The WNBA finals start on Sunday, Sept. 24 with the No. 1 Minnesota Lynx taking on the No. 2 Los Angeles Sparks, the defending champions, in a best-of-five series.
1. This is a rematch of last year’s finals, which was an instant classic.
The Sparks won Game 1 in with an Alana Beard buzzer-beater, and then the teams swapped victories for the next three games before the nail-biting Game 5 which the Sparks stole in the final seconds. Just watch the ending, it sets the stakes for this series pretty well.
2. The Lynx are the best dynasty in basketball, maybe in all of sports, right now.
They’ve made the WNBA finals in six of the last seven seasons, and won three championships in that span. Four of their starters — forwards Rebekkah Brunson and Maya Moore, and guards Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus — are the winningest quartet in WNBA history.
Augustus is a seven-time WNBA All-Star; Whalen is the winningest player in WNBA history; Brunson is the all-time WNBA leader in offensive rebounds; and Moore is the all-time WNBA finals points leader.
Oh, and their fifth starter, Sylvia Fowles, just won the WNBA MVP award.
3. Fowles gets a category all to herself.
The 6’6 center orchestrated her own trade from the Chicago Sky to the Lynx in the middle of the 2015 season, and boy has that worked out well for everyone involved. Her first year, she took the Lynx back to the finals and earned her first championship and the Finals MVP award, and now she’s playing the best basketball of her career.
Her MVP speech was super short and emotional and wonderful, and is definitely worth a watch.
Look for Fowles — who is currently studying for a post-basketball career as a mortician — to have a phenomenal series. Last year in the finals, Nneka Ogqumike got the game-winning offensive rebound and shot right over Fowles’s head in the final seconds of Game 5, so it’s safe to say she’s out for revenge.
4. The Lynx dance. A lot.
Look, it sounds cliche, but this is a team that really seems to have a blast together. Whether it’s during intros, on the bench, or in the post-game locker room, it’s not hard to catch Lynx players breaking it down.
5. But the Sparks dance too. And sometimes, they dance with Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union.
Yeah, this looks like a pretty fun way to celebrate getting back into the playoffs.
(Look, I would not be opposed to another WNBA dance-off if this series can’t be settled in a reasonable amount of overtimes.)
6. The Sparks are a dynasty-in-the-making.
The Lynx are still in their prime, but they’re at the tail-end of their prime — four of their five starters have been in the league for 10 years or longer. But the Sparks are not just the present, they’re the future. And they’re getting better year after year. Their backcourt this season is somehow even sharper than it was last year, with Alana Beard stepping it up on defense, Odyssey Sims blossoming into a consistent threat to score 15-plus points a game in the second half of the season, and Chelsea Gray showing All-Star form.
With Brian Agler, the winningest coach in women’s basketball history, at the helm, and former MVPs Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike leading the frontcourt, this team looks to be title contenders for years to come.
It helps that Parker and Ogwumike really seem to enjoy playing together, too. Well — most of the time.
7. It also helps that the Sparks are, well, not sorry.
Last month, the defending champions put out this music video clap-back at all of the WNBA haters that flood their mentions on social media day in and day out, and it is just glorious in every single way.
Speaking of clap-backs …
8. You’re going to want to watch Alana Beard on defense. Trust me.
Beard is the best defensive guard in the league, and this year she was finally awarded with the Defensive Player of the Year award. That means we are in for some epic blocks and steals this series.
9. Also? Maya Moore.
Beard is likely to spend a lot of time matched up one-on-one with Moore, who can make even the best defenders in the world look lost and left-footed on the court.
10. Tiffany Jackson-Jones could win her first WNBA title a year after beating cancer.
One of the best stories this series is from a bench player who probably won’t see any playing time, but will definitely serve as an inspiration to her teammates, veteran Tiffany Jackson-Jones. This is her 10th season in the WNBA — she entered the league in 2007, took 2012 off to give birth to her son, and then midway through the 2015 season she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Well, she fought her way through chemo and a mastectomy, and her cancer officially went into remission last May. Just a few months later, she was playing professionally overseas again, and she signed with the Sparks in the offseason.
Her role has been limited this year, but she’s worked harder for the championship than anyone else out there.
11. In lighter news, here’s a video of Candace Parker crossing her young daughter and driving to the basket.
If Parker doesn’t go easy on her own flesh and blood, you can guarantee she’s not going to be holding back against the Lynx in the finals.
12. And here’s a graphic of Seimone Augustus that I’ve been laughing about for a month, and that I desperately hope ESPN will use.
Seriously, there’s no way this series isn’t going to be fun from start to finish.
13. If nothing else, there’s always Cheryl Reeve.
We’re guaranteed at least one can’t-miss outburst from the Lynx head coach before the winner is crowned. It’s a WNBA Finals tradition.