Web Editorial Associate
In honor of Lindsay Whalen becoming the all-time winningest player in WNBA history, we take a look back at her journey to win No. 295:
Win No. 1: May 27, 2004 against Los Angeles Sparks
Whalen, who made her WNBA on May 22, 2004 for the Connecticut Sun, secured her first win in her WNBA career in just her third professional game.
Whalen and the Sun topped the Los Angeles Sparks 82-73, a game that the point guard remembers well.
“I remember that we had lost our first two games that season and I remember just wanting to really come in and only distribute because I had a lot of vets on my team,” Whalen recalled. “I didn’t shoot the ball and I was open a few times and finally Katie Douglas, a great leader, said ‘if you’re going to be out here, you need to shoot the ball.’ That game, I knew in order to get the assists I wanted to get, I also needed to be willing to shoot the jumpshot and be aggressive. That was a good lesson I learned early.”
Whalen finished game with the first double-digit point total of her young career, tallying 10 points, seven assists, three rebounds and two steals in 33 minutes.
But most importantly, her team got the win. The first of many for Whalen.
“That was great. It was probably my second start overall,” she said. “Just to get that first win and you’re a rookie and your so new to everything, it’s a good feeling.”
Whalen, coming off of helping the University of Minnesota to its first NCAA Tournament Final Four appearance in April of 2004, went on to have immediate success in the WNBA.
Whalen, who made her first WNBA All-Star appearance as a rookie, went on to reach the WNBA Finals in both the 2004 and 2005 seasons, ultimately coming up short of the title in both seasons.
“It taught me that if you play the right way and you’re a good teammate, you can make the Finals by working really hard. It also taught me that it’s not easy to win them, because we lost those two. It’s not easy to come out on top,” Whalen recalled. “It shows that I kind of felt like I belonged. My senior year of college I went to the Final Four, then back-to-back Finals, so it kind of felt like that’s where I was supposed to be and I was a player capable of leading a team to the Finals. I gained a lot of confidence those years.”
Win No. 50: June 11, 2006 against Washington Mystics
Not only did Whalen record win No. 50 during the 2006 season, but she was also selected to her second WNBA All-Star Game in just three seasons.
In an 85-71 win over the Washington Mystics on June 11, Whalen recorded her 50th victory of her career. She finished with four points, four assists and three rebounds in 29 minutes.
Although Whalen’s statistics may not have been as great as she would have liked, she said there are always other things she can to do on the court to help her team win.
“I obviously didn’t score very many, but sometimes as a point guard that’s how it goes,” Whalen said. “We had some good battles with Washington back in the day. . . We had some playoff battles with them that were some pretty fun games.”
Later that season, Whalen and the Sun once again returned to the playoffs with the hopes of reaching the WNBA Finals for a third straight year. They ended up coming up just short of accomplishing that, falling in the Eastern Conference Finals 2-1.
The following season, Whalen’s fourth year in 2007, Connecticut had its title hopes end in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, losing 2-1 in a best-of-three series.
Win No. 100: July 1, 2008 against Houston Comets
In 2008, Whalen felt like she and her Connecticut teammates were on a mission to prove themselves.
Everybody was counting them out. But as everyone should know, when you have Whalen on your team, you always have a good chance to win.
Whalen went on to have one of her most successful seasons in a Sun uniform. Along with becoming Connecticut’s all-time assist leader during the year, Whalen was narrowly edged for league MVP by Los Angeles rookie Candace Parker in the closest vote ever.
On July 1 against the Houston Comets, the Sun saw themselves come away with a 78-67 win, Whalen’s 100th victory of her career.
In the game, Whalen recorded 14 points, nine assists, five rebounds and three steals in 34 minutes.
“Those were probably some of my better years statistics wise. I was definitely in those prime years of just playing great and was confident,” Whalen said. “In 2008, it was kind of like me and Asjha Jones’ team out there. We had a team that wasn’t picked to do much that year and we came out and won 20 games or so.”
Whalen went on to make her fifth-straight playoff appearance with the Sun in her fifth season. Connecticut ended up having its season end in the Eastern Conference semifinals, losing 2-1.
In 2009 and 2010, Whalen found herself not competing in the postseason for the first time in her WNBA career. Those two seasons, however, would be the last.
Win No. 150: August 4, 2011 against San Antonio Silver Stars
Prior to the 2010 season, Whalen found out that she had been traded. But not just to any team, to her home state team, the Minnesota Lynx.
Although the first year Whalen was back in Minnesota ended up being somewhat of a rebuilding year, 2011 was when the Lynx turned the corner.
During that season, Whalen recorded win No. 150 of her career in a 62-60 win over the Becky Hammon-led San Antonio Silver Stars. In that game, Whalen recorded nine points, six assists, four rebounds and three steals in 33 minutes.
“That’s something that was great and it’s something I will always cherish for sure, being able to come back,” Whalen said. “Everybody knows, 2011 is the year we kind of put this thing together here. It was one of those years where everything went well and we kind of got going the right way. It was a good one for us.”
That season was one where Minnesota’s journey to where they are today began. And Whalen has been a huge part of it.
In 2011, Whalen and the Lynx went on to have the best regular season in franchise history. After sitting out the last two postseasons, Whalen returned to the playoffs and led Minnesota to the WNBA Finals.
The Lynx went on to secure the first championship in franchise history and Whalen was able to say, after falling short in the WNBA Finals her first two seasons, that she was a champion.
“We won 27 games that year, won the Finals, got our first ring and then got back to the Finals,” Whalen said. “It was a lot of fun and it showed that all our hard work going into that season really paid off for sure.”
The Lynx had almost an identical season in 2012, winning 27 regular season games and cruising through the playoffs. But Minnesota ultimately fell to Indiana in the WNBA Finals, 3-1.
Win No. 200: July 13, 2013 against Tulsa Shock
The 2013 season will go down as one of Whalen’s best seasons in the WNBA, for many reasons.
On July 13, she recorded win No. 200 of her career in an 86-75 win over the Tulsa Shock. Whalen finished with 25 points, 11 assists and two rebounds in 36 minutes.
Whalen also had statistically her best season of her career, finishing the year averaging 14.9 points (career-best to date), 5.8 assists (career-best to date) and 4.4 rebounds per game.
Whalen and the Lynx also went on to win their second WNBA Championship in three seasons, going an undefeated 7-0 in the playoffs.
“There’s a competitive drive that Lindsay has that is combined with this incredible intelligence for the game,” Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve said. “She hates to lose and she’s really smart. . . It’s unprecedented and it didn’t just happen by chance that this team became successful, it’s Lindsay Whalen being at the lead of this group. We go as Lindsay goes.”
In 2014, the Lynx fell shy of returning to the WNBA Finals for a fourth straight season, losing 2-1 in the Western Conference Finals.
Win No. 250: July 14, 2015 against Connecticut Sun
During the 2015 season, Whalen secured win No. 250 against her former team the Connecticut Sun almost exactly two years after getting win No. 200.
In the 85-79 win over Sun on July 14, Whalen tallied nine points, six assists, two rebounds and two steals in 33 minutes.
Later that season, Whalen and the Lynx further cemented their dynasty when they went on to once again appear in the WNBA Finals and win their third championship in five seasons.
“That third one, you really knew it was something really special. I also left that year motivated because I was injured that year and I wanted to kind of come back in 2016 and show that I was still healthy and a good player and somebody that can be counted on on the team,” Whalen said. “I didn’t like missing those four games in the regular season and I didn’t really feel like myself in those playoffs. The team played great, (Sylvia Fowles), Maya (Moore), Seimone (Augustus), everyone played great. I just didn’t have my bounce after I had my Achilles strain.”
After the 2015 season, Whalen decided she wouldn’t go overseas during the offseason, but rather stay home and focus on how she can continue to help the Lynx build onto something special.
“After that year, we won our third, but I left super motivated that offseason to come back and have a really productive season in 2016 and now in 2017,” she said. “I left that season of that feeling that we won, I know what we built, this is three, but you want four and you want another won. I left that season super motivated and I think that’s carried over into 2016 and 2017.”
It certainly did carry over to the 2016 season, where Whalen and the Lynx recorded a 28-win season and returned to their fifth WNBA Finals in six years. Minnesota ended up losing in a heartbreaker to the Los Angeles Sparks, 3-2.
Win No. 295: June 9, 2017 against Washington Mystics
As Whalen approached win No. 295, she flashed back to the start of her WNBA career and remembered thinking it was not even possible to top Swin Cash’s 294 career wins.
Well, on June 9, Whalen did just that.
With Minnesota’s 98-73 win over the Washington Mystics, Whalen became the all-time leader in wins in WNBA history.
In the milestone victory, the 14-year veteran recorded two points, six assists and two rebounds in 18-plus minutes.
The victory kind of brought everything full circle for the Hutchinson native. Her head coach when she was drafted by Connecticut in 2004, Mike Thibault, is now the head coach of Washington, who the Lynx beat to help Whalen achieve win No. 295.
“I’ve been on some great teams that we’ve all enjoyed this ride together. When I look back on all the things I’ve gotten to do and see and be a part of, it’s very special,” Whalen said. “It’s very cool and it makes to really appreciate all the hard work that every organization from your owner to the players to everybody in the facility doing all of this hard work. It really makes you appreciate all those things, because there is so much that goes into it. I’ve been able to benefit from a lot of those things.”
Win No. 295 officially makes Whalen the all-time winningest player in league history, and anyone will tell you that she really has been a winner her entire career. That’s all she’s ever known.
Congratulations to one of the best to ever play in WNBA. Here’s to many more victories.