2011, The Year that was...

Posted by Alex W.C. on 6:20 PM
So, here we are yet again, the end of another year. Even though the WNBA season ended several months ago, the NCAA season has kicked off with a bang. Overall, 2011 was a great year for women’s hoops, for many reasons – let’s take a look at just a few things that stood out to me:

Fifteen – That’s right all you haters! The WNBA celebrated a milestone as it hit the fifteen year mark, and put all the “it will never last” arguments to rest. 2011 also saw two WNBA teams pull in a profit, and several come awful close – along with all those, “The NBA should fold the WNBA because of the lockout” arguments being shut down. At this point, it looks like we could expect fifteen more glorious years. Let’s hope for some expansion teams in the coming years, but for now, I’m quite happy with where the league is.

Lynx Capture the Crown – After many years of a talented (and some might say stacked) roster, struggling with injuries and not even making a playoff appearance, the Minnesota Lynx were on a roll in 2011 and literally steamrolled over most teams to breeze through the playoffs, and sweep the two-time Eastern conference champion Atlanta Dream to capture their first championship. The reason? There’s not just one – Rookie of the year (who will only get better) Maya Moore, a healthy and hungry Seimone Augustus, hometown hero Lindsay Whalen, Coach Cheryl “I learned a thing or two in Detroit” Reeve, board crasher Rebekkah Brunson, – and a bench deeper than the Grand Canyon – Wiggins, McWilliams-Franklin, Wright, Houston, Adair, Harris and Hornbuckle. If they keep their roster in tact and healthy, the future could be very bright in the Twin Cities.

Phoenix Over the Hump in Seattle - In 2011, Phoenix could not seem to get a break when playing Western conference rival the Seattle Storm. Dark cloud memories hung overhead ever since 2010, when Sue Bird delivered a dagger 3-point shot that eliminated the Mercury from the Western conference finals in 2010, but 2011 looked like the year Phoenix could get retribution. Unfortunately, the Mercury would only snag one win at home against the Storm, and Seattle remained undefeated (with regards to Phoenix) at Key Arena.

Enter Candice Dupree.

Game three of the Western conference playoffs was all tied up with mere seconds left to play. After a drive from Penny Taylor was slightly off, a scrum-like battle for the rebound somehow put the ball in Dupree’s hands. With the final shot, she put the Mercury up by two, and ended Seattle's chances at defending their 2010 title. It may not have delivered a championship to the Mercury this year, but it most definitely felt like payback.

Swoopes Back in Action - Still struggling Tulsa Shock attempted to add some talent and experience to the roster by adding rookie standout Liz Cambage and veteran WNBA legend Sheryl Swoopes. After a two year hiatus, it was great to see Swoopes back in action, even if Tulsa struggled and were left in the dust, winding up at the bottom of the standings for the second year in a row. In all fairness, with the internal changeovers of players and coaches, one can see why Tulsa seemed to brave bad weather most of the season. Let’s hope 2012 brings them some well needed stability.

...and Swoopes can deliver more shots like this...

Change of the Guard - New WNBA president Laurel Richie, the first African American woman named president of a U.S. professional sports league took the helm after Donna Orender departed to start her own sports consulting firm. It was a welcomed and promising move by the WNBA to bring Richie on board after she spent a successful three years as chief marketing officer of the Girl Scouts of America. Let’s hope her goal is for another successful fifteen years of WNBA basketball.

A Legend Retires – On a personal note, assistant coach, Phoenix Mercury legend, and good friend Bridget Pettis retired from the WNBA after a lengthy career with on and off the court with the league. Her leadership, sense of humor, dance moves, and most importantly her spirit and love for the game will be surely missed.

All-Star Game, Texas Style! – San Antonio hosted the 2011 All-Star game that saw a “usual suspects” line up for the starters, but many rookie and first timers in the reserves. A fun game all around, and San Antonio provided a great venue for the event. It was also one for the books as the East finally took a victory from the West after the Western conference claimed seven All-Star wins in the past. No Fowles dunk at the end, but there was plenty of entertainment on the court.

Texas Style Intros - West

Texas Style Intros - East

Yes, there we so many more, (from Taurasi's overseas debacle & vindication to Catchings taking the 2011 MVP honors) but these were the ones that stand out in my mind. Feel free to comment and share your best WNBA memories of 2011!

So, WNBA fans, best wishes to you all in 2012!! The Los Angeles Sparks have the #1 pick, Minnesota Lynx have their first title to defend, and the USA Women’s basketball team is looking to keep their hands on the gold in London.

Looking forward to it!


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