The 2017 WNBA season lasted as long as it possibly could as the Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks, the top two teams in the league for the past two years, went down to a fifth and final game. In the end, the Lynx would not be denied, taking the title on home court 85-76.
Throughout the best-of-five series, commentators noted that the Lynx are the oldest team in the WNBA. Despite age, fatigue and injury—forward Seimone Augustus had her knee drained the day before game five—the starters reigned supreme in the deciding game. Augustus, 33, Maya Moore, 28, Rebekkah Brunson, 35, Sylvia Fowles, 32, and Lindsay Whalen, 35, combined for 79 points.
With this win, the Lynx tied the now-defunct Houston Comets with four WNBA titles. Brunson stands alone as the first WNBA player to win five championships, her first coming with the also defunct Sacramento Monarchs. Even in making history, Brunson remained modest and humble.
“It feels good,” Brunson said. “I think it feels better because I get to share it with this amazing team, these amazing players, this amazing coaching staff, this amazing organization. I mean everybody in here deserves everything that we get.”
What makes these four championships and six finals appearances in seven years even more incredible is that for its first 12 years of existence (1999-2010), the Lynx only made it to the playoffs twice, 2003 and 2004, losing in the first round both times. Owner Glen Taylor stuck with the team, believed in it and worked with coach Cheryl Reeve to build the best team possible.
Are there lessons in the Lynx’s success that the New York Liberty can use to propel it to the WNBA Finals? Tina Charles is an amazing player and leader, but she cannot do it alone. Look at the cast of characters in Minnesota. Four players were on the last two U.S. Olympic teams. Charles needs a couple more all-star teammates. Liberty ownership also needs to examine if there are elements, some of which might be subtle and/or psychological, that would help the players elevate their games.
“For [Mr. Taylor] to have that commitment to us and to our fans is really special,” said Whalen. “We owed it to them to give it our best shot and to leave it all on the floor.”