Professional Basketball

Whalen, Lynx quartet break WNBA wins record

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Following the May 27, 2004 game against the Los Angeles Sparks, Hartford Courant writer Mike Anthony began his column with a question, “Would Lindsay Whalen ever look like a player worth trading up in the draft for?”

Minnesota Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen drives for a layup during the July 6 game against the Los Angeles Sparks. The Lynx quartet of Whalen, Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore and Rebekkah Brunson have combined for a WNBA record 125 wins together. Photo by Abe Booker III/Sportspage Magazine.

Considering that then head coach Mike Thibault sent Shannon “Pee Wee” Johnson and the Connecticut Sun’s second and third round draft picks of the 2004 WNBA draft to the San Antonio Stars (then Silver Stars) in exchange for the Connecticut Sun obtaining all three of the Star’s draft picks, which enabled them to grab Whalen with the fourth overall pick, it was a gamble at the time.

When the season started, the Sun lost their first two contests, a 65-58 loss to the Phoenix Mercury and a 68-57 defeat at the hands of the Houston Comets, getting fans and sportswriters wondering if their pick would pan out.

Then in the third game of the 2004 season, they had their answer. The Sun notched their first win, downing the Sparks 82-73, and Whalen, the high priced rookie, scored 10 points and dished 7 assists in 33 minutes and was “playing with a confidence she clearly lacked in her first two professional games,” as Anthony wrote.

That win against Los Angeles was Whalen’s first, but it certainly wouldn’t be her last.

She led the Sun to the playoffs five times in six years before a pre-season trade brought the Minnesota native to the Lynx before the 2010 season. She appeared in 197 regular season games and 26 playoff appearances with the Sun.

As a member of the Minnesota Lynx, Whalen continued to hone her leadership skills. Working closely with head coach Cheryl Reeve, the Lynx have appeared in the WNBA Finals five times in the seven full seasons that Whalen has been with the team, garnering three championships during that span.

Just as impressive has been her durability. Heading into the 2017 season, she had appeared in 427 regular season and 73 playoff games for exactly 500 professional WNBA games. So far this season, she has started all 16 of the Lynx games giving her 516 games and 15,028 minutes of playing time.

Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore and Rebekkah Brunson (not pictured) have combined for a WNBA record 125 wins together since forming in 2011. Photo by Abe Booker III/Sportspage Magazine.

However, it was the June 9 game at Washington which sets her apart from the rest. The Lynx 98-73 win put her at the 295 regular season win mark, surpassing Swin Cash for the WNBA’s all-time lead in that category. Since then, she’s added six more wins giving her a total of 301 heading into tonight’s game versus the Phoenix Mercury.

After breaking the record, Whalen took to Twitter in a series of eight tweets to express her thoughts.

“I am not usually one to talk about individual accomplishments. I will however take a mn to thank all of my teammates and coaches. In reaching this milestone. Without great people none of this would be possible. I truly thank them for everything they have done for me,” she wrote.

“One day you’re a 9th grade kid biking to open gym at your high school and the next your a professional athlete going to a game in D.C. My advice, go to Open gym! Play, win, lose, compete, put yourself out there, get out of your comfort zone, have fun!”

She concluded with, “You never know where this sport might take you. I am living proof of that! I look forward to the day when this record is broken by some little girl who puts even more heart and soul into the game than me. If she is lucky she will have the same support I have had from my family. Thank u to my husband Ben, my mom, dad, brothers and sisters. On to the next!”

In addressing the Twin Cities media after her return from Washington, she remarked, “I’ve been lucky to be a part of really really good teams and been around for awhile. So yeah, it’s a pretty cool record to have though because you’re trying to win every time you come out. To be able to get that done is pretty special.”

Since 2011 when the Lynx drafted forward Maya Moore with the top overall pick in the WNBA draft, the quartet of Seimone Augustus, Rebekkah Brunson, Moore and Whalen have won 125 games together, surpassing the previous WNBA record of 121 set by the Tamika Dixon, Lisa Leslie, Mwadi Mabika and Delisha Milton-Jones of the Los Angeles Sparks.

Minnesota Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen shoots over the outstretched arms of Los Angeles Sparks center Jantel Lavender during their July 6 matchup. Photo by Abe Booker III/Sportspage Magazine.

“I think more than anything it makes us grateful for each other. I don’t think for a day we’ve taken each other for granted, and that’s why you see what you see,” said Moore about the quartet record. “We come out and we play hard. We want to fight and win for each other.”

“If we lose a game, I’m letting Whalen down or Brunson down. I want to do it for them. That’s why we’ve been able to stay together and then win at a high level. It’s special. It’s not just something that we’ve been able to enjoy. I think a lot of people have been able to enjoy.

Neither Whalen nor the other members of the Lynx quartet show any signs of slowing down. Of the four, only Moore plays overseas in the WNBA off-season with the others preferring to rest their bodies in an attempt to extend their WNBA careers.

No other active quartet of teammates has put together more than 96 wins with Sacramento’s Ruthie Bolton, Lady Grooms, Ticha Penicherio and Tangela Smith being the last group to do so.

As for Whalen’s record, the closest active player to her win mark is Brunson, her teammate, with 268. As long Whalen and the Lynx quartet continue playing and winning, both of these records will stand for many years to come.

 

 

 

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