This week: The first Minnesota Lynx Black superstar?
She was Seimone before Seimone. She was Maya before Maya. She potentially could have been this area’s first Black female pro superstar, recognized on a first-name basis.
Minnesota selected the 6’-1” Reed as the first overall pick of the 1999 WNBA expansion draft from Phoenix, who were the 1998 league runners-up. She led the Lynx in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots for the 15-17 club — 8-8 at home in its inaugural season and finishing seventh in league scoring. She played all but five games that season due to tendinitis in her left knee, but she had seven games of 20 or more points.
But Reed was sent back to Phoenix during the off season the day after her February 17 birthday, traded for a 2000 first-round pick (Grace Daley). Back in a Mercury uniform, Reed made the 2000 All-Star Game, representing the hometown host club.
She also became the first-ever WNBA player to score at least 30 points. Reed had a career-high 32 against the then-defending champion Houston, one of three games that she went off for 30 or more points in 2000.
Reed averaged a career-best 19 points a game and moved up four slots to finish third among the league scorers. Obviously she was on the cusp of greatness, right?
During the off-season, Reed argued for more money and refused to sign a new contract. “I’m the best player in the league, and I deserve more money,” she was quoted as saying in a newspaper article. Reportedly, Reed turned down Phoenix’s $60,000 offer and eventually settled for $50,000 and a promise of an offseason front office job.
However, Reed’s fourth WNBA season (2001) only lasted one game — the Mercury suspended her after the team’s season opener “for conduct detrimental to the team.” She started four of five games in 2002 before once again being suspended for the same reason.
ESPN reported later in 2002 that Reed was jailed in Mississippi for disorderly conduct after being stopped by police and asked for an ID, but instead she gave them a different name. She was not allowed to post bond because of outstanding fines for such charges as marijuana possession, driving without a license, and driving on the wrong side of the road.
We haven’t heard from Reed since. A budding career derailed? Washed up before age 25? Instead of stardom, she’s a brief historical notation in the Lynx’s media guide.
Reed was both talented and apparently troubled as well. When she was here, she found a comfort zone with this reporter and the late MSR senior columnist Kwame McDonald. Otherwise Reed was often distrustful of the mostly White local media.
“We throw our young people away too much,” says Debbie Montgomery, an original Lynx season ticket holder. She agreed with the MSR that Reed “could have been another Maya Moore or Seimone [Augustus].” She also wonders if Lynx officials, at the time they drafted Reed, “properly vetted” her before the expansion draft. Reed also missed several games in Minnesota for disciplinary reasons.
“If she is a premier player, why wouldn’t you” get Reed help “if she is an investment?” Montgomery asks. “I don’t think [teams] use the resources that are available for our players,” especially Black players, she states.
The 2016 WNBA regular season begins this week when Minnesota and Phoenix play each other on Saturday, the two clubs Reed played for during her three full seasons and parts of two others (1998-2002). But what happened to her? Some of us really want to know.
Information from ESPN.com, Sun-Sentinel.com, WNBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com was used for this report.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below, see “Watch Me Work” featuring Skylar Diggins (Dallas Wings), Brittney Griner (Phoenix Mercury), Sue Bird (Seattle Storm), Diana Taurasi (Phoenix Mercury) and Maya Moore (Minnesota Lynx) in honor of the WNBA’s historic 20th season.
Charles Hallman is the senior staff writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. He can be reached at email@example.com