Saturday’s WNBA All-Star Game will be this reporter’s first time spending less than five dollars for travel expenses to and from the event.
I have attended 12 previous contests, whether out east (New York City, Connecticut, Washington, D.C.), southwest (San Antonio), the desert (Phoenix), or the Pacific Northwest (Seattle), and one WNBA-USA exhibition game in 2010. There are only two DNAs (did not attend for personal reasons) on my resume.
This Saturday makes it a baker’s dozen for me in covering the game — no other local media can make such a claim. But media row will be packed this weekend with local media, the majority of which never attended a W All-Star Game in their lives.
Each game (no games were held in 2008, 2010, 2012 or 2016 prior to Olympic Games scheduled those years) has its own personal and unforgettable memories.
“The most special was my first one in San Antonio” in 2011, Lynx forward Maya Moore told me last week. “It was me, [Rebekkah] Brunson, ‘Mone [Seimone Augustus] and Whay [Lindsay Whalen]. I remember Mone being so proud. I was taking pictures…”
This reporter got a photo of the four Lynx All-Stars clowning around, sitting together in the locker room – the first time in league history four teammates were chosen as All-Stars. That quartet several weeks later that year helped bring Minnesota its first pro basketball championship since the Lakers in the 1950s.
“11 was cool,” Whalen recalled. “Coach [Cheryl Reeve] had challenged me that year, and my goal that season was to be first-team point guard and make the All-Star Game. It was really cool when I made that team, and I was voted in by the coaches. That’s always a big sign of respect when the other coaches around the league vote you in, because they are the ones watching and studying the tape.
“I’ll never forget the center circle” when the team gathered after a practice and she and the other Lynx learned that they made the All-Star squad. Moore was voted in by the fans while the other three made it as reserves. Whalen continued, “I felt I was playing at a real high level. Looking back at it now, it was really cool to say I had worked really hard to get to where I was an All-Star.
“I remember at All-Star feeling real motivated,” the Minnesota point guard said. “I think we were 15-2 at All-Star break. We still needed to earn [the respect]. No one was going to give us the championship that year. We really had to go earn it in 2011.
“I always enjoy either being in the All-Star Game or cheering on my teammates at the All-Star Game,” said Whalen, who is not on this year’s squad with Moore, Augustus and Sylvia Fowles.
My memories include running into two local sistahs at the 2005 game, the first time it was played inside a casino (in Uncasville, Conn.). Twice I took in an MLB game after the Friday All-Star team practices (Phoenix and Seattle). Both experiences later became “Only One” installments.
And I once locked up an exclusive on-the-spot, on-the-record interview with NBA legend Oscar Robertson the day after the 2009 contest as both of us were waiting for planes. He spoke for the first time about LeBron James’ first decision to leave Cleveland, which the NBA star announced that weekend.
There are no planes or trains this weekend, thanks in part to the Meet Minnesota bid team (see companion story). My All-Star memories list undoubtedly will increase as my WNBA’s annual mid-season contest coverage streak remains intact, this time in downtown Minneapolis.
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.