The MSR is the only local media that has covered the Minnesota Lynx from the start of its 25-year existence, as the team became the Twin Cities’ most successful pro franchise. Before this season, the team chose its top-25 players in Lynx history and held their 25th anniversary celebration the weekend of June 9-11, where the MSR spoke to several of the honored players. This week: The dynasty years (2011-2018)
Sports Odds and Ends
The Minnesota Lynx hadn’t made the playoffs for six consecutive summers, and only twice in franchise history. That postseason playoff streak came crashing down in 2011, with a seven-year run, making six finals, and winning four of them. A Twin Cities championship roll hadn’t been seen by a pro team since the Lakers played at the old Minneapolis Auditorium in the 1950s.
It was a standard of excellence not seen since Houston won the WNBA’s first four crowns as the league’s first dynasty. “I wasn’t in the league during that stretch, but I followed it,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert during the team’s 25th anniversary weekend celebration in June. “Dynasty is the right word for that.”
It was built on its “Core Four,” the four players who played on all four W title-winning Lynx teams on odd-numbered years (2011, 2013, 2015, 2017). Which team was the best?
Slam magazine’s September issue calls Minnesota’s 2013 championship team (26-8 overall, 7-0 postseason) perhaps the best ever. But the 2011 (27-7, 5-0) and 2013 (26-8, 5-0) teams were also dominant.
ESPN’s M.A. Voepel calls the two Minnesota-Los Angeles finals in 2016 and 2017 that went the five-game limit the most intense and impressive championship series ever.
“Beat LA,” the legendary chant popularized during the Lakers-Celtics rivalry of the 1980s, gained new meaning around these parts as both Minnesota and Los Angeles had a healthy but respectful hatred for each other during that two-year stretch. It ended up with each team winning a chip (LA in 2016 and the Lynx in 2017 at Williams Arena). And what about 2015 (22-12, 5-2)?
Someday a Mt. Rushmore-like statue will be erected for the Core Four (+1).
Seimone Augustus (2006-19) was the Cities’ first Black female pro “franchise” player who almost left the team via free agency, because she was sick of losing. Then Minnesota acquired Lindsay Whalen, and ‘Mone stayed and collected four chips, and the 2011 Finals MVP. “I’m just happy to be here,” she told us during the celebration.
Rebekkah Brunson (2010-18) was already a champion (Sacramento, 2008). There wasn’t a rebound that Brunson, now a Lynx assistant coach, couldn’t corral, especially on the offensive glass. She is the only WNBA player with five league championship rings.
Maya Moore’s (2011-18) elimination game-winning shots in Game 4 in 2016 and 2017 are stuff legends are made of. “It is so overwhelming to know how long the greatness has been sustained,” she said. “When you’re in it, you’re just grinding and locked in. Everybody is doing their thing.”
Lindsay Whalen (2010-18), the hometown hero, had already cemented her place in Minnesota sports history before coming to the Lynx via trade in 2010. When asked to pick her favorite title team, she chose “The first one… None of us knew what we were doing. That was a fun one,” said the winningest player in WNBA history. “And the last one. It was a solid effort. LA was a more talented team, but we were better.”
And the plus-one, Sylvia Fowles (2015-22), the 6’6” center who was the first W player to force a trade and sat out until it finally took place, ultimately brought her to Minnesota in 2015, from Chicago. Fowles won the Lynx’s last two titles, winning Finals MVP in both years. She told me the 2017 team remains her favorite memory
“You do a lot of reflecting when you hang up your shoes,” said Fowles, who retired after the 2022 season. “I am grateful for the opportunities I have and what I’ve done.”
Finally, when asked about the Lynx dynasty years, Whalen said, “You got to have a little luck and to have people who really bought in to the team and to each other. Seimone Augustus is the most unselfish superstar ever. We got Syl at the best time. We had Brunson and me who really were good role players.”