PHOENIX — Contemporary off, arguably, an important efficiency of his younger profession, Anthony Edwards sat in entrance of the world with a white tank prime and an all-black Atlanta Braves fitted cap that sat free, hovering simply above his crisp hairline — making him look extra like an additional in Outkast’s “Player’s Ball” video than the long run face of the NBA.

Edwards is who he’s. Foolish. Lovable. Clever. Nation. He wears all of it, loudly and proudly. He’s additionally a competitor. A trash-talker. He wears all of these issues simply as loud, simply as proud.

You add all of that up and you’ve got a star. You add all of these issues up plus a 40-point efficiency in a playoff-sweeping 122-116 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Sunday evening, and also you begin to enter superstardom.

But, Edwards, for one motive or one other, is afraid to go there. For as trustworthy, brash and assured as he’s and could be, there lives a bashfulness contained in the 22-year-old on the subject of speaking about his stature throughout the sport’s most prestigious membership.

A 12 months in the past, earlier than a first-round loss to the eventual-champion Denver Nuggets, Edwards mentioned he couldn’t take into account himself a younger star till he “wins in the playoffs.”

A 12 months later, he did it. Edwards not solely received within the playoffs, however he was the alpha in a collection that featured the likes of Devin Booker and Kevin Durant, his all-time favourite participant. Edwards led his group to heights it hadn’t seen in 20 years, the second spherical of the NBA playoffs. He did it with rim-twisting dunks. He did it with a candy taking pictures stroke. He did it with gnaw-your-arm-off protection. He did it with management. He did it with WWE “Suck It!” extracurriculars. He did it whereas giving an earful to the participant he has seemed as much as since he was 5.

These are the issues that make stars. That is what stardom appears like.

“Nah, not yet, man,” Edwards mentioned Sunday after reaching the benchmark he positioned on himself a 12 months in the past. “Not yet.”

Edwards, unbeknownst to him, misplaced the privilege to determine what he’s and isn’t on this league.

Kevin Durant congratulates Anthony Edwards after Minnesota swept Phoenix within the first spherical of the NBA playoffs. (Christian Petersen / Getty Pictures)

Once you rating 40 factors in a series-clinching victory — on the street at that — you’re a star. Once you performed 79 regular-season video games and have been one of the best participant for a crew that was one recreation in need of having the highest file in your convention, you’re a star. Once you’re one in every of 12 gamers, on the age of twenty-two, picked to signify your nation within the Olympics, you’re a star. Once you make everybody snigger each time you’re in entrance of a microphone, order McDonald’s off Uber Eats instantly after a recreation, like he did in Detroit final season, you’re a star.

“He’s the face of the league,” mentioned teammate Karl-Anthony Cities, who sat subsequent to Edwards as his reserved facet took middle stage when speaking about his standing within the NBA. “He hates when I say it, but it’s true. Like I said, ‘Future so bright, got to put the sunglasses on.’ ”

Common gamers don’t determine to dominate once they have an opportunity to finish their opponent for good.  They don’t have that means. Stars shoot 11 of 15 from the ground for 31 factors within the second half when their crew is trailing at halftime like Edwards did on Sunday. Stars muster up their final little bit of power late within the fourth quarter to throw down a “Night, night!” dunk — like he did with simply over two minutes to play when he crossed up Bradley Beal on the wing, took a collect dribble, launched from outdoors of the paint and compelled his childhood hero out of the way in which as he punished the rim prefer it hit his sister.

Stars get on their different star teammate amid all of the chaos once they do one thing fallacious like Edwards did when Cities dedicated one other pointless foul with the sport within the stability.

Edwards can’t run from it anymore. Regardless of how onerous he tries. If he doesn’t need to be a star, then cease taking part in like one.

“He rises to the occasion,” Wolves ahead Kyle Anderson instructed The Athletic.

Stars additionally make their teammates higher. That’s the purpose of getting a star. The gravity of 1 individual makes the existence of others extra significant.

Edwards picked aside the Suns’ protection as a playmaker. The 40 factors will make the headlines, however he additionally had six assists with solely two turnovers in 41 minutes of play. He ought to have had 10-plus assists, however the Wolves couldn’t purchase a bucket within the recreation’s first 24 minutes.

There have been indicators all through the season, but it surely was this collection the place Edwards blossomed as a creator for others. There have been occasions early on in his profession when it felt like he handed as a result of he needed to. There was nowhere else for him to go.

Because the season went on, and this playoff collection performed out, Edwards was welcoming blitzes in order that he might create benefits to make the go to an open man, in order that he might get his teammates concerned within the move of the sport, in order that this Timberwolves crew might doubtlessly do one thing just one crew earlier than has achieved within the franchise’s 35-year historical past.

However, yeah, Edwards shouldn’t be a star.

“He is a good person,” mentioned Minnesota assistant coach Micah Nori, who crammed in for coach Chris Finch after a collision on the sideline within the fourth quarter left him with a severe leg harm. “And what I mean by that is, they trust him. He’s got some self-humor. You’ve seen all of his interviews. He’s the first one to congratulate and move all of his glory over to his teammates. They all love him.

“When he plays, makes the right play, and they know he cares, not only about himself but the team, he’s done a good job of stepping up in that regard.”

Edwards can preserve working from the label all he needs, but when he doesn’t need to embrace it out of worry of being content material, then it’s going to by no means go away. His mindset is right. His intentions are good. Nevertheless it’s unattainable for anybody with two eyes and a pinch of sense to not see a star once they have a look at Edwards.

From this level on, there’s no level in even asking Edwards about it. He has spoken — together with his play and his persona. He by no means must say it out loud. We’ll all preserve saying it for him.

“He’s my favorite player to watch,” Durant mentioned of his star pupil after Sunday’s recreation. “He’s just grown so much since coming in the league. At 22, his love for the game shines so bright. That’s one of the reasons why I like him the most because he just loves basketball and is grateful to be in this position.

“He’s going to be someone I follow for the rest of his career.”

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(High picture: Ross D. Franklin / Related Press)