For 20 weeks, to commemorate the WNBA’s 20th season (the MSR having covered each season), the MSR sports section will feature a column or article on the W in our “20 in 20” series. This week: The city in the house
Tracy Henderson, a Minneapolis Henry and Georgia grad, was the first city native to play in the WNBA, but she first was drafted and played in the ABL and briefly played for Cleveland after her former team and league disbanded. Minneapolis South and Ohio State grad Tayler Hill is a fourth-year guard for Washington, currently the only city player in the W.
“There aren’t many city girls that made it” to the WNBA, notes Tamara Moore, the first Minneapolis-born player drafted by the league. “I was drafted by Miami, 15th overall. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime to make the dream that you’ve seen for yourself come true.”
Moore was 1998 Minnesota Player of the Year and Miss Basketball and a state champion at Minneapolis North before a four-year, school-record-setting career at Wisconsin. She finished as the Badgers’ all-time assists and steals leader and helped the team win a WNIT championship in her senior season, as well as earning first-team all-Big Ten honors. Moore is also in the history annals for being the first and still only Minneapolis-born player ever to don a Lynx uniform in the regular season (2002).
“I take that as a blessing,” recalls Moore, who Minnesota acquired by trade.
However, her homecoming initially wasn’t well-received by some. Betty Lennox, the 2000 top rookie after being the sixth overall pick, was hugely popular among the few faithful at the time, but sadly injuries hampered the 5’-8” guard.
Although she only played five games with the no-longer-around Sol, Moore scored a game-high 22 points against Minnesota in her club’s 2002 season opener. Lennox, who only played 11 games in 2001, seemingly was still hampered by the strained left hip capsule she suffered the season before. She then became expendable, and the Moore-for-Lennox trade was executed.
But the 5’-11” Moore only lasted a season in Minnesota, and she was sent to Detroit in 2003, then Phoenix (2003-04), New York (2005), Los Angeles (2006) and Houston (2007), plus five international teams (not due to trades) before retiring as a player. She works today with local youth.
When oft-asked about being traded, Moore points out, “I look at it as having seven teams believing in you and your ability.”
Nonetheless, she is a proud WNBA alumnus with lifetime memories.
Moore notes, “Obviously, number one for me is getting drafted. Another highlight for me was playing for Jellybean Bryant, Kobe Bryant’s father, and having the opportunity to learn from somebody who gave birth to one of the greatest, if not the greatest of all time.
“The last one for me is being so close to having a championship when I played in Detroit for Bill Laimbeer. I was so close to having a championship, but it didn’t end up working out there.”
Expectedly, cherished as well was the ability to play in front of family and friends in the arena just minutes from where she grew up in North Minneapolis. “The Lynx was only one year old when I came out of high school, and I think the biggest thing was great but it also was a headache. People calling you for tickets… It was a blessing, an opportunity to don that green and white, and now being able to see where the team has gone from Katie Smith, Lynn Pride, Michele Van Gorp and Tamika Williams — a really good team — to see where they are now. If I could put on that uniform one more time and play with Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen and those girls, that would be an opportunity of a lifetime as well.”
“I’m just hoping that the league sees a lot more Minneapolis-born players. Tayler Hill is doing a great job out in Washington, seeing what she is doing to continue the legacy. I am hoping and praying that we get some more inner-city-born girls to get that opportunity to play” in the WNBA, says Moore.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to email@example.com.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.