Minnesota Lynx win title and hearts

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October 24, 2011 // UPDATED 9:14 am - October 24, 2011
By: Stephen Litel
Stephen Litel
If you were downtown Tuesday, Oct. 11 over lunchtime, you may have noticed a rather large disruption in traffic flows. That was because an estimated 15,000 people set up camp along Nicollet Mall and along 7th Street leading back to Target Center for a championship parade. The remarkable amount of people was there to celebrate with and pay tribute to their 2011 WNBA Champion Minnesota Lynx. With each car that passed those fans and supporters, they were treated to the sight of remarkable players and people, celebrating as they showed the crowd the championship trophy they now possess.

Leading the way, as they had in the front office and on the court was Lynx COO Roger Griffith and Head Coach Cheryl Reeve. Griffith was instrumental in bringing the WNBA to Minnesota years ago and has seen some tough times throughout the years, but a celebration such as this must have felt like the moment he has waited for all that time. Cheryl Reeve was able to relax, not having to coach a team with such lofty goals anymore for this season, allowing her to revel in the moment and the satisfaction of delivering the title she promised not long ago.

There was a car which held rookie Maya Moore and 40-year old Taj McWilliams-Franklin, both of whom played critical roles to the Lynx becoming WNBA Champions. As the youngest player on the team, Moore came into the league with a lot of hype and all the talent in the world, but it also took the leadership of the oldest player in the league in McWilliams-Franklin to reach the mountaintop. Moore may have been the attraction to some to attend a WNBA game for the first time, but players like “Mama Taj” showed them there is a league full of players worth watching and admiring.

A truck featured Candice Wiggins and Jessica Adair. Wiggins’ ability to complete embrace her role as a sparkplug off the bench, the team’s sixth player, and outside shooting were crucial to the team in the few moments of uninspired play. Adair, who should be a model for hard work and dedication, stared down the issues which caused her to be cut from the team last year, coming back a much improved player and secured herself a spot on the team for years to come.

Monica Wright and Alexis Hornbuckle were together in another truck. Wright came off a better than average rookie season to become a vital player off the bench in support of Moore and Augustus and will only continue to become more valuable in that role. While Hornbuckle did not play great amount of minutes, she won her second WNBA Championship with her gutsy play.

Amber Harris and Charde Houston were together in yet another truck. Harris, the rookie overshadowed by media by Moore, was given the opportunity to progress at a slower pace, learning from the veterans above her in the rotation, yet found a way to contribute with defense and rebounding when on the court. Houston, a former All-Star, was without complaint as her minutes diminished on this stacked-with-talent team, showing the leadership of a veteran by contributing on the court when she received time, yet knowing her role was much more than what she accomplished when in games. She will also always be a fan favorite, as one of the leaders of the Lynx now-expected victory dance.

Rebekkah Brunson was the only player not in attendance for the parade and celebration at Target Center and it goes without saying without her contributions to the team, there would not have been a parade in downtown Minneapolis. Her rebounding and defensive prowess was without compare and the All-Star was missed by the fans at the celebration.

WNBA Finals MVP Seimone Augustus and hometown hero Lindsay Whalen were in the final car in the procession, finding themselves mobbed by the adoring crowd in between First Avenue and the Target Center. As the crowd began to chant “M-V-P,” it was nearly impossible to determine which player it was meant for although both deserve the love. Both players were in the debate for regular season MVP, but eventually received the hardware they truly wanted and worked so hard to acquire: the WNBA Championship trophy. If they weren’t before now, both Augustus and Whalen are now icons in Minnesota and belong on the “Mt. Rushmore of Minnesota sports” with players such as Kirby Puckett, Kevin Garnett and George Mikan.

Another winner from the success of the Minnesota Lynx in the summer of 2011 is the fans. Whether they are the season ticket holders who have supported the team from the beginning or the new fans that jumped at the chance to support a winning local team, the fan support was remarkable.

This season proved that fans will support women’s sports, as well as any local team, as long as they are entertaining to watch and worth the price of admission. In today’s economy, fans are much more selective with their discretionary funds. The Minnesota Lynx were worth the investment of both time and money this summer and will continue to be for a long time. The Minnesota Lynx enriched lives this summer … a lot of them.

Stephen Litel has covered the Minnesota Lynx and WNBA for SLAM Magazine, as well as the Minnesota Timberwolves and NBA for HOOPSWORLD.com for the past six seasons. You can follow him on
Twitter @stephenlitel