Lynx Honor Whalen with Jersey Retirement, Fall Short to Sparks

Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

For over two decades, including for over half of her 15-year WNBA career, Lindsay Whalen gave the entire state of Minnesota and the Minnesota Lynx everything she had on and off the basketball court.

That led to endless wins, accomplishments, accolades and — yes — eventually championships.

On Saturday afternoon, the state and its fans, along with the Lynx organization, did a small part in trying to give back to Whalen and try and put into words what she means to her home state by retiring her No. 13 jersey in the rafters at Target Center.

“(She means a lot) to the state of Minnesota, both girls and boys. I’ve met so many people in my 10th season now, people that are following Lynx basketball because of Lindsay Whalen,” Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said pre-game. “It’s countless amounts of people in Minnesota and just people that appreciate women’s basketball.”

Prior to Minnesota taking on the Los Angeles Sparks in Minneapolis on Saturday afternoon, the Lynx held a pre-game ceremony officially retiring Whalen’s jersey, the first jersey to be retired in franchise history.

“It was a tremendous video that the Lynx did, which isn’t surprising, it was very first-class,” Whalen said. “It’s great. To be up there (in the Target Center rafters) with Malik Sealy and Flip (Saunders), two people who I grew up watching. It’s pretty cool.”

During the ceremony, Whalen and her family sat in a row of chairs placed on the court she spent countless years playing on, looking up at the big screen hanging above the court as a nine-minute tribute video played.

In the video, some of Whalen’s family members, former coaches and Lynx players both past and present expressed their gratitude and shared their messages thanking Whalen for her contributions to the game of basketball in her home state.

The video, which featured Whalen’s close friends and former teammates Seimone Augustus and Rebekkah Brunson, was narrated by Maya Moore.

“She’s not just one of the best female basketball players from the state of Minnesota,” Reeve said when making appearance in the video talking about her former point guard, “she’s one of the best athletes ever, male or female, from this state with what she’s accomplished.”

Following the tribute video, Whalen and her family took center court and watched as the curtain covering her now-retired number was removed, displaying a No. 13 Lynx Whalen jersey that will forever hang in the Target Center rafters next to four WNBA Championship banners.

“This is incredible. Thank you to this franchise, the Lynx, the best organization in the league. The video was top-notch and everything that the Lynx do is first class,” Whalen said as she addressed the crowd during the ceremony. “I’m just so honored to be a part of this. Thank you to the team, to (Lynx owner) Glen (Taylor), to coach and everybody here. It’s been a wild ride and it’s been fun.

“I like where they put the banner, next to my favorite championship in 2017 when we beat LA. Let’s go out and let’s beat them again today.”

Over her 15-year WNBA career, most of which came in her home state of Minnesota, Whalen won four WNBA championships, is still the league’s all-time wins leader with 323 career wins, ranks third in WNBA history in assists and is a six-time All-Star, two-time Olympic Gold medalist while remaining the only player in WNBA history with at least 5,000 points, 2,000 assists and 1,500 rebounds in her career.

Whalen also ranks first in Minnesota franchise history in assists (1,394), second in games played (283), fourth in scoring (3,233) and holds the single-season franchise record for assists (199 in 2011) as well as a share of the franchise’s mark for most assists in a game (14 vs. Los Angeles in 2013).

“Her jersey is in the rafters because she’s a winner, the all-time winningest player in the WNBA,” Reeve said of Whalen. “The class act on and off the court and the trust, the elite nature in the way that she conducts her business. That’s what led to the winning.”

In a packed arena at Target Center on Saturday afternoon, an endless number of people wore their No. 13 Whalen jerseys to help celebrate the storied legacy of one of the state’s most decorated athletes.

“What’s a legacy? Lindsay, your legacy, it’s pretty simple when you think about it,” current Connecticut head coach and Whalen’s former USA Basketball coach Geno Auriemma said in the tribute video. “The game of basketball existed long before you got here and it will exist way after you leave. But you made the game better, and the game was better because you were in it.

“I don’t think there’s a better legacy than that.”

Lynx Come Up Short in First Home Loss

Following the Whalen pre-game jersey retirement ceremony, the Lynx took on the Sparks on Saturday afternoon at Target Center.

After starting the regular season with a perfect 3-0 record at home heading into the game, Minnesota suffered its first home loss of the year, falling to Los Angeles 89-85.

“We couldn’t pull one out for (Whalen). This was supposed to be for (Whalen),” Reeve said after the game. “Just another night where we had 21 turnovers.”

Much like what happened in their win over the Phoenix Mercury on Thursday night, the Lynx fell behind early in Saturday’s game, only to climb their way back into the game late.

Minnesota, which trailed by as many as 13 points and took a 44-39 deficit into halftime, opened the third quarter on an 18-6 run and even took the lead in the third before trailing 67-66 going into the fourth.

Los Angeles was able to hold off a late-game comeback by Minnesota in the fourth quarter to come away with the road win. With her team hanging onto an 85-83 lead with 11 seconds left, Sparks guard Chelsea Gray hit a jumper with 8.5 to go to ultimately give Los Angeles the victory.

“They only had 1.6 seconds left on the shot clock, we didn’t want to foul. We didn’t want to foul, we wanted them to miss and then we would have taken a timeout and it’s only a two-point game,” Reeve said. “We didn’t want Gray to catch the ball that deep and to be that good.”

Lexie Brown continued to stay hot off the bench for Minnesota, leading the way by tallying a career-high 21 points in 30 minutes.

Sylvia Fowles finished with a double-double of 20 points and 13 rebounds. In the game, she also became the fifth player in WNBA history to record over 5,000 career points and over 3,000 career rebounds.

Outside of Brown and Fowles, rookie Napheesa Collier added 18 points, eight rebounds and five assists, Odyssey Sims had 11 points, seven assists and six rebounds in her first game against her former team and Jessica Shepard had six points, five assists and four rebounds for the Lynx, which finished shooting 43.3 percent from the field.

Riquna Williams finished with 25 points, four assists and four rebounds and Gray tallied 21 points and four assists to lead Los Angeles, who were without starters Candace Parker (hamstring) and Alana Beard (left leg) in the contest.

The Lynx (4-2 overall) will get a few days off to start the week before hitting the road to face the New York Liberty at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Westchester County Center in New York.

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