My Minnesota Lynx Win WNBA Championship

Minnesota Lynx Win WNBA ChampionshipHow do I put into words my emotions at being part of a packed arena of WNBA Minnesota Lynx fans cheering for women playing basketball? Almost 40 years after my teammates and I played ball with empty stomachs in empty arenas in the fledgling WBL, the first women’s pro league, I witnessed the first game of a WNBA final series between the nation’s 2 best teams.

The Lynx hosted the LA Sparks in front of 11,823 fans electrifying historic Williams Arena (University Minnesota) known as the “Barn.” Four league MVPs –Sylvia Fowles, Maya Moore, Candace Parker, Nneke Ogwumike – and Alana Beard, defensive MVP, matched up on the floor to compete.

From the moment I entered the arena, I felt like a star, as I pulled on my complimentary 2017 MVP Sylvia Fowles T-shirt draped over my seat. Before tip off as tradition, fans stood until the Lynx scored their first basket. Only they didn’t score.

The Lynx started the game with a 28-2 point deficit and clawed their way back into the game. In the final minutes, the score ricocheted back and back forth and noise reached a crescendo.

The Barn rocked. The roar deafened. The intensity grew. In the end, my Lynx lost by one point on a fade away jumper by Chelsea Gray in the last 3 seconds. My disappointment was short-lived; they were all winners in my book exemplifying what it means to be champions.

Using sport as a platform to bring about positive change, and in solidarity with the NFL, LA Sparks stayed in the locker room for the national anthem and the Lynx players stood and faced the American flag with their arms locked together in unity.

The athleticism of players like Maya Moore, hanging in the air with Jordanesque moves, or Sylvie Fowles ripping the ball off the glass was stunning; their ability to defy age was equally commendable. With a median age of 30.7 Lynx players, the oldest average in league, showed the young bloods, they still got game.Minnesota Lynx Win WNBA Championship

Nowhere I’d rather to be than Lynx home court. Where else are we offered such wholesome entertainment?

In “our house” we put our differences aside and people of every age, race, and religious affiliation share a moment of good, clean fun. We sang, we danced, we chanted, we waved rally towels, we held our breath in suspense.

For me seeing kids wearing Lynx jerseys emblazoned with favorite players’ names brought the greatest joy. In the children’s eyes dreams sparkled. Today no girl grows up feeling like a misfit, an oddball, or a loser for being big, strong, and athletic. She knows that she belongs on the court, in the classroom, and at the head of the company.

The subliminal girl power message was not lost on me a Title IX pioneer who fought so hard for the right to participate in “boys” games.

How fitting that I should watch the game with my little sister and my daughter. After each great play, Karen fist bumped me with her 1977 first ever girls’ Illinois state basketball championship ring. My daughter, who developed the perseverance playing ball to reach her dream to become a doctor, pumped her fist.Minnesota Lynx Win WNBA Championship

Dreams my generation made possible.

Nearly four decades after women’s pro basketball made its floundering debut and failed, we finally triumphed.

“You done good sister,” Karen said squeezing my hand. “Look what you started, what we started.”

In an epic series, the Lynx would go on to win game five of in front of a sold out crowd at the Barn making history as 4 time national champions.

Unbeknownst to all, I was with them every step of the way


Comments

  1. Rachael Jefferson-Buchanan

    So heartwarming to read this one Pat! 🙌🏻 You’ve still ‘got game’… you will never lose it. Your own pioneering ways for other sportswomen live on in your daughter and in many non-family generations to come. You are a real star that shines brightly every day for basketball and women’s rights. Love and light to you dear friend ⭐️ 😘 Play on, play on, play on in the game of life xxx

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Aw Rach, this is so sweet. I know you know how hard it is to be pioneer as you have done the same in your field. Thanks so much for keeping in touch across the miles and inspiring me with your uplifting words. Sending hugs and love right back at you.

  2. Karen Carlson

    Awwwe #23!!! You say it so well! Super happy to share this experience with you and Nat!! 😊So super Proud of our Champion Lynx Team! 🏀💙Feeling Super blessed to have followed Pioneers like you to enable women opportunities in the sports World!❤

    1. Pat McKinzie

      One of the highlights of my summer was seeing the game with my daughter and sisters. So proud of our Maya Moore too. I don’t think it is just a coincidence that she is wearing our lucky number. So glad to be sharing “our house” with family.

  3. Michael Korcek

    Congrats on a truly excellent column (again). You could be down and bitter about the state of women’s sport in your day, but instead you celebrated the progress and development of today’s talented players,
    plus envied the inspirational aspects for girls.

    Think I told you this story. When Jane Albright coached the NIU women’s basketball team (and to five NCAAs and a NWIT), it was an educational experience for this old guy in more ways than one.
    Yes, as a young man, I wanted to emulate Julius Erving (fat chance, Mike), but I never realized that young girls in DeKalb wanted to be NIU’s point guard, run a team on the floor, and be a leader. Being a stupid male from the Baby Boom generation, I never saw my sister in that light (and in high school in the 1960s, girls were wearing those bloomers and limited to the Girls Recreation Association of whatever that was).

    Great job!!

  4. Debbie

    How cool, Pat! Lots of people start things but never live long enough to see the results of their efforts. You are! How wonderful that these young women are being celebrated for their abilities, that they never knew the struggles of those early years. Good that you got to see some of the action with some of your favorite people, too!

    1. Pat McKinzie

      Thanks Debbie. Yes, you are right that too often people never know the results of their efforts and I felt so lucky to be able to witness firsthand the outcome. I think the impression was magnified thousandfold by the fact that I lived my adult life after basketball overseas so I was unable to see firsthand the impact Title IX had on girls’ lives.

    1. Pat McKinzie

      It was thrilling especially watching the excitement with my younger sister and daughter, who both had the opportunity to play basketball competitively because of the efforts of my generation. I am only sorry that we didn’t have Title IX sooner so that you could have participated because with your vision and team spirit I am sure you would have made an excellent point guard.

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