Professional Basketball

One Last Hurrah For Lynx Pierson


After the last strand of confetti falls after tonight’s WNBA Finals championship game, it will mark the end of a long and successful 15 year career for Minnesota Lynx forward Plenette Pierson regardless of which team wins the title. Pierson announced her retirement in August during a Lynx event.

Minnesota Lynx guard Seimone Augustus braces against forward Plenette Pierson after the Lynx won Game 2 of the WNBA Finals. Pierson will retire after tonight’s WNBA Finals Game 5 following a 15-year career. Photo by Abe Booker III/Sportspage Magazine

“It’s been amazing. I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” said Pierson. “This game, and this league, has given me a lot. I’m happy. There’s no regret. I mean, I think this is a good time to just hang my shoes up and move on to whatever the next phase in my life is.”

After a collegiate career at Texas Tech, in which she played in 104 games, Pierson was drafted by the Phoenix Mercury with the fourth overall pick in the 2003 draft. It is still one of the moments she is most proud of in her career.

“Being drafted,” she said when asked what moment in her career brings her the most pleasant memory. “I mean, that just dignifies all the hard work that you put in prior to getting to this level has paid off. I came into this league and I didn’t think I was going to be a twenty-point player. I didn’t think I was going to be a go-to player. I really had to find my way.”

“I just think the culmination of my whole career, just being that glue player, the one that’s going to go run through the wall that coach wants you to or just be okay with just doing the little things that don’t get recognized by the media and everybody else. I pride myself on that. You know what? Without that, you can’t win championships,” she said.

Pierson didn’t last long in Phoenix. Midway through the 2005 season, she was traded to the Detroit Shock in exchange for Andrea Stinson and Detroit’s second round pick in the 2006 draft, and played in 23 games for her new team.

She was a key factor in the Shock winning the 2006 championship. On Sept. 9, 2006 during the decisive Game 5, she scored 16 points including going 10-for-13 from the free throw line, which helped give the Shock an 80-75 victory over the Sacramento Monarchs.

On May 19, 2007, during Detroit’s home opener against the Sacramento Monarchs, she scored her 1,000th career point. That season she averaged 11.6 points per game and 5.8 rebounds per game off the bench and was awarded the WNBA’s inaugural Sixth Woman of the Year award. The Shock appeared in the WNBA Finals again, but fell short to her former team, the Phoenix Mercury in five games.

Minnesota Lynx forward Plenette Pierson drives against Washington Mystics forward Elena Delle Donne during the semifinal game on Sept. 12, 2017. Photo by Abe Booker III/Sportspage Magazine

The Shock faced off against the San Antonio Stars in the 2008 WNBA Finals, but Pierson had limited time. She sat out Game 1 because of injury and in Game 2 scored a reverse layup in the third quarter for her only points of the night. Still, the Shock swept the Stars and Pierson picked up her second championship ring.

Pierson appeared in only one game in 2009 for five minutes in which she recorded a steal, a block and two personal fouls. However, her shoulder injury forced her to sit out the remainder of the season. Then in December 2009, it was announced that the Detroit Shock would be relocated to Tulsa under new ownership.

She did appear in eight games for the Tulsa Shock in 2010 and then was traded to the New York Liberty in exchange for Tiffany Jackson-Jones. Pierson played in 25 games for the Liberty during the remainder of the season.

Pierson spent more time as a starter for the Liberty than she did coming off the bench and the three seasons from 2011-2013 were her most productive, even though the Liberty never advanced to the Finals during her tenure there.

When the opportunity arose to sign with another team in free agency, she gave the Shock another chance, signing with them on Feb. 4, 2015. It was a good move as she was able to start 29 games and earn her only All-Star appearance that season while getting back on pace with a 12.8 points per game average.

The Tulsa Shock moved again prior to the 2016 season, becoming the Dallas Wings. Pierson finished the season with averages of 11.9 points per game, 38.7 percent shooting and 4.6 rebounds per game.

She considered retiring after the 2016 campaign but opted to sign a free agent contract with the Lynx for the 2017 season, reuniting with Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve, who was an assistant coach during Pierson’s tenure in Detroit. During the 2017 season, she appeared in all 34 regular season games and started four of them.

“What I see with Plenette is a really happy player and happy person,” said Reeve. “She’ll tell you she feels like she’s come home. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we had some really good history together.”

“I was thrilled in free agency when she said that she wanted to come here because I just knew that we would give her the best chance to go out the way she deserves,” said Reeve. “And for her to say that it felt like home right away – there’s just no better way for a player to end her career than to feel like that. I don’t know how it’s going to end, but I know that we feel really good about the experience that we’ve given her here. I’m thrilled that her final season has been with the Lynx.”

Her teammates in Minnesota were also thrilled to have Pierson in the lineup with them.

Minnesota Lynx forward Plenette Pierson shoots a jump shot during the semifinal game against the Washington Mystics on Sept. 12, 2017. Photo by Abe Booker III/Sportspage Magazine

“Oh, she’s had a great career. I mean, she’s a two-time champion and when you can last in the league this long, it says a lot about you, especially the way she plays. She plays hard and she’s physical and she takes care of her body. She went out how she wanted to and a lot of people don’t get to do that. I’m happy for her and proud to say that we were teammates and I got a chance to play with her,” said guard Jia Perkins.

Forward Rebekkah Brunson enjoyed having her on the team as a fellow post player.

“She’s been great for the league. She’s been a great player. She’s been a competitor. She’s helped teams win championships. I’m kind of excited and glad that I’ve had this opportunity to play with her in her final year. There are a lot of players that you don’t really get to know as far as the locker room is concerned. You compete against them. You play against them. That’s all you know of them but you don’t really get to know the in’s and out’s of people. So I’m excited that she’s here, and I’m excited that I get to know her personally,” said Brunson.

Another veteran player who has tremendous respect for Pierson is guard Seimone Augustus.

“I’ve obviously been around for a long time but I’ve played against Plenette for plenty of years and know what she can do as a player,” said Augustus. “People have the utmost respect for her on the court. She’s probably one of the hardest screeners. She’s always talking about how she’s getting me open on screens.”

Pierson overheard Augustus’s comment.

“I do. You don’t have to worry about nothing but making shots,” said Pierson.

Brunson credits Reeve for bringing the right people into the mix to improve team chemistry.

“I think that is, kudos to Cheryl [Reeve] that she knows how to pick those type people. Plenette came into this locker room and she fit, like, easily with the type of group that we have. We care about each other and not just as far as basketball is concerned but off the court as well. She’s part of the Lynx family now and she’ll always be a part of the Lynx family,” said Brunson.

When asked about what she plans to do after her playing days conclude, Pierson said, “I thought about coaching. I’ve thought about going into being a sports agent. But mainly, I think my passion is just giving back. The game has given me so much and I just want to make sure I impart enough knowledge as I can on the next generation.”

She does have advice for the next generation of ballers.

“Not everybody could be Kobe Bryant, Steph Curry or LeBron James. Somebody’s got to do the little things. Everybody in this league can score the ball, but you really show what kind of player you are when you’re selfless and willing to just go out there and do whatever coach asks you to do with no complaints,” Pierson advised.

But before Pierson can ride off into the sunset there’s one last piece of business to take care of.

“I’m thankful that I got a chance to play with her,” said Augustus. “Hopefully we can finish it off right, get a championship and send her off into retirement.”

NOTE: The Seattle Storm is due to announce the hiring of Dan Hughes as their next head coach. Hughes has coached previously for the Charlotte Sting, Cleveland Rockers and San Antonio Stars.

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