Throughout her 15-year career, Rebekkah Brunson tried to live by one rule: never cheat the game of basketball.
For a decade and a half, Brunson defined what it meant to play like a champion.
Brunson was always part of the main core of Lynx players that brought so much notoriety to the franchise, but she wasn’t always the main feature on Lynx highlight reels. Instead, she was committed to doing the gritty work that often got overshadowed by the game-winning shots, but she made said shots possible by commanding the boards and doing everything possible to set her team up for success.
Brunson gave her heart to the game of basketball, and now she’ll go down as one of the greatest to ever play the game.
On Tuesday, Brunson announced she would be retiring from the WNBA and joining Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve’s coaching staff as an assistant coach.
Fans often have a hard time accepting a players’ retirement when they lead as impactful of careers as Brunson has. But what is there left for Brunson to accomplish as a WNBA player that she hasn’t already?
Brunson, a record five-time WNBA champion who earned a title with the Sacramento Monarchs before joining the Lynx in 2010, is currently the league’s all-time leader in total rebounds (2,190) and offensive rebounds (1,166) and ranks sixth in both defensive rebounds (2,190) and double-doubles (82). She shares Minnesota’s single-game franchise records for total rebounds (20) and offensive rebounds (10).
“Syl(via Fowles) is right on my heels with that rebounding record, so I wanted to retire being able to say that I was No. 1,” Brunson said while holding back laughter.
In addition, she’s a five-time All-Star and a perennial All-Defensive First and Second Team honoree.
We watched her play an integral part in the Lynx dynasty that earned four titles for Minnesota, and she’s retiring as the league’s all-time leader in postseason wins (57).
The Lynx also announced Brunson’s No. 32 jersey will be retired at an upcoming game at Target Center where it will forever be on display next to Lindsay Whalen’s No. 13 jersey.
“The fact that it’ll be hanging next to Whalen’s has some significance on its own,” Brunson said. “She’s the one I’d look at every time we had a game, every time we had to discuss something or every time we were trying to prepare ourselves for what was to come, she was the person I would look at. That in itself is so extremely special.”
Not only will Brunson’s jersey be joining Whalen’s, it’ll also hang next to the four banners that represent all they worked for in their unforgettable careers.
“It could not have gone any better,” Reeve said of her former players’ and new assistants’ playing career at Tuesday’s press conference where Brunson shared the news of her retirement with family, fans and colleagues.
Brunson has made the absolute most of her playing career and now gets to explore who she is outside of being a professional athlete, which she began doing after the 2018 WNBA season, the last of Brunson’s playing career.
After her final game, Brunson had a lot of time to contemplate what was next for her career. In the following offseason, Brunson became an analyst for Fox Sports North’s coverage of the Timberwolves and opened her own business, Sweet Gypsy Waffles, with her wife Bobbi. Plus, she got to spend more time with her family as a devoted mother and wife — a gift many former athletes are often deprived of.
Yet, retirement is rarely an easy decision for professional athletes who dedicate their entire lives to spending countless hours on the court in order to become the best at their craft.
“The ‘r’ word is something that’s very difficult for players like (Brunson) who have sustained such a level of passion to compete,” Reeve said, “which is why she’s so heralded in terms of championships and the most finals wins of any player in WNBA history.”
Lucky for Brunson, her transition into the next chapter of her life should be eased by the fact that she won’t be leaving the court entirely. Rather, she’ll still be surrounded by the coaches, teammates and fans who’ve watched her give her all to the Lynx — a job duty that will still be expected of her in her next endeavor with the franchise.
“It’s been a ride; it’s been a wild ride. All of it has been an amazing part of the journey,” Brunson said. “I really hope that moving forward I can continue to not cheat the game by helping these young players become the players they want to be and continue to grow the legacy of this franchise and this organization and continue to make this city proud.”