although like most, we'd prefer a four-game sweep all the way through the NBA Finals).

Among those returning to the Twin Cities will be Charles Barkley, the former-NBA-star-turned-analyst, who in a live postgame interview with Edwards was encouraged to visit. Well, actually, more than encouraged. Rather, commanded, in a colorful colloquialism that became an immediate meme and viral social-media message that was even invoked by Explore Minnesota, the state tourism agency.

While the Wolves seem to be turning Minnesota unofficially into the State of Basketball, officially, it's still the State of Hockey. And fittingly a local team is even deeper in its playoff run, all the way to the finals. PWHL Minnesota, our team in the Professional Women's Hockey League, has been a resounding success in its first year. Stocked with homegrown stars like former Gopher greats Grace Zumwinkle and Taylor Heise (the league's overall first draft choice) and Maddie Rooney (the Olympic, University of Minnesota Duluth and Andover High School goalie great) the team with so many Minnesota ties will be trying to tie the Boston PWHL team in its second finals game on Tuesday night. Game 3 of the best-of-five series will be at the Xcel Energy Center on Friday, followed by a Game 4, if necessary, on Sunday.

Unlike the Timberwolves' decades in the wilderness, it was only a late-season skid that marred Minnesota's season. But like the basketball team, the hockey team rallied in the first round of the playoffs, winning three straight against Toronto to ascend to the finals. And like Towns and the Wolves, the Minnesota PWHL team is replete with players rooted in the community, especially to a generation of girls who can now aspire to play professional hockey.

Like all institutions, pro sports has its flaws. But our pro teams have the unique power to bring us together, which in an increasingly divided society is something to howl about — especially at Target Center and the Xcel Energy Center in the coming days.