It was December of 2009 and the Minnesota Lynx were now a few months removed from going 14-21 overall and missing the postseason for the fifth straight season during the 2009 WNBA campaign.
The Lynx had just announced they hired first-time head coach Cheryl Reeve to lead the franchise and help get them back to the postseason. Reeve was arriving to the organization with a proven record of success most recently as an assistant coach of the Detroit Shock with two WNBA titles.
As the newly appointed head coach was making the transition from where she was residing in Michigan to Minnesota to begin her new job, she got a call from then Lynx general manager Roger Griffith asking about a trade for a well-known fan favorite among Minnesota sports fans.
“I got a phone call from Roger and he said we have this offer from Connecticut to trade for Lindsay Whalen, what do you think?” Reeve recalled. “I know that even if I would have said no that he was going to say yes, but it was clear at that time that it was the right thing at the right moment and we were happy to be able to get that done.”
Minnesota ended up making that trade for Whalen, a Hutchinson native who spent her collegiate career playing at the University of Minnesota. The Lynx sent point guard Renee Montgomery and the 2010 No. 1 overall pick to the Sun in exchange for Whalen and the No. 2 pick.
Little did Reeve know, that transaction was going to change everything for Lynx franchise.
“I can’t imagine the last nine years without having made that transaction. I do remember, Roger, that it was met with a little bit of skepticism. They were concerned that Lindsay was washed up, that it was too late (in her career),” Reeve added. “The nine years that we spent together, just incredible when you think about where we started in 2010 and where we finished in 2018. Just an unbelievable ride.”
Whalen went on to spend nine seasons back in her home state with the Lynx, spanning from 2010 to 2018, helping build up the franchise from putting together streaks of missed playoff appearances to one of the most dominant franchises is WNBA history.
“Thank you Roger for making that trade. You remember the date, that’s pretty good,” Whalen said. “To (Lynx and Timberwolves owner) Glen (Taylor) for everything that he has done. … It starts with him and he’s a great leader and he brought the WNBA here and we are all able to flourish.
“Thank you to you guys for bringing me back here and to my teammates for all that we were able to do. It was a very, very special time for all of us.”
Accolades, Memorable Moments and Championships
On Thursday, the Lynx announced that Whalen would become the first player to have her jersey retired in the history of the franchise.
On June 8 prior to Minnesota taking on the Los Angeles Sparks at Target Center, the organization that brought her home via trade before the 2010 season will raise her No. 13 Lynx jersey up into the rafters in an arena about an hour away from where she grew up in Hutchinson.
Thank you to the @minnesotalynx for this amazing honor. None of it is possible without being on a GREAT team and the support of my coaches, teammates, family and friends!!
— Lindsay Whalen (@Lindsay_13) April 19, 2019
That jersey retirement is added to the long list of accolades and accomplishments the Minnesota native accomplished in her home state.
“It just shows what you can do when you work hard, but more than anything, when you surround yourself with really great people. Just what we were all able to do as teammates and as coaches, everything we were all able to do as an organization day-in and day-out,” Whalen said. “The trophies, the rings and now my jersey, to me it’s a symbol of the day-to-day and those relationships that we really built on. We wouldn’t have been able to do any of those things if it wasn’t for the work that we all did together and the day-to-day the work you put in and the sacrifices you make to be a part of a team.”
— FOX Sports North (@fsnorth) April 18, 2019
Whalen has recorded many impressive accolades throughout her career, resulting in multiple championships and a near handful of rings.
The list includes being the WNBA’s all-time leader in wins (323 wins), ranking third in WNBA history in assists, while making six All-Star appearances, 13 trips to the postseason, eight WNBA Finals, winning two Olympic gold medals and taking home four WNBA titles in her storied career.
She’s also atop many Lynx franchise leaderboards, ranking first in franchise history in assists (1,394), second in games played (283) and fourth in scoring (3,233).
“This is somebody that, every single day that she showed up on the job, there was a level of excellence in what she did,” Reeve said. “It was well documented what a teammate, what a leader (she was), but I don’t think you should understate the work, the sacrifice that it takes to perform every single time she played.
“The time that you spend together on that journey. … I just can’t tell you how thankful I am to spend nine years of my career with this very special point guard right here.”
Although she was able to end her playing career with that type of resume, Whalen spent much of her career — as was the case during Thursday’s press conference — pushing the attention away from herself and crediting her teammates and coaches for her success.
“None of this would have happened without success, my jersey wouldn’t be going up there if we didn’t win four championships. Being able to do that with such a special group makes it that much more special,” Whalen said. “I think the biggest thing to take away is that none of this would have happened if it wasn’t getting up for that 4 a.m. flight, getting back and getting yourself ready for the next day or getting yourself ready for that next practice. We did all of that together day-in and day-out.
“Different players on our team sacrificed so many different things. Seimone (Augustus), probably the most unselfish superstar ever, gave up a lot when me, (Rebekkah Brunson), we drafted Maya (Moore) and then we eventually got (Sylvia Fowles), we all gave up a lot during this time. But we did all of that together and wanted to do it together,” Whalen continued. “None of us would trade any of those individual accolades or any of those individual things, because we got to do it as a team and now we have all these rings and all these trophies. … It really was special and was something every day that you wanted to be a part of.”
Whalen’s Impact on Her Home State
To say that Whalen has had a profound impact on the state of Minnesota and beyond is an understatement.
From going to high school at Hutchinson, to staying home and playing college basketball at the University of Minnesota, and leading the Gophers to the Final Four, to winning four titles after being traded back to her home state’s WNBA team, to finally returning to the Gophers after her playing career to coach her alma mater.
“When I go back and think about what Lindsay did for the University of Minnesota, I don’t know if you can think of a more charmed sporting life than what Lindsay has experienced here in Minnesota,” Reeve said. “As a youngster here as a high school player, going to your state school at the University of Minnesota and then to be able to come back here and win championships for the WNBA franchise. And then oh by the way, when you retire she goes and makes four times what she made as a WNBA player and transitions into being a college coach at her alma mater.
“I don’t know that it could have gone any better.”
— FOX Sports North (@fsnorth) April 18, 2019
The impact Whalen has had on the game of basketball is endless, and that is shown by the fact that she has her high school gym named after her at Hutchinson, her jersey retired at the University of Minnesota and now is the first player to get her jersey retired with the Lynx.
But she has also made an impact on areas other than just the sport of basketball. Whalen is a role model for many kids stretching across the state and country.
“To represent the state of Minnesota, Lindsay did it with such grace,” Reeve added. “For players like Lindsay around our state, girls and boys have this tremendous female role model to look up to. It has changed female basketball in our state.
“For Lindsay Whalen’s jersey to be hanging in Target Center, it’s absolutely fitting.”
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