Professional Basketball

Lynx Celebrate Third Championship

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The ritual never seems to get old. First a grueling season, then a hard-fought playoff series an d then a championship. Last week, the Minnesota Lynx defeated the Indiana Fever 69-52 in a decisive Game 5 held at Target Center in Minneapolis to take home their third championship in five years. It was the first championship won on their home court.

During the post-game celebration in the locker room, head coach Cheryl Reeve announced that each member of the team plus one invited guest were going to board a bus and head to Paisley Park, the $10 million suburban recording studio of legendary recording artist Prince, for a special post game concert. The concert lasted for three hours.

“I remember when Prince had the concert at Target Center and we had to go to the University of Minnesota, so that’s how important we were at the time,” said guard Seimone Augustus. “Now when Prince shows up at your game and invites you to a private event to give you a private concert – that’s amazing!”

The July 6, 2007 game an 85-80 loss to the Sacramento Monarchs was moved to the campus of the University of Minnesota to ready the Target Center in preparation for Prince’s concert the following night. Augustus, who joined the Lynx in 2006, remains the only member of the squad from that season, and scored 23 points that night. Forward Rebekkah Brunson played in the University of Minnesota game for the Monarchs, scoring 10 points and grabbing seven rebounds in 26 minutes of play. Brunson has been a member of the Lynx since the 2010 season.

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Minnesota Lynx guard Renee Montgomery with the 2015 WNBA championship trophy during last Friday’s parade in downtown Minneapolis. Photo by Matthew Fleegel.

“Oh man! That was amazing! It was one of the best nights of my life. First you win the championship then you get to hang out with Prince,” said Brunson. “I really felt like we were just hanging out with him. It was amazing! It was such a blessing for us for him to allow us to come in and be a part of what he does. It was wonderful!”

“It was a three-hour-long show but felt like five minutes though. We were all in it and enjoyed it so much. It was extremely memorable,” she added.

Forward Maya Moore enjoyed the concert also.

“That was the craziest day of emotion and experiences. I was so tired afterwards. It was a lot of excitement but I felt like a little kid again, but it was so fun! There were a lot of memories that evening that we won’t forget,” said Moore. “I mean, the bass, the guitars, the drums, everybody coming together and enjoying ‘His Princeness.’ It was very impressive musically.”

The championship fever that has embraced this team did not end with the last note at a Prince concert. It continued on Friday with the championship parade in downtown Minneapolis and ceremony at Target Center. The last time a professional sports team, other than the Minnesota Lynx, has been treated to a championship parade was the Minnesota Twins after winning the 1991 World Series 24 years ago.

Amid 39 degree temperatures and scattered clouds, thousands of fans showed up to greet the champions on Friday Oct. 16, two days after winning the championship. As if to pay homage to the Twin Cities local music legend, the parade began with head coach Cheryl Reeve waving to fans from the back seat of a red Corvette.

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Minnesota Lynx assistant coach Jim Petersen, who previously played for the NBA’s Houston Rockets, Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors, holds the 2015 WNBA championship trophy. Petersen has been an assistant coach for the Lynx since the 2009 season. Photo by Matthew Fleegel.

“I’m just so appreciative of the Twin Cities community and the State of Minnesota for supporting the heck out of this team and recognizing how special of a time it is in Minnesota basketball history, men’s and women’s, it doesn’t matter, the entire basketball history of this state” said Reeve. “Our players love playing here. They love being a part of this community and our fans have embraced them. It’s been quite a ride.”

Though Moore has won numerous championships at all levels of play throughout her life, every championship and every parade is special. This one is no exception.

“Parades do not get old,” said Moore. “It was really fun. This team has really enjoyed each other and is one of the special aspects of the group we have. We enjoy being together just laughing, having fun, and enjoying the interaction with the fans. It was a beautiful day out.”

For center Sylvia Fowles, this is her first championship parade. Acquired in a mid-season trade from the Chicago Sky, the former college teammate of Augustus had never won a championship at Louisiana State University or in the WNBA.

“Amazing! Wonderful! Our fans are so awesome to come out in the cold and cheer us on. You can’t ask for anything better than that,” said Fowles. “Seeing the crowd just shows a lot of dedication for what they do here in Minnesota and how they represent the team. I couldn’t ask for nothing better and I’m just happy to be here.”

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Minnesota Lynx guard Anna Cruz smiles while here teammate, guard Lindsay Whalen tosses candy during last Friday’s championship parade in Minneapolis. Photo by Matthew Fleegel.

The parade ended as Augustus and Moore held up the championship trophies from 2011, 2013 and 2015 in front of thousands of fans who gathered at the intersection of First Avenue and Seventh Street as their car became the last one to enter the Target Center garage.

“Yeah, we got a workout today. Those trophies are heavy,” joked Augustus. “But it felt great to hold the trophies up with Maya. She’s a big part of our success here since 2011 when she arrived to now, and we have been able to build a great foundation of success.”

After the parade, the team and fans attended a brief ceremony at Target Center before going their separate ways for the off season.

But will the Lynx championship rub off on other teams?

Last Sunday, team members who remained in Minnesota were invited to the Minnesota Vikings game at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus. Moore was invited to sound the gjallarhorn, which is blown to sound the start of each game. The gjallarhorn, in Norse mythology, is a horn associated with the god Heimdallr who plays a trumpet-type instrument whose “blast can be heard in all the world” and signals the beginning of a great battle.

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Minnesota Lynx mascot Prowl holds up the ‘Lynx Win’ sign during last Friday’s championship parade in downtown Minneapolis. Photo by Matthew Fleegel.

The original Vikings mascot, Hub Meeds, used to sound the horn on the sidelines when the team played at the old Metropolitan Stadium and has been re-created to sound the beginning of each home game. Lynx guard and Minnesota native Lindsay Whalen sounded the horn after the team’s 2013 championship. As for the Vikings, they beat the Kansas City Chiefs 16-10 after Moore blew the Gjallarhorn.

Augustus, Moore and Whalen were also on hand at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center last night to participate in pre-game ceremonies for the Minnesota Wild’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. They yelled out “Let’s Play Hockey” to start game, which was a 3-2 win for the Wild.

Now that the championship celebration is over, Augustus has already signaled that this will be her last season competing in overseas basketball. Citing the fact that she wants to help keep the current Lynx team together longer, she will no longer compete overseas after this season to focus on longevity for her WNBA career.

As for whether three championships in five years constitutes a dynasty, Augustus said, “We’ll let you debate about that. We’ll just continue to put our masterpiece out there and hopefully get a few more championships here if we can, and throw the ‘D’ word around a little bit later.”

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