During Lindsay Whalen’s career, she accomplished many things.
For starters (and probably enders), she’s won more games than any player in league history. But wait, there’s more!
She’s won four championships, has represented Team USA in the Olympics and was named to three All-WNBA First Teams. Go check out her Wikipedia page. Her resume is quite impressive.
Throughout all of that, Whalen has never seemed all the comfortable talking about herself.
The best example is the final regular-season game of Whalen’s career last summer. It was “Lindsay Whalen Night” at Target Center. The place was packed and there was a ceremony after for those to congratulate Whalen on what’s been a storybook career. When it was Whalen’s turn to speak, she sounded more like a stand-up comedian than a player playing the last time in front of her home fans.
For Whalen, this was never about her. It was about the team and the people around her. When attention is on her, she instead deflects, making sure her teammates get their due respect, with a few jokes added in.
Early Thursday morning, the Lynx announced that they will retire Whalen’s No. 13 on Saturday, June 8, fittingly against the Los Angeles Sparks.
(Whalen joked that it was intentional so she could throw the Sparks, the Lynx’s biggest rival, off one more time.)
Whalen, now the head coach of the University of Minnesota women’s basketball team, sat inbetween coach Cheryl Reeve and Fox Sports North’s Marney Gellner in the Target Center lobby to announce the jersey retirement to the media.
In attendance was Whalen’s longtime teammate Rebekkah Brunson, who will likely have her jersey retired by this franchise one day as well. Also there was current Lynx point guard Danielle Robinson, former assistant coach Jim Petersen and Timberwolves interim head coach Ryan Saunders, who also attended the University of Minnesota.
It was clear early from the press conference, that this is the same Whalen that Minnesota fans grew up loving. She stressed that while she’s from Minnesota and this ride has been about as storybook as it gets, it hasn’t gone without work.
“I just don’t want it to get lost in all the work that we did do day in and day out and all the sacrifice we made for each other,” Whalen said. “It really was special and something every day you wanted to be part of.”
It’s also a ride that wouldn’t have been possible without her teammates. Whalen joked that her jersey will be first simply because she is the first to retire out of the group. More will join at some point.
“The trophies, the rings and now with the jersey, to me it’s a symbol of that day to day and those relationships we really built on,” Whalen said. “We wouldn’t have been able to do any of those things if it wasn’t for the work that we all did together and the day to day. . . None of this would have happened if the team didn’t have success.”
But Whalen is a huge reason for that success.
While Whalen is quick to give others credit, we all know the truth. There’s one common variable when you look at the Hutchinson High School team that won a state championship, a University of Minnesota team that advanced to the Final Four and a Lynx team that won four championships. Lindsay Whalen.
The fact that she doesn’t love credit is a huge reason why she’s loved by so many in this state. She’s humble and quick to give others their due. That probably also comes with the territory of being a point guard. It was never about her, and that’s how she liked it.
But on June 8 at Target Center, it will be all about her. And she deserves every bit of that, whether she likes it or not.