This column is dedicated throughout the month of July to a discussion of the good, bad and everything else in women’s basketball in general and the WNBA in particular. We will talk to coaches, players, fans, and current and former bigwigs for their input, and will share their thoughts throughout this discussion series.
Seimone Augustus is the first Black female pro athlete in Twin Cities sports history to get “franchise” tagged on her. It’s a title some locals were reluctant to crown her with, preferring instead to find someone, anyone not Black.
The Minnesota Lynx made Seimone — a franchise player is usually referred to on a first-name basis — the first Black female athlete ever selected first overall in a pro-basketball draft in 2006. Only a national championship win isn’t on her illustrious collegiate résumé that lists a slewful of honors. Augustus won half of her eight total top-player-in-the-nation awards in her final season at LSU.
As a result, Augustus was a no-brainer pick, even for a Lynx organization that had often stumbled and bumbled through previous selections. “You expect to go to one of the worst teams being the number-one pick, but never did I expect it to be a 10-win season or zero and 20 starts,” recalls Seimone.
“It tests you mentally and really plays with your mind trying to figure out when it will ever happen when we break through and start to have some successful seasons.”
When her first pro contract came up for renewal, Augustus all but had her free agent bags packed, but a franchise turnaround sequence of events occurred in early 2010. “Sacramento folded, and we were able to acquire Rebekkah Brunson in the dispersal draft,” she explains.
“We made a trade to get [Lindsay] Whalen here, then we made another trade to get a [draft] pick from Connecticut that ended up being the number-one pick to get Maya [Moore] here. You got to see the growth and the maturity of this team. Even the mindset of the people in the front office went from a losing mindset.”
This convinced Augustus to re-up with the Lynx in February 2010. She hoisted the finals MVP trophy a year later in helping the team to the first Twin Cities pro-basketball championship since the Lakers were here in the 1950s. Again in 2013 she stood on the champions’ stage.
She, Brunson, Moore and Whalen for four seasons have constituted the team’s nucleus. But this being said, Augustus’ ability to take over a game in key stretches cemented her franchise status, which she hasn’t yet relinquished to Moore, last year’s league MVP and franchise player-in-waiting.
“I’m the one that everybody focuses on as far as scoring goes,” notes Seimone. “So I just have to do what I have to do.”
The nine-year veteran guard over the years also has become more comfortable with media types. “I was really shy. I’ve had some experience with media flipping your words and changing things, and that creates a distrust,” recalls Augustus. “You don’t want your words to be misconstrued.”
She even occasionally ribs the team’s longest tenured beat reporter as well: “I’ve gotten to know [you] — you make it comfortable by coming into the locker room and joking with [me].”
Later this month Augustus should get her fourth straight All-Star selection, sixth overall. She’s the franchise all-time scoring and field goal leader. She is a bona fide league star. Over the course of her illustrious career, Seimone has notched various individual milestones, which are nothing to discount. But the biggest milestone — being a champion on a championship team — is worth more to her.
“I was [an] All-Star and on the Olympic team, but my team never was successful,” she says. “The fact that we’ve hung two [championship] banners [in the arena] means a lot more than any of the other awards I have accomplished.”
UPDATE: It was announced last night that both Seimone Augustus and teammate Maya Moore were selected as 2015 All-Star starters, as noted below from the official WNBA Twitter page:
— WNBA (@WNBA) July 14, 2015
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.