This offseason was going to be a unique one for Kayla McBride. For the first time in her seven-year WNBA career, the three-time All-Star was about to decide where she wanted to spend at least the next few years of her career. When free agency opened up in January and McBride hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent, plenty of teams were expected to check in with her about signing with them for the 2021 season and beyond.
One of the first teams to reach out to her was the Minnesota Lynx and head coach/general manager Cheryl Reeve. Shortly after the two sides agreed to a contract, Reeve and the organization even sent McBride a package to Istanbul — where she is currently playing overseas — filled with Lynx gear and some confetti.
“I had things on my mind of where I wanted to go, the type of team and coach I wanted to play for. (Reeve) was one of the first people to hit me up,” McBride said in her first media availability on Tuesday. “There was a lot of love, a lot of confidence, and it made me excited right off the bat. She sent a package over to Istanbul and everything, so I could feel the love from day one. I’m just so, so excited to finally be here with Minnesota. I can’t wait to get to know the city, my teammates, the fans, and bring that will to win and that competitiveness.
“I’m at the point in my career where I’m ready to take another step. After having conversations with coach Reeve, it just feels right as a place where I can take that step.”
Coming into the offseason with a decent amount of flexibility when it came to cap space available, Reeve and Co. had big goals regarding who the Lynx could land in free agency leading up to the new year. One of the top players on the list of targets was McBride: a player Reeve has long admired.
“We made it known from the very beginning that Kayla should not be anywhere else other than with the Minnesota Lynx,” Reeve said. “I can’t find somebody that comes more highly recommended in terms of people that have coached her. I heard from many people when it was leaked that we had agreed to terms (on a contract). … It just reinforced everything we had thought about Kayla McBride.
“This comes at the most perfect time, and we’re excited about the ways that we could use her on the court. I think we’ve got a great team for her to be a part of, and I think our culture was appealing. She’s a perfect fit into that.”
TAKING HER GAME TO THE NEXT LEVEL
McBride, who will turn 29 years old in June, has already put together a solid career after being drafted No. 3 overall in 2014 out of Notre Dame. That resume includes being named a WNBA All-Star three times while also winning two championships overseas. But with the Lynx, McBride has the hopes of taking her game up a notch and reaching heights she hasn’t gotten to through seven years as a pro.
“I’m coming to an organization that has won championships and has had Hall of Famers and Olympians. Putting myself in that category is the next step,” McBride said. “I’m 28 years old, I feel like I’m in the prime of my career, and I feel like it’s time for me to take that next step. … First and foremost, it’s about championships. I don’t have one in the WNBA. Being a part of an organization like this where they breed them, that’s an obvious thing that happens in being around a culture such as this one.
“I can’t play basketball forever, so it was important for me to go somewhere I could maximize and continue to get better right away. Minnesota was a place that was atop my list.”
Taking the next step in her career was a big reason McBride decided on signing with Minnesota as a free agent, and the winning culture established by Reeve and her staff was why the guard put the Lynx atop her list of destinations to want to play in.
“First of all, the winning. … They’ve created a dynasty. Being a young player and having to play against those teams, you could feel it,” McBride said. “You could feel the energy in the building, and you could feel the energy in the city around this team. Automatically, as a competitor, you want to be a part of a winning team. Coach Reeve has done a great job over the last decade she’s been there in creating that culture and creating that environment for this team in this city.
“It was kind of a no-brainer. I kind of felt like I knew before I told coach (of the decision to sign with Minnesota), but I couldn’t tell her that. Right off the bat, it’s something that you have an immediate respect for and something you want to be a part of.”
In 2020, McBride also got a unique look inside the Lynx organization and how it operates with playing in the bubble at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. Being around and seeing other WNBA teams daily gave her the realization that Minnesota was indeed a place she could see herself playing at some point in her career.
“Seeing the success Minnesota had and the camaraderie they had and the culture they already stood on, you could definitely feel that. As a player, especially when you’ve been in the league a long time, it doesn’t go unnoticed,” she said. “I think it’s just a testament to coach and her staff and the players. In a stressful environment, they were still able to have success. … It was something I wanted to be a part of.”
With big goals on both the mind of McBride and the Lynx heading into 2021, the newcomer will jump right into the starting lineup in Minnesota while trying to help it return to championship contention in the new year. And if McBride’s play on the court matches her determination off of it, she could be the missing piece to helping the Lynx return to being title contenders once again.
“I’m here to add to the players who are around us. It’s about how I can complement who we already have,” McBride said. “The amount of respect that I already had for this organization and to now be a part of it, it makes me so excited. We have a great group, a great young core, and a great balance.
“I’m counting down the days until I can get to the Twin Cities and get to know the city and everybody involved and to hopefully bring another championship to Minnesota.”