Sports Odd & Ends
The third member of the famed Minnesota Lynx “Core four,” Rebekkah Brunson, now has her jersey retired during a post-game on-court ceremony Sunday, July 3. The current Lynx assistant coach and a league-record five-time WNBA champion watched as her No. 32 jersey was immortalized next to the four world championship banners she helped win in the downtown Minneapolis basketball arena.
Brunson joined Minnesota via the 2009 dispersal draft after Sacramento folded. It was with the Monarchs, the team that originally drafted her, where she earned her first of five W rings in 2005.
She retired after a 14-year pro career (2004-2018) as Minnesota’s all-time offensive (688), defensive (1,470) and total rebounds (2,158) record holder. Brunson got nearly every tough-girl rebound needed for her team as perhaps the greatest rebounder in Minnesota pro hoops history.
According to a 2021 ESPN.com ranking of every WNBA championship club, Brunson was a member of the third (2013 Lynx), sixth (2017 Lynx), 10th (2011 Lynx), 14th (2005 Sacramento) and 20th (2015 Lynx) teams. During a local media scrum Sunday, the MSR asked Brunson to speak on her place in W history.
“I had the opportunity to play with some very special players,” she stressed. “Starting in Sacramento, playing with Yolanda Griffith, Ticha Penicheiro and all those guys. Then coming to Minnesota and playing with Seimone Augustus, Lindsay Whalen, J-Mac (Janel McCarville) and Maya Moore.
“I’ve been blessed with teammates who had amazing energy and do whatever it takes to compete. You don’t win by yourself, and you don’t get on good teams by yourself. All those teams were special.”
Too often overshadowed by the star power of Augustus, Whalen and Moore, Brunson nonetheless had just as much or more for Minnesota to be the winningest local pro franchise, especially pro basketball. “All of us had the limelight,” but it was Brunson’s actions that taught her teammates just exactly what was needed to win a championship.
“It’s hard to put into words what she’s done for the franchise,” Whalen told the MSR about her former teammate. “She was a champion” prior to her Lynx days, the Gopher head coach admitted. “I don’t think we would have won in 2011 without that charisma and character it takes to be a champion.
“We never took her for granted. We always appreciated everything that she’d done,” said Whalen.
Jim Petersen was a Lynx assistant coach for three of the four Minnesota championships. “It took a while for her to warm up when she first came here from Sacramento,” he said of Brunson. “Rebekkah Brunson is my heart – she is like a daughter to me. I can’t think of somebody better that I coached in my coaching career.”
Brunson on Sunday told the press that she wanted to be “very intentional and thank everybody” as she gave her remarks standing at midcourt after watching a video montage of her playing career and heard both in-person and pre-taped testimonials.
When a reporter later asked her thoughts about Minnesota’s dominating 102-71 win Sunday over Las Vegas, Brunson observed, “They played so well and so hard. I was happy for them.”
As she headed out of the media room, Brunson gave the MSR some parting thoughts on her special day. “When you have your banner out there,” she said, “it’s about inspiring.
“We are at a place right now when we need to allow young girls to aspire to whatever they want to be. It’s not just about basketball, but life.
“I want people to be intentional on what they do and the choices they make, and understanding how they can empower women, female athletes, and women in general to be whatever they want to be.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.