This Day in Minnesota History: The Four Horses That Pulled an “Air Bud” and Won the 1996 NBA Championship for the Minnesota Timberwolves Are Immortalized in a Gold Statue at the State Capitol

Original photo by Harvardton

On today’s date in 2005, Governor Tim Pawlenty officially unveiled the State Capitol’s bronze and gold statue of the four beloved Thoroughbred horses that took advantage of the fact that there is no rule in the league rulebook that says horses can’t play basketball, and led the Minnesota Timberwolves to victory over the Chicago Bulls in the 1996 NBA Finals.

All four horses – Whiskey, Carrotstick, Ranger, and Chance – who at the time were embroiled in a highly publicized legal dispute with each other over their line of designer horseshoes, came together for the first time in years to attend the statue unveiling ceremony along with the rest of the 1996 winning team and thousands of fans. 

“There’s not a Minnesotan around who doesn’t remember Game 7 of the championship when all four horses jumped on each other’s backs and Carrotstick dropped the ball in, winning the game in the final 3 seconds,” said State Capitol architectural curator Dan Schmidt, “not just because it was our proudest moment as a state but because it is widely regarded as the most insane fucking thing that has ever happened in history.”

The statue itself was commissioned by Governor Jesse Ventura in 2002 and designed in the neoclassical style by artist Margaret Liu.

“The three human figures in the work represent the people of Minnesota and our undying gratitude to the horses for giving us pride in our state,” said Liu of her renowned work, “and the chariot that the horses are pulling represents the rest of the 1996 Minnesota Timberwolves team who were also there.”

Whiskey, Carrotstick, and Chance famously returned to play the year after their historic win, while Ranger left to try his hand at minor league dressage. A second win was not to be, however, due to every other team neutralizing the Timberwolves’ advantage by also drafting animals. In 1999, the NBA rulebook added a clause specifying only humans are eligible to compete after a hyena playing for the Houston Rockets ate a giraffe playing for the Boston Celtics on live TV.

All three living horses still reside in Minnesota today. Carrotstick passed away in 2017 after a fatal BASE jumping accident in Dubai.