#CultHeroWeek: The Pek era was a bright spot in Minny history

They may not be the best. They’re not even the most popular. But, they’re still transcendent in their own way. The SLAM PH team comes together to show love to the crazy (sometimes literally) cult heroes of the Association.

As a modern day Timberwolves fan, I’ve learned to accept the fact that things rarely turn out the way I want them to. I’ve become numb of disappointment in unrealized potential and head-scratching roster movements. I have trained myself to see through all the ongoing heap of turmoil and truly cherish the genuinely enjoyable things to have graced their way through the Wolves universe – even if for only a brief moment.

Nikola Pekovic was one of those few shimmering rays of hope that somehow pierced its way through into the frigid northern parts of the NBA in Minnesota.

I didn’t expect much – or anything – out a second round pick European who took two years before crossing the pond the play in the NBA. He became somewhat enjoyable in his first NBA season, in a Timberwolvesian perspective, if only for the fact that he was fouling at an incredible rate and could barely stay on the floor. So what if another Wolves draft pick turned out to be a dud?

Except it didn’t stay that way. Pekovic got better. So much so that he earned himself a widely accepted nickname.

After a made basket by Pekovic, the theme music from The Godfather would sound from the speakers at Target Center. It seems fitting enough. How the Montenegrin big man earned the moniker as “The Godfather” is still not quite clear, but it was there and it stuck. No one complained since Pekovic looked the part of someone who could legitimately be in the mafia with his massive frame and mug while his arrest later in 2017 for having armed weapons and cocaine in his car only made the it a better fit.

Pekovic played the part of an enforcer as well. With the help of Ricky Rubio, Pek became one of the most violent forces in the paint over the next couple of years. Maybe he figured out that all he needed to do was scowl to keep opponents out of the paint instead of actual contact. As a result, he didn’t foul as much as before. The more time he was allowed to legally be on the court, the more bashing and bruising he was allowed to do on the offensive end.

He put up a PER of over 20 for 3 straight seasons and even though the Wolves were still one of the worst teams in the entire league during that span, he was a joy to watch. Sure, it was fun to watch as he ran through the defense to get wherever he wanted to go. Pekovic was a living, walking battering ram who was always ready to rumble.

But more than anything else that made his short stint in Minnesota – and in the NBA – memorable was how contrasting he was off the court.

For as menacing as Pek played and looked in the game, he was completely different off the hardwood through the eyes of fans – and teammates like Anthony Tolliver who was quoted calling him “a big teddy bear”.

“He has two personalities,” Tolliver said, according to Monday’s Star Tribune. “One on the court, which is a big brute, big monster. Off the court, he likes to have fun, likes to laugh, jokes around a lot.”

The switch of his two polarizing personalities seemed to flip instantly as the buzzer sounded and the fans, myself included, loved it.

Pek was good, but he was also goofy. I had a lot of fun watching him on the court in action, but just following what he did in the locker room had me wanting more.

Pek was “The Godfather”, but there were times when he even played as a substitute “father”, too.

What was there to not enjoy about a near seven-footer who was once asked what kind of tree he would be before asking back in reply if he could be a carrot?

It was all too good to last, as do all things for Wolves fans.

Pek played in only 43 games over his last two seasons with the team, hampered with ankle and foot injuries. In June 2017, the Wolves waived him after his only 6 seasons in the NBA.

Big Pek was a warming presence of fun that kept fans smiling through the freezing cold of Timberwolves fandom. He was a wrecking ball of destructive brute force on the court and an entertaining “teddy bear” off it.

It’s only been three years, but Timberwolves fans are still – and most likely will always – be asking:

Photo from USA Today

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