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Karl-Anthony Towns's imaginary friend sells out

Private jets and corporate sponsors. Karlito is already living that NBA life.

Private jets and corporate sponsors. Karlito is already living that NBA life.



Timberwolves fans were giddy with hope and homerism during Thursday night's NBA Draft. The legacy pick bunglers snagged consensus top player Karl-Anthony Towns with the team's first No. 1 overall selection in franchise history and finagled Apple Valley golden boy Tyus Jones in a trade.

As the first player off the board, Towns, who's touted as a versatile modern-day big man, is in line for a massive payday. According to Forbes, the 19-year-old shot swatter's rookie contract will earn him $25.7 million. The one-and-done University of Kentucky center is yet to log a lucrative NBA minute, but already one of the most endearing aspects of his story has been commercialized.

As the draft-night hype swirled, Towns said all the right things. Fans and reporters have been particularly smitten with the seven-footer's sidekick, Karlito – Towns's imaginary friend perched on his broad shoulders during games. Karlito was born of a Kentucky coach's wisecrack, when Towns would turn his head and talk to himself after getting an earful from the bench bosses.

It was only a matter of turning pro before a corporation would swoop in on the Karlito love fest. Enter @Karlito_Towns. The Samsung-backed Twitter handle of Towns's make-believe confidant, critic and cheerleader, popped up on draft day sporting a cartoon avatar that would look good on a cereal box. Tweets showed a mini statue resembling Towns posing in selfies with Kentucky coach John Calipari and offered to pick up Ricky Rubio's dry cleaning.

— Karlito Towns (@Karlito_Towns) June 25, 2015   “We wanted Karlito to be an urban icon, yet be a cartoon-y anime-type character and the biggest thing was personality,” said Towns in a promo video announcing the inanimate pitchman.

The marketing move is reminiscent of Nike's Lil' Penny ads in the '90s, which featured Penny Hardaway and his smart aleck-y puppet likeness voiced by Chris Rock.

Corporate Karlito did no flagrant cellphone schilling on day one. But time will tell if money will corrupt Towns's pretend little buddy or if he'll start a Twitter war with @LittleKarlito.