Web Editorial Associate
The term dynasty doesn’t get thrown around very often in the sports world. You have the likes of the NBA’s Chicago Bulls in the 1990’s, the NFL’s New England Patriots in the 2000’s and the MLB’s New York Yankees, among others.
But in the WNBA, that term perfectly describes the Minnesota Lynx in the present. When you win three WNBA championships in six years, reaching the WNBA Finals in five of those six years, you rightfully deserve that description.
As we enter the 2017 WNBA season, the Lynx look to build on to that dynasty.
With the season on the cusp, we take a look back at how the dynasty began, how it was constructed and what has led the Lynx to where they are today.
In 2006, the first piece on the Lynx team arrived in Minnesota.
The Lynx selected Seimone Augustus out of LSU with the No. 1 pick in the WNBA Draft. That selection was the first No. 1 overall selection in the franchise’s history.
Augustus went on to make an immediate impact with the franchise. In her rookie season, she averaged 21.9 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists a game en route to receiving the 2006 WNBA Rookie of the Year award. It was the second Rookie of the Year award given to a Lynx player in team history (Betty Lennox, 2000).
“I think that Seimone, she is kind of a once-in-a-generation kind of player,” Lindsay Whalen said. “Her first couple of years here, she could average 25 or 30 (points per game) . . . I think one of greatest unselfish things a professional athlete can do is kind of what she’s done in welcoming us all in here.
“That’s part of the reason why we have three rings.”
Augustus, who just turned 33 years old in April, is entering her 12th season in 2017. She is the longest tenured player on the Lynx team.
“She was the one that was here before all of us,” Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve said. “It’s hard to argue there’s a better one-on-one player (in league history) . . . I also think her legacy is how much of an unbelievable teammate she is and how fun she is to be around.”
The offseason prior to the 2010 season was one of the busiest offseasons the Lynx have ever experienced.
During the offseason, the Lynx hired a new head coach in Reeve, who was previously an assistant coach for the Detroit Shock.
The team later added two key pieces to the present Lynx roster, selecting Rebekkah Brunson in the Sacramento Monarchs dispersal draft, while also trading for Minnesota-native Lindsay Whalen prior to the 2010 season.
With their new additions, the Lynx missed the playoffs in the 2010 season. But that would end up being the last season the team missed the playoffs.
In 2011, Minnesota drafted standout Maya Moore out of UCONN with the No. 1 overall pick in the WNBA Draft.
From that point on, the Lynx were considered title contenders.
In her first professional season, Moore averaged 13.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.4 steals per game to earn 2011 Rookie of the Year honors.
“The identity of this team will take on a life of its own as time goes on. We are obviously as veteran-laded as we’ve been since I’ve been here,” Moore said of the 2017 team. “The chemistry is definitely there. A lot of similar qualities that we’ve had for these last several years.”
Moore and the Lynx would wind up making the playoffs from her rookie season on, reaching the WNBA Finals in all but one season.
In 2015, Minnesota added yet another piece to their already talented core, trading for dominant center Sylvia Fowles.
“She’s a proven, defensive All-Star player and we expect her to step in and be a great leader on and off the court,” Lynx General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Roger Griffith said after the team acquired Fowles. “She’s been one of the elite centers in the WNBA and will be a key addition to our championship caliber roster.”
From that point on, Minnesota has put together the strongest stretch of play in franchise history – and maybe even in WNBA history.
“The whole mentality of wanting to win (is different in Minnesota). The captains set a good tone of how to get it done and they have good spirits and go out there and prove it every day,” Fowles said. “It’s easy for the incoming people coming in to follow that model that they carry.”
Among numerous other additions along the way, the Lynx constructed their current roster they hold today. A roster that has ended up sticking together for numerous successful years.
With the acquisitions of four of the five players in Minnesota’s current starting five, along with the addition of a new coaching staff and surrounding role players, the Lynx have arguably put together the most accomplished stretch in league history from 2011 to the present day.
In the last six seasons, the Lynx have reached the playoffs every season, getting as far as the WNBA Finals in five of those six years.
In 2011, Minnesota won its first WNBA title, sweeping the Atlanta Dream 3-0.
But the Lynx didn’t want to settle for just one title.
In 2013, Reeve and company once again defeated Atlanta 3-0 to secure its second title in three years.
In 2015, the Lynx won their third title in team history, cementing themselves as a dynasty in the WNBA.
“Every year we have a goal of winning a championship, like every team. We have a great group here, a great team. Look what we’ve done here and what we’ve built,” Whalen said. “It’s still really fun to be a part of it and we want to get better every day and every year.”
Looking To Add To It In 2017
The 2016 season was about as dominant as it could be for Minnesota. The Lynx recorded a franchise-best 28-6 regular season record while once again returning to the WNBA Finals.
Minnesota, however, fell to the Los Angeles Sparks in five games of the 2016 WNBA Finals.
But the 2016 season is behind the Lynx, and they are looking forward to bouncing back stronger in 2017 and add to their already dominant stretch of seasons.
“That’s the last taste that we had in our mouth. It’s something that is a natural motivator and should be a part of our experience to grow from it. Growing from it means using it as motivation,” Moore said. “It’s so hard, we were so close. But now it’s let’s do it, let’s get back there.”
The Lynx have many familiar faces returning in 2017, with the addition of a few newcomers to the team.
That familiarity has caught the attention of many, including the WNBA general managers, and has Minnesota tagged as the favorite to return to the Finals and secure its fourth championship in seven years.
“We are going to be on a mission to have a chance to get back,” Reeve said. “And that’s not easy to do, to get back and position yourself to win a championship. But we are going to be pretty hungry.”
The journey of building the current dynasty has been long, but absolutely worth it for the Lynx.
In 2017, they look to build onto that dynasty. And that journey begins on Sunday in St. Paul.