Although we won’t see her take the floor anymore as a player, Rebekkah Brunson will continue to have a strong impact on the Minnesota Lynx.
On Tuesday, Brunson officially announced her retirement from the WNBA, ending her 15-year playing career which included nine seasons with the Lynx. She last played in the league in 2018, taking the 2019 campaign off while pondering her future on the court.
Along with that announcement, Minnesota announced that Brunson has been hired by the organization as an assistant coach, joining an all-female coaching staff alongside assistants Katie Smith and Plenette Pierson within head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve’s staff.
“We have three of the greatest mentors that we could possibly have that are on our staff. At this particular time, where our franchise is, that’s going to be vital,” Reeve said during a press conference on Tuesday in Minneapolis. “It’s a tremendous day for our franchise and we are really happy to have Rebekkah remain with the organization. This is just a special time for us.”
The Lynx will also retire Brunson’s No. 32 jersey at a game this summer, becoming the second player in franchise history to get her jersey and number retired so far.
“This is really an odd situation here. I’m always grateful to this city and to this sport for what it’s given to me. I hope that I have made all of the fans happy and made Minnesota happy and the league happy with what I have tried to give it back in return,” Brunson said during the press conference Tuesday. “One thing that has always been important to me was not cheating the game. I felt like I did that throughout my career as a player and I hope that moving forward I can continue to not cheat the game by helping these younglings continue to grow and become the players they want to be while continuing to grow the legacy of this franchise and this organization and continue to make this city proud.”
What a Career it Was
As her playing career in the WNBA now comes to an end, Brunson leaves the court as one of the most decorated players in league history.
Coming out of Georgetown in 2004, Brunson was selected with the 10th overall pick by the Sacramento Monarchs in the 2004 WNBA Draft. She spent the first six years of her career with the Monarchs, winning her first league championship in 2005.
After the Monarchs suspended operations in 2009, Brunson made the move to Minnesota after the team selected her in a dispersal draft. From that point on, Brunson and the Lynx created a bond that would run deep for many years to come.
“Rebekkah, you have made me very happy. I think we all share a great appreciation for how you have conducted your business as a professional athlete and how you have represented this organization as a person,” Reeve said during the press conference on Tuesday. “It’s exactly what we want to be about and it could not have gone any better, your time here in Minnesota.”
Brunson, who established the nickname of “The Machine” while in Minnesota, spent nine seasons with the Lynx spanning from 2009-18. During that time, she helped lead Minnesota into creating a dynasty that included winning four WNBA championships over the course of seven seasons.
Along with being the only player in WNBA history to win five league championships, Brunson is the WNBA’s all-time leader in career rebounds (3,356) and offensive rebounds (1,166), also ranking sixth in defensive rebounds (2,190) and career double-doubles (82). She retires as the franchise leader in total career rebounds with 2,158.
“It’s been a ride. It’s been a wild ride. All of it has been an amazing part of my journey,” Brunson said. “I think one of the main reasons why I decided to retire now is because (Sylvia Fowles) is right on my heels with that rebounding record, so I wanted to retire being able to say that I was number one when I wanted away.”
A five-time WNBA All-Star and seven-time All-Defensive Team recipient, Brunson is also the league’s all-time leader in postseason wins with 57 over her career. In 453 total games played, she managed to average 9.2 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game.
“It’s been fun, I’ve been blessed. I’ve had amazing teammates, I built some amazing friendships, had some amazing coaching staffs and a beautiful, beautiful fanbase,” Brunson continued. “Thank you guys for continuing to support me and I hope you continue to support us on this new journey.”
The Next Chapter
Since she last stepped on the basketball court as a player during the 2018 season, Brunson’s next chapter and her life outside of playing the game she played for over two decades has begun to take off.
During the current NBA season, Brunson has appeared on Fox Sports North’s pre- and post-game shows as an analyst during Minnesota Timberwolves games, a role she will continue to hold. Brunson and her family have also continued to own and operate their business, Sweet Gypsy Waffles, while living and remaining active within the Twin Cities community.
“It’s been a long time coming and I think I have thought about what is next for a while now after I hadn’t been playing,” Brunson said. “I obviously have enjoyed time with my beautiful family and the little guy, who have brought me a tremendous amount of joy. Also working on other things like our business and building that brand and exploring other opportunities like working with (Marney Gellner) with FSN and continuing to grow in that department (as a Wolves analyst).”
Now, Brunson will be able to add assistant coach in the WNBA to that list of duties.
“(Coaching) has been such an amazing ride for me that I was hopeful that Rebekkah would find that same thing where she got to that same place when the ball stopped bouncing and she’d want to bless us with her talents (as a coach). She’s an unbelievable communicator, which I think will lead to being a great teacher,” Reeve said of Brunson. “I just want her to be herself, because that will come through. She will know exactly what is needed.
“This was obviously an easy decision for us, it was just a matter of whether Rebekkah was ready for this opportunity.”
As an assistant with the Lynx, Brunson’s primary duties in her role will include helping with the team’s scouting efforts as well as assisting with player development of Minnesota’s post players. That role was mainly held by Walt Hopkins — who Brunson played under with the Lynx — for the past three years until he left this offseason to become the new head coach of the New York Liberty.
“I don’t know exactly what coach BB looks like. I think we understand that when (Lindsay) Whalen took on that role (as a coach at the University of Minnesota), she looks just like Cheryl. If you’ve been to a game, you know it’s a little mini-me on the sideline, it’s unreal,” Brunson said. “Cheryl said some things about me being able to break things down for the players and have them have some understanding of what she wants to get out of them. I’ve been through it and I understand what she needs. Even if there is a moment where she can’t really relay something to a player, I hope that I can be that voice.
“I don’t know what that looks like, but I hope that I am a coach that can translate to the players what is really being said and understand what they need to hear to be their best possible selves.”
No. 32 Hanging in the Rafters
Another well-deserved honor that Brunson will receive from the Lynx organization at some point during the 2020 season is being able to see her jersey go up in the Target Center rafters alongside a familiar face.
On Tuesday, Minnesota announced that it would retire Brunson’s No. 32 Lynx jersey at a to-be-announced game this summer. Her jersey will go up in Target Center alongside Lindsay Whalen’s No. 13 jersey as the only two players to have their numbers retired by the organization so far. Once Seimone Augustus retires, which will likely occur following the 2020 campaign, her jersey will also join Whalen and Brunson.
“The fact that it will be hanging next to Whalen will have some significance on its own. She is one person that, every time we went to war, I would look at. Every time we had to discuss something or when we were trying to prepare ourselves for what was to come, she’s the person that I would look at. That in itself is so extremely special,” Brunson said. “And then to have them hanging next to all of those (championship) banners that we worked so hard for to put up there, I don’t know right now if I can quantify what it will really mean. I know that it’s going to be something that is going to bring me a lot of joy and a lot of fulfillment knowing that everything we worked for will always be where it lies in the Target Center for all of the fans to continue to see.”
All of the work that Brunson put in on the court and in Minnesota during her playing career and the success that resulted from it all will be reflected forever up in the rafters at Target Center, with her jersey eventually hanging up next to one of her closest teammates and friends.
Now it’s time for her to transition into the next chapter as coach Brunson tries to get a similar result from the rest of the players still currently on the Lynx roster.
“It’s all about the journey that we went through to get to that place. All the hard work, it was already done on all of those road trips, it was done in the locker room, it was done in practice. Everything we already needed to do, we had already done,” Brunson said. “The celebration, that was the icing on the cake, but it was really about all the work that we put in and all the things that we were able to pull out of each other. Those are small little microcosms of the bigger picture that we go out and we give to you, but there are so many things that you don’t see that allowed us to be in those situations and be in those moments. Those are the things that I really hold onto.”
“I reflect and I really appreciate everything we got out of it, but the most important thing to me are those relationships that we built,” Brunson continued. “I will always hold onto those conversations and those little things that I did with my teammates and those are the things I will always be most proud of.”