The Minnesota Sports History Show is part of the Sports History Network - The Headquarters For Sports Yesteryear.
How's it going, guys? Welcome to the third episode of the Minnesota Sports History Show. I’m your host, Ryan Limbag, U of M hype man for the Sports History Network.
Today we are talking about the WNBA's all-time games winner and Minnesota sports living legend, Lindsay Whalen.
Her hard work, humility, and ability to razzle-dazzle in clutch moments exemplify Minnesota values. She is a true Minnesota treasure.
As a winner since high school at Hutchinson, she was a 4-time All-Missota Conference pick and won a state title with the Minnesota Jaguars. They would rank 13th nationally that year.
In the year 2000, she would go on to elevate the University of Minnesota’s women’s basketball program and receive national recognition. As a professional, she would win four championship titles and Olympic gold.
I’m going to take a pause on her endless achievements and talk about why she deserves to be mentioned with other Minnesota sports greats like Kevin Garnett, Randy Moss, and Joe Mauer.
She is a hometown hero. When she became eligible for the WNBA draft, she was the talk of local and national sports media.
It was the early 2000s and I was still in high school. Lindsay Whalen had just become a Gopher and took them to new heights, reaching the Final Four for the first time in the program’s history.
Just removed from the U of M men’s basketball scandal, Lindsay Whalen was a homegrown feel-good story and brought positivity to the local scene. It was an exciting time for women’s college sports in the Twin Cities.
By the time she graduated, she had helped increase Gopher women’s basketball attendance nearly ten-fold. Her impact on interest in the program was unquestionable.
I think Lindsay Whalen is a very important part of Minnesota sports lore. There is no one that is quite like her.
With all her personal and team accolades, she was even able to bring rings to the state and excel at the highest level. It is something that her contemporaries have not been able to achieve.
I remember the fervor leading up to the WNBA draft prior to her rookie season.
There were debates in the local media about how hard the Minnesota Lynx should try and draft her. Questions about how her game would translate at the pro level, and if it were to be a homer pick.
I remember Lindsay Whalen taking the sports front page of both the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune. All eyes were on where she would take her career.
At the time, I thought it would have been a great move to ride her popularity and lift the Lynx.
When she was drafted by the Connecticut Sun, I felt that Minnesota had squandered a huge opportunity. She would go on to lead the Connecticut Sun to two finals appearances.
But the story didn’t end there. She would make a triumphant return to Minnesota in a trade and become part of a dynasty.
The Lynx would win four championships in six years with her as the floor general.
I love the narrative of her story. Hometown super talent brings prominence to her high school and college. Gets drafted out of state in the pros, much to the chagrin of the local fanbase. Hometown hero returns to her roots and wins multiple championships.
I can’t think of another parallel for Minnesota in the modern sports era.
Lindsay Whalen’s career is decorated from high school to the WNBA, and on the international stage. She currently coaches the U of M women’s basketball team where she continues to build upon her legacy.
Thank you for listening to the Minnesota Sports History Show on the Sports History Network. Join me next week when we talk about one of my favorite Minnesota Twins seasons. Have a blessed day!
MINNESOTA SPORTS HISTORY SHOW BACKGROUND
Each episode explores the rich history of Minnesota sports and considers its impact on the current cultural zeitgeist. The Minnesota Sports History Show strives to entertain and inform, tickle the sense of nostalgia, and share the joy and hardships of triumph and heartbreak. Episodes will range from musings about the Dome Dog era to interviews with athletes and sports personalities.