For 20 weeks, to commemorate the WNBA’s 20th season (the MSR having covered each season), the MSR sports section is featuring a column or article on the W in our “20 in 20” series.
This week: ‘The Shot’
There are many “iconic images” in the 20-year history of the WNBA. Maya Moore’s buzzer beater in last year’s finals and the first U.S. Black president to attend a league game in 2010 certainly rank among them.
But many believe “The Shot” is perhaps the most iconic, the most memorable, because it took place in the W’s early period. The MSR recently talked to two persons who were there and had a bird’s-eye view of it for their recollection and perspective.
It was September 4, 1999. It was the winding seconds of Game 2 of the 1999 New York-Houston finals.
“I was standing at the baseline because Houston had won game one and they seemed like they were on the verge of winning game two, for which they would be getting the [championship] trophy,” remembered founding president Val Ackerman on the Comets leading the Liberty at the time.
“I’m standing on the end line with people from my staff, and we were ready to get on the floor — get the table, the [trophy] stand, out there [on the court] because that had to happen quickly [in order] to have television cover it.”
“The Liberty was down [after Houston’s] Tina Thompson made the shot to go ahead,” continued Ackerman, now Big East Conference commissioner. “There were seconds left on the clock. [New York’s] Kym Hampton throws in the ball and ‘Spoon’ [guard Teresa Weatherspoon] was catching the inbounds pass and pivoting towards the Liberty’s basket.”
The Liberty guard, with less than a second left in the elimination contest, was just beyond half court, at least 50 feet away from her basket, and let the ball fly from her hands.
Swish. Buzzer sounds. Game over. New York won.
“I had an on-the-floor view, probably 20 feet behind Spoon, watching the shot in the air while I was walking,” continued Ackerman. “I’m watching the shot and saying to myself, ‘That thing might go in.’ It dropped. I just stopped in my tracks. Spoon dropped to her knees.”
The Shot not only was heard around the WNBA world; it also quieted an entire arena.
“All the Comets fans were standing up expecting it not to go in and ready to cheer for Houston’s title. They were shocked,” recalled Ackerman. “The series is not over. It was an unbelievable moment — one of the greatest shots in WNBA history. The only thing I can compare it to is the Chris Jenkins shot for Villanova [in this year’s NCAA men’s title game].”
Of Weatherspoon’s winning shot and the lasting image of her lying on the court with both arms held upward before she was mobbed by her winning Liberty teammates she said simply, “It gave us the chance to play another game.”
She added her disappointment that New York didn’t win the next game as the defending champs — Houston won en route to four straight titles and the league’s first dynasty.
But The Shot propelled Weatherspoon to her historic place in league history — she played in the league’s first-ever game and is now the team’s player development director. She also is the first league player to score 1,000 points and 1,000 assists for a career.
“I will put that in my definitely top five WNBA moments,” concluded Ackerman.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.