The 2017 WNBA season was a memorable one for the Minnesota Lynx for many reasons.
Whether it was the 20-2 start to the year, finishing the regular season 27-7 to claim the top seed in the playoffs or ultimately winning another WNBA title to cap off a historic decade run, that season is one of the last moments Minnesota fans have been able to hang onto now that the franchise has since undergone an overhaul of the roster.
At 7 p.m. CT Thursday night, basketball fans will get to relive the final game of the that 2017 Lynx campaign, when Fox Sports North airs its eighth and final Lynx Classics game on the network. FSN will air Game 5 of the 2017 WNBA Finals from Oct. 4, 2017, when Minnesota hosted its rival the Los Angeles Sparks in a winner-take-all contest at Williams Arena.
For Lynx fans, they know well how that season, that series and that game ended: With Minnesota claiming its fourth championship in a seven-year stretch behind an 85-76 victory in front of a sold-out crowd at The Barn.
For a little over a year and during the 2017 WNBA season, before I began writing here at Zone Coverage, I worked for the Timberwolves and Lynx as the organization’s web editorial associate.
Before Game 5 re-airs on Thursday, I want to take you back to that Finals series and the games leading up to Game 5, also giving an in-person perspective from the thrilling winner-take-all contest and the celebration that followed in Minneapolis shortly after.
Coming into the Finals series, there was no hiding the fact that the Lynx were determined to get revenge after falling to the Sparks in five games in the championship series the year prior.
That motivated Minnesota right out of the gate as it opened the Finals up at Williams Arena against Los Angeles.
In the first two games of the series at The Barn, the best-of-five Finals started as everyone expected. Both games were back-and-forth contests and resulted in the teams splitting the pair of games while the series shifted to Staples Center in Los Angeles.
In a spur-of-the-moment decision, a few other Lynx employees and I made the trip to Los Angeles for Games 3 and 4, not knowing if the Lynx season would come to an end on the floor of their biggest rival.
After falling in Game 3, Minnesota bounced back in a big way in Game 4 to even the series at 2-2 and bring a Game 5 back to Minneapolis once again.
As we were heading out for the night following that Game 4 win, I was walking back out to the arena after finishing a game recap when I ran into Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen as she exited the locker room to walk out of the tunnel to the arena.
I asked Whalen a bit about the game and what she thought about going back to The Barn a few days later for Game 5 — a place she was very familiar with from her time with the Gophers — and what she expected the crowd to be like.
Her response was something I’ll never forget. It was like she already knew what the outcome of the game would be.
“Lynx fans will be loud, I’m sure. We need that place packed,” she told me. “It’s Minnesota and The Barn, there aren’t many better environments to play a game like this. I’m ready for it, are you?”
The anticipation and build-up to the winner-take-all Game 5 on Oct. 4 was understandably intense. One team was ultimately going to be crowned WNBA Champions at the end of that night.
From the time the ball was tipped, both teams went neck-and-neck for the first three quarters in front of a deafening crowd at Williams Arena. In the fourth quarter, however, Minnesota did just enough to pull out the victory at home.
For me, and other Lynx employees I was sitting next to during that fourth quarter, we were planning for every scenario in that final 10-minute frame.
‘If the Lynx lose, we will publish this story. If they win, we will do all of this.’
”Oh, it looks like L.A. might pull away.’
‘Whoa, Maya Moore really just hit THAT shot and that might seal it for the Lynx. Holy crap, they’re going to win this.’
Our minds were literally going in every direction.
Ultimately, Minnesota pulled out the win to grab its fourth title in franchise history and get its revenge on Los Angeles for the year prior. The Lynx were champions, but the night was just beginning there.
As the confetti fell to the Williams Arena floor and it set in for everyone that the Lynx were the 2017 champions, I’m not really sure I totally remember the 20 or 30 minutes from the end of the game until the locker room availability.
After the on-court ceremony where then-WNBA President Lisa Borders presented the Lynx with the championship trophy and Sylvia Fowles was awarded Finals MVP, the celebration began in the home locker room for the now four-time league champs.
While waiting with other media members outside of the entrance to the locker room, the champagne bottles were rolled in, players started to make their way from the court to the locker room and you could start to hear the celebration beginning for Cheryl Reeve and her team in the tarp-covered locker room.
Entering the locker room once coaches and players were made available to the media prior to the post-game press conferences, every Lynx player was sporting a championship shirt while wearing some goggles to keep the champagne out of their eyes.
The rest of the media wasn’t lucky enough to have thought of goggles. My eyes might still be burning.
After post-game media availability concluded, everyone departed — for me, pretty much soaked from the locker room celebration — after having experienced and covered one of the best WNBA games and Finals contests we can remember.
In the following days, the Lynx held a championship parade in Minneapolis, traveling down University Avenue and ending at Williams Arena.
Minnesota fans flooded the streets for the parade and filled up The Barn once more to celebrate the latest title won by a historically dominant Lynx squad. The response and support from the fans and the amount of people that showed up to that parade and celebration somewhat surprised me. People were everywhere.
That season, that series and that game created many fond memories for Lynx fans and everyone who either watched that 2017 season and Finals series on television or experienced it in person. I’m lucky that I was able to be there in person for it.
On Thursday night on Fox Sports North, Minnesotans and basketball fans at large will once again get to experience what once was during a dynasty run that was capped off with a Game 5 victory on Oct. 4, 2017 in Minneapolis.