Professional Basketball

The Pride of the Lynx: Kayla McBride


Minnesota Lynx guard Kayla McBride and Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner share a laugh before play resumes during the Sept. 3, 2023 game at Target Center. Photo by Abe Booker III/Sportspage Magazine

The 2020 COVID year was a tough one all around for the players and coaches in the WNBA. Instead of cancelling the season, it was shortened to 22 games that were all played at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., in what is colloquially known as “the bubble.” It was a season played with no in-arena fans and no home court advantage. There were some familiar things, namely the playoff format and dates.

Then appearing in her seventh season, guard Kayla McBride played in all 22 regular season games and all eight post-season games for the Las Vegas Aces, who emerged from regular season play as the top seed with an 18-4 record.

Las Vegas faced a grueling best-of-five semifinal series with the Connecticut Sun, winning the series in the fifth game in a come from behind three-point victory. McBride finished that game with 10 points, five rebounds and four assists, as the Aces went on to face the #2 seed Seattle Storm in the 2020 WNBA Finals.

The Storm had swept the Minnesota Lynx in three games during the semifinals and were better rested. The Aces were no match for Seattle, who ran them off the court in three games including a lop-sided 92-59 stomping in the third and final game.

The season now over, McBride joined Fenerbahçe, her EuroLeague team, and wondered what the future held for her WNBA fortunes now that she was a free agent.

Minnesota Lynx head coach and then-general manager Cheryl Reeve discussed the prospects of McBride signing with Minnesota during that offseason.

Minnesota Lynx guard Kayla McBride shoots a three-pointer while Connecticut Sun forward DiJonai Carrington tries to defend during the July 30, 2023 game at Mohegan Sun Arena. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine

“From the moment I talked to Cheryl, when I was somewhere overseas, I knew that this was where I wanted to come,” said McBride. “When I first walked in, in 2021, off of the WNBA Finals in the Bubble, which was so weird, coming here I just wanted to be part of something different. I liked the culture here.”

The 2021 season had the Lynx finishing with a 22-10 record, after a 1-4 start, which was good enough for the third seed. The Aces and the Sun each sported better records. Despite McBride averaging 13.7 points per game, 3.6 rebounds per game, and 2.3 assists per game, the Lynx lost to the Chicago Sky in the second round single-elimination game. McBride scored 19 points in that game, but Chicago went on to win 89-76.

“That first season, you come in and you’re learning about the organization. You’re learning how we do things here,” said Reeve. “She was outside of the franchise, saw things she liked, and was immersed into it.”

The next season the Lynx were supposed to fare better, but challenges mounted. Center Sylvia Fowles announced that the 2022 season would be her last and forward Napheesa Collier announced that she would miss a large part of the season due to pregnancy. The Lynx struggled to find themselves and started the season 2-7. They racked up some wins in the middle of the season, but at season’s end found themselves on the bubble for a playoff spot. They finished 14-22, tied with the Atlanta Dream and a game behind the Phoenix Mercury for the eighth playoff spot. McBride averaged 13.2 points per game, 2.8 rebounds per game and 2.1 assists per game. It was the first time since 2010 that the Lynx missed post-season play.

“A lot of things were out of character last year, so I think the lessons of last season have gone far into KMac’s [McBride’s] growth this season,” said Reeve.

McBride said, “Even on the rough days, they can still end up as good days. When you enjoy going to work with the people that you love every day, it makes it easier on those hard days.”

Minnesota Lynx guard Kayla McBride celebrates with her teammate, forward Dorka Juhasz, during the July 30, 2023 game at Mohegan Sun Arena. Photo by James C. Garman/Sportspage Magazine

The Lynx added two rookies to the roster this season, forwards Diamond Miller and Dorka Juhasz. McBride, now in her tenth season, has taken it upon herself to mentor them and help in their development to turn them into seasoned professional athletes.

“I thought Kayla was just huge in terms of the team, this season, being the team that we want to be on and off the court,” said Reeve. “We’ve knocked it out of the park with that. Kayla, in the way that she has given of herself, and the way that she’s taken the rookies under her wing, [she’s] at the root of all of the good that has happened for the team this season.”

For McBride, Minnesota now feels like home.

“There’s been ups and downs to the last three years, a lot of good moments and a lot of bad moments, but there’s been so much growth, and so much love, and so many lessons. Who I’ve become as a person, I think, is different [than when I arrived here],” said McBride. “I truly believe that the grass is greener where you water it, and giving of myself, especially this year, has been a lot of fun. I’ve enjoyed the process. I’ve matured a lot over these three years. When I go into the gym every day, I just enjoy where I’m at. That’s the biggest part of this whole thing.”

The Lynx have qualified for the 2023 WNBA playoffs but the seeding is not set. They face two road games, at Chicago tonight and at Indiana on Sunday, before they know who they will play in the postseason. McBride knows that the work this season is not finished, but they’ve come a long way from where they started from.

Minnesota Lynx guard Kayla McBride tries to make the shot difficult for New York Liberty forward Breanna Stewart during the Aug. 26, 2023 game at Target Center. Photo by Abe Booker III/Sportspage Magazine

“This year is special just in the fact of how it happened. We started 0-6, everybody kind of writing us off, and just how we found our way and came together. It wasn’t always perfect, kind of up and down, but there is one point where we came together to find out who we were. Those are the best moments, especially on a team like this. We started slow and everybody could have given up, but I just like the resilience of this team. It’s been really cool and fun to be a part of,” said McBride.

When the season began, Reeve said that she wasn’t concerned with the win/loss record right away as long as the team could build the chemistry and find their identity. Now that the season is concluding, we can see that McBride is a key person in the identity of the Minnesota Lynx. As a result, she was awarded a multi-year contract extension that will keep her in a Lynx uniform for the next few seasons.

“We like where we’re at, but even more, we like where we’re headed,” said McBride. “[We like] what we’ve built and are continuing to build. We still have more to give, and our goals are way bigger.”

When asked about what this signals to the rest of the league, Reeve admitted she wasn’t thinking about that.

“Our priority in this is KMac’s career and continuing it with the Lynx. If there’s good that comes from that externally, that’s beyond our control, that’s great,” said Reeve. “We’re very excited to have someone like Kayla McBride go forward for a few more seasons.”

In 10 seasons in the WNBA with San Antonio, Las Vegas and Minnesota, McBride has totaled 4,209 points, 986 rebounds, 676 assists and 318 steals in 294 games (291 starts). She tallied her 4,000th career point on July 30, 2023 at Connecticut and connected on her 500th career three-point field goal on Aug. 24, 2023 in Dallas. She currently stands 16th all-time in the WNBA three-point field goals made (509).

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