The Minnesota Linux They were staring at the prospect of losing a second consecutive championship to Los Angeles SparksAnd bouncer Lindsay Whalen didn’t own it. The relationship between the two teams was lukewarm and it was a physical streak – both times.
She was about to get more physical.
Early in Game 4 of the 2017 WNBA Finals in Los Angeles, Sparks guard Odyssey Sims He was on his way to a separate layup, and Whalen was determined to stop him. Later that night while eating Thai food and wine, she told her teammates what she was thinking at that moment.
“It was premeditated,” said Wallen, who will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as part of the 2022 class on Saturday. “I wasn’t going to hurt her or get fired, but I knew I was probably going to catch a nasty shriek because I was going to make a horrible mistake. I wanted to see how the sparks would react.”
“I knew my team was on my side. We were down 2-1; in match 3 we had just been beaten. I looked at the two lists: they had a lot of players in their first matches. A lot of us were near the end of our careers. I thought at that point, they They were more talented. But I was going to text this mistake: ‘Hey, we’re here all night, you have to run through us to win.’ And the rest is, well, history.
Whalen received the glaring error but tune was set. The Lynx won the game and the decisive Game 5 again in Minneapolis to capture the franchise’s fourth title.
A year later, Whalen retired and will now be the first Lynx baseball team to enter the Hall of Fame. A native of Minnesota, a state known for American folklore, Whalen was the women’s basketball version of Paul Bunyan, except that it was 100% real. It is for this reason that she was so loved by her teammates and fans.
Minnesota women’s basketball led the Gopher – where she now serves as head coach – to the 2004 Final Four, and was the No. 4 selection in the WNBA Draft that year. Minnesota residents desperately wanted her to go to Lynx, but the state of Connecticut chose her. She played in the WNBA Finals with The Sun before the trade brought her home in 2010 and helped launch the Lynx dynasty under coach Sheryl Reeve.
The 5-foot-9 Whalen was also part of the group of point guards – along with players like So BirdBecky Hamon Courtney Vanderslot And the Chelsea Gray – who redefined what a position could do in the WNBA. Whalen was the leading passer-by and leader, but she also managed to score at a high level when needed.
“You can always count on Whay getting us into our groups and being that year,” said longtime Lynx teammate Whalen’s, Rebecca Bronson. “But the best thing about her is when she hits…
“We can always count on that. If the play was blown up, we knew we had another offensive threat with it. Her sheer will and determination to get to the edge has always been something Whay has set apart.”
Or, as Beard — Wallen’s Olympic teammate who also played against her for many years in the WNBA — “my thought process was always with Lindsay guarding, ‘The sooner you pick her up, the better. “Because the second time you got that head of strength in the basket, you wouldn’t really be able to stop that. That’s a huge way I affected base development.”
Whalen grew up in Hutchinson, Minnesota, about an hour from Minneapolis. She is the eldest of five children – supervising the group was her first taste of being a head ranger – and she played every sport with the kids around town until dinner time. It’s where Whalen discovered her love for another sport that influenced the kind of player she became.
“I’ve always said she’s a hockey player who plays basketball,” Reeve said. “The physique you imagine in hockey – that was Lindsey along with basketball skills.
“With her size, her physique, her strength, her will… I think she was probably the greatest striker ever in the history of our league. She had this ability to get in there and find a corner of the glass. Her body pops out; she can get where she wants to go.”
Whalen was a center of hockey, but gave up the sport because it wasn’t available to girls in her high school at the time (she proudly says it is now). As a hockey hub, she was skilled at reading pass lanes on both sides and fearlessly smashing the net. In addition, he had a good shot in the right hand. It all translates to hoops.
“I ended up making a career out of my left shoulder, using that and my strength to protect me and get me over the edge,” Wallen said. “I tell people that my left shoulder made me a lot of money.”
So did the Mikan exercise – named after the former George Mikan Center in the Minneapolis Lakers – which Fallen did religiously. She said sometimes, even before training started, she would take 150 corner kicks, which helped her confidence when she was facing a real defense.
Bronson laughed that Whalen never hesitated to delve into the paint no matter how many defenders or how big the defenders were. It wasn’t just that Whalen was willing to make the connection. I thrived on it.
“She was born for it — I don’t think it would have been fun for her if she hadn’t gotten hit on her way to the basket,” Bronson said. “I think the hockey mindset has never left her.”
But Bronson, who now works as Reeve’s assistant with Lynx, also noted that Whalen knew how to manage her teammates’ searches. She knew when the players were in the heat and deserved the ball, and also when they needed it to regain their confidence. Along the same lines, Whalen understood when anyone could use a break, and she was going to play away from them to let them take a break without having to go to the bench.
While her breakthrough engines forced her opponents to guard her and protect her teammates, Whalen could also burn teams off from the ocean. In 15 WNBA seasons — six with the Sun and 9 with Lynx — Whalen averaged 11.5 points, 4.9 assists, and 3.8 rebounds.
Her jump shot was more effective than midrange, but she also made 194 three-pointers in the regular season and 35 in the playoffs. As deadly as Whalen’s engines were, Bird said especially near the end of the games, opponents couldn’t get away from her, because that’s when she was hitting from the outside.
Whalen was also known for her sense of humor and facial expressions in dry Minnesota. She chose the nickname “Weezy” first with Sun, then fellow Lynx Seimone Augustus and others started calling her Weezy F. Baby.
“The F is for the final touch,” Wallen said.
“With her size, her physique, her strength, her will… I think she was probably the greatest goalscorer ever in the history of our league.”
Linux coach Sheryl Reeve on Lindsay Wallen
Bronson said everyone – from coaches to teammates to coaching players, fans and even the occasional referee – got the occasional “weasy look”. It will make them pause, but will often cause them to crack.
“When she was trying to be serious, it was funny,” Bronson said. “She’s probably my all-time favorite teammate because she has this uncanny ability to bring humor into every situation. Weezy’s stare showed me that she can bring light.”
The entire Whalen family—husband Ben Greve, parents Kathy and Neil Whalen and all her siblings—will be in Springfield, Massachusetts, to prep this weekend. She was thinking, especially about how coincidental it all was. Playing for her local college, reaching the Final Four as a senior despite a serious wrist injury that season, being drafted by Connecticut State, returning to Minnesota as a seasoned veteran when there is plenty of talent, including 2011’s #1 draft pick Maya Moore, was in Minneapolis.
She credits Mike Thibault, then-Sun coach, for “making me a professional,” by teaching her many aspects of the sport and how to better prepare physically. While the dream scenario might have been joining Lynx right after he graduated from college, Whalen says she would have been better off getting away from Minnesota and growing up more alone, playing with a coach with NBA experience and then ready for the leadership the Lynx needed.
She says Reeve then “changed the trajectory of my career”. Whalen recalls a two-hour and more conversation in the coach’s office in the summer of 2010, the first season for both of them in Minnesota, when she wasn’t shooting well and Lynx wasn’t winning. Wallen said she realized she needed to recommit. Later that year, she made the US national team first and won a gold medal at the FIBA Women’s Basketball World Cup with coach Geno Orima.
“I started this round where I was able to win trophies,” said Wallen, who then won two Olympic golds and another World Cup gold. “I had great coaches with Mike, Cheryl, and Gno – they weren’t afraid to push me and tell me what to do, and I wasn’t afraid to listen.”
Whalen is now walking on the sidelines at the Williams Arena, where she also claimed her last WNBA title. Renovation work was done at the Target Center in 2017, so Lynx played the WNBA Finals home games that year at Williams, where Whalen was a college star.
After winning Game 4 in Los Angeles when Whalen made the cruel mistake that changed that streak, she returned to Williams for Decisive 5 and “probably the strongest game I’ve ever played mentally.
“I was like, ‘Now, there’s no way we lose,’” Wallen said. “We all went to a different place mentally. And we were totally at home.”