Ever since she started to catch people’s attention with her level of play and joking personality in Hutchinson at a young age, Lindsay Whalen has given her all to the game of basketball in her home state of Minnesota.
Whether it was her lifting her high school team to multiple conference championships, leading the University of Minnesota women’s basketball program to its first-ever Final Four appearance or helping the Minnesota Lynx win four WNBA titles and much more, basketball fans in the state of Minnesota have had a front row seat to witnessing the endless list of accomplishments throughout Whalen’s career.
On Saturday afternoon at Target Center, fans from all over the state will have the opportunity to once again pack an arena and witness yet another accomplishment of Whalen’s while celebrating her decorated career.
Before Minnesota faces off against one of its rivals, the Los Angeles Sparks, at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday in Minneapolis, the Lynx organization will officially retire Whalen’s No. 13 Lynx jersey in a pre-game ceremony.
The retirement of Whalen’s jersey will be the first Lynx jersey in the franchise’s history to be hung in the rafters at Target Center, the same arena that continues to display the four championship banners she helped secure.
“It’s about time, she worked for it. Lindsay is like the Mayor of Minnesota,” said Sylvia Fowles, who played with Whalen from 2015-18. “She deserves everything she’s got coming to her.”
This isn’t the first time that Whalen has been honored with a jersey retirement. She already has her No. 13 retired at the University of Minnesota, where she is now the head coach of the women’s basketball program. Last November, her old high school gym at Hutchinson High School was also renamed as the Whalen Gymnasium.
“It’s going to be very, very special. She’s so deserving of it,” Danielle Robinson said of Whalen’s Lynx jersey retirement on Saturday. “Obviously I was able to play against her for some years and got to play with her last year, and I just got to recognize how special she is and what she means to the state and the organization’s she’s played for. The U is obviously very special to her as well as the Lynx, but also Connecticut.”
To say that Whalen is deserving of being the first Lynx player to have her jersey retired would be an understatement.
Over her 15-year WNBA career, where she averaged 11.5 points and 4.9 assists in 477 games, 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).
“She’s was OK. I see a bunch of stuff in the record books,” Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve joked. “The way that she did it, her personality, who she is as a teammate, who she’s been as kind of Minnesota’s favorite daughter and what she’s done for the state. Not for just fans, but for young girls and boys around the state.”
Whalen has meant a lot to many during her time on the floor as a basketball player in her home state. But perhaps the more impressive thing is what she has and continues to mean to her fans, coaches, teammates and many others off the floor as well.
“I just think that she’s a special person outside of all the basketball accomplishments,” Robinson said. “She makes sure that everyone is cared for and feels loved and I think that’s something that is lacking in this world and something that she brings to every single person that she comes in contact with.”
Even though she is no longer on the team, Whalen continues to stay involved with the Lynx organization and often stays in touch with her former teammates. She has also been to a few home games so far this season at Target Center.
“Besides an amazing friend, she is that mentor that I can always depend on,” Fowles said. “I was just telling somebody, Lindsay still hits me up after every game telling me what I can do better, the things that she sees and stuff like that. That means a lot to me and I always cherish that.”
Whalen spent over two decades giving her all to the game of basketball and leaving everything out on the floor in her home state.
On Saturday afternoon in downtown Minneapolis, the Lynx will try to reward her for all of those efforts by having her jersey forever raised above the very same court she created many fond memories on.
“I’m honored to have played with her and even more honored to call her a friend,” Robinson said. “I know I can always count on her for advice or for anything and I’m really looking forward to being there on Saturday and seeing her number go up.”