Whalen Becomes WNBA’s All-Time Leader In Wins

Mitchell Hansen
Web Editorial Associate

Growing up in Hutchinson, Minn., a young Lindsay Whalen always held the dream of playing professional basketball in the WNBA.

The first item she was able to cross off of her list in the journey to making that dream come true was attending the University of Minnesota and playing Division I basketball for the Golden Gophers.

There was where Whalen learned a very valuable trait early on in her basketball career: how to be a winner.

While at Minnesota, Whalen climbed nearly every all-time list and even lifted the Gophers to their first-ever NCAA Tournament Final Four appearance in 2004. By the end of her career, she had tallied 80 wins in four years and led Minnesota to three straight 20-plus win seasons for the first time ever.

Whalen’s dream of reaching the WNBA came true in 2004, when she was selected with the fourth overall pick in the WNBA Draft.

From that point on, she was able to continue to do what she’s always done well: win. 

Fast forward to her 14th season in the WNBA, Whalen is still carrying out her dream back home with the Minnesota Lynx.

And she continues to win. More than any player ever has in the history of the league.

With Minnesota’s win over the Washington Mystics on Friday night in the nation’s capital, Whalen secured win No. 295 in her career, surpassing Swin Cash (294) as the all-time winningest player in WNBA history.

“It feels great to do it with this great team and great organization that’s always given us so much support. We’ve had a great run together here and to have the most ever is pretty cool,” Whalen said after the win Friday night. “It kind of hits you a little, because it’s been so fun to do it all these years. To say you have the most ever is pretty cool but it’s a team award. That’s first and foremost. I’m happy I can do it as a Lynx.”

It certainly has been a fun ride, one that includes 12 playoff appearances, seven WNBA Finals appearances and three WNBA championships.

And now, it also includes the most wins of any player in WNBA history.

“Never would have thought that I would be the player with most wins. Obviously your goal every night is to win, but I would have never thought that. It’s cool to even enjoy it now, because it is such a team award, but also it’s something that I’ll be able to talk about when I’m way older,” Whalen said. “I never thought a kid from Hutchinson just going to the ‘U,’ I just plugged away and tried to play hard. I was fortunate to be on some great teams with some great coaches and some great teammates. It’s been a really fun ride that I’ve been able to be on and my family has been able to be on.”

Since Whalen arrived in Minnesota, she has led the Lynx to 174 victories in 237 regular games. That’s a win percentage of 73.4 percent.

That doesn’t even include the playoffs.

“There’s a competitive drive that Lindsay has that is combined with this incredible intelligence for the game. She hates to lose and she’s really smart. Whoever she’s been around, whether it’s Gophers, I didn’t follow her back in high school, but all along the way she been a common denominator for success,” Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve said. “Throughout her professional career, whether it’s in Connecticut or her days here in Minnesota, half of her career she’s spent in the WNBA Finals. And half of those, she’s winning championships.

“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.”

Whalen has certainly had a historic career so far, a career that the young Hutchinson girl with big dreams would be proud of.

But even though Friday’s win pushed her to the top of the all-time wins list, don’t think Whalen is done winning just yet.

“I understand when you win, taking stuff from those wins. Coach is always preaching that, because it’s true. You don’t want to get comfortable,” Whalen said. “Same with adversity when you do lose. You don’t want to get down for too long, but you take what you can learn from it and get on to the next game.”

And as for her favorite win of her career so far? Well, Whalen is spoken like a true winner.

“Probably the last one, because it was our last win,” she said. “But, the next game is always the most important game.”