Thursday, February 11th, 2010 at 2:08 pm  |  28 responses

Favorite WNBA Memory or Moment

We detail ours and want to know yours.

by Ben York

“What’s up, Ben?!” Ketia Swanier asked me. If you’ve met Ketia, you know that she has maybe the nicest way of saying hi of anyone you’ll ever meet. Maybe it’s that Southern drawl and polite tone she has when she speaks.

I remember that day it like it was yesterday. It was early October 2009 at about 10:15 in the morning. It was a relatively chilly day in Phoenix – only about 90 degrees. The Phoenix Mercury and Indiana Fever were in the midst of holding their final media session before Game 5 of the 2009 WNBA Finals. The series was deadlocked at two games a piece. Phoenix won Game 1 in overtime (in what many consider the best WNBA game ever), Indiana took Game 2 in Phoenix and Game 3 back home in Indiana, and Phoenix responded in Game 4 to tie the series at 2-2 with a 90-77 win.

The championship would come down to the deciding game in Phoenix, winner take all.

I was on my way to talk to Temeka Johnson, Cappie Pondexter, and Diana Taurasi when I stopped by to say hello to Ketia Swanier. Ketia and I talked movies for a few minutes; the recent flicks we’ve seen and others we look forward to viewing, and then proceeded to discuss what everyone else was talking about — Game 5 of the 2009 WNBA Finals.

I had just finished up speaking with Lin Dunn, Katie Douglas, and Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever and had to hurry over to the Mercury players and coaches. Media availability was only about 20 minutes for each team so there was a scramble to get everything you needed from both sides. Obviously, the Fever didn’t want to come back to Phoenix for Game 5, but every single player and member of the coaching staff felt comfortable and confident they could come away with a win on the Mercury’s home court. In typical Tamika Catchings fashion, she was visibly grateful that she was a paDiana Taurasi & Penny Taylorrt of something so special and even had the opportunity to play for a WNBA Championship. Catchings is always fantastic to speak with and gives amazing insights to the game, but there was a different vibe that day that was unmistakable and unlike any of the prior games. Both teams were slightly less jovial and increasingly more focused. Suddenly, it was all very real — players and media were beginning to realize that Game 5 could cap the greatest Finals series in WNBA history.

As I made my way over to the Mercury’s side, I chatted with Temeka Johnson and Mercury assistant coach Bridget Pettis about recent books they read and offered a couple of my recommendations. At this point, I just wanted to lighten the mood at bit since the players and coaches were getting asked the same questions over and over again by the media. They must have heard, ‘What will it take to win Game 5?’ a dozen times each.

Meek and Bridget were always easy to speak with and more than willing to give up a few minutes of their time to the media. They both were friendly as ever, but their minds were at another place all together. Honestly, if I were in the Mercury’s or Fever’s position, I wouldn’t want to talk to media at all. I’d much rather shut off the rest of the world and take some time to bask in the moment, knowing this might never happen again. I’d be a nervous wreck! Still, the players understand that talking to the media is part of their job and are professional about it.

After about 15 minutes of mingling, I finally made the journey over to speak with Cappie Pondexter, Diana Taurasi, Tangela Smith, and Mercury head coach Corey Gaines. They all had a similar message and tone in their voice which (long story short) consisted of simply playing hard and leaving it all on the floor. There really wasn’t much else they could say that would be ground-breaking; they knew what the Fever was going to bring to the table in Game 5 and the Fever knew what to expect from the Mercury. What more could either team say that hadn’t already been said? As I mentioned, they were getting asked the same questions over and over again so I took a step back and just listened. I watched their body language, their focus, and marveled at their concentration. I used that opportunity to soak everything up — the passion, the intensity, the appreciation, and the joy of playing such a high profile game on the biggest stage imaginable.

Once media availability was over, I wished both teams good luck and stood at center court at US Airways Center for a couple moments. I couldn’t help but think that in just a few hours, the championship team would be crowned at this very spot, putting the finishing touches on the greatest WNBA Finals of all time. It was one of those out-of-body experiences that last just for a few seconds, but you’ll remember for the rest of your life.

This was, by far, my favorite WNBA moment.

What’s yours?

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  • O

    My favorite WNBA moment came in 2001. I was attending a trade school on 14th street and I went to burn a L with a few of my homies a few blocks away from the school. Halfway through the cipher my man says, “Oh snap! Look at the chain on that b*tch! I’ma rob her right now!” I looked and said, “Chilll, dunny! That’s Teresa Weatherspoon.” Then I yelled, “Keep doing ya thing, ma!” She just smiled and waved at us. Then my man asked, “Who the f*ck is Teresa Silverspoons?” True Story. Greatest WNBA moment of my life…

  • pilight

    My favorite in person moment was the 2001 All Star Game in Orlando. There was enormous crowd of people for the Summer Jam, there was the amusing “red carpet” entry thing for the players, and what turned out to be a fun game with a number of celebrities in attendance.

  • http://www.twitter.com/SportsandaLatte SportsandaLatte

    Great story!

    My fave moment: I got to attend the WNBA All-Star game and events when we (DC) hosted it in 2002 and I was front row during open practice the day before and got to meet a lot of the players. My absolute FAVORITE player of all-time Sheryl Swoopes came over to talk to little ol’ me (I was a teen so this was a big deal lol) and at the end of practice Chamique Holsclaw gave me a bball. Best day ever…and it’s amazing how much of a hardcore fan I was at the time.

    2nd favorite moment is when the Comets won their 2nd WNBA championship…they were unstoppable.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ben York

    @O – That’s certainly a unique experience. Sounds like Weatherspoon was pretty cool in spite of your friend wanting to rob her.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ben York

    @pilight – good stuff. I think Chancellor was the West coach that year, right?

  • Pic

    O proves one again why he’s always a must-read

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ben York

    @SportsandLatte – Thanks for sharing! I bet even watching the ladies practice was amazing – some legends in the ’02 game.

  • C.U. Next Tuesday

    everytime the season is over

  • C.U. Next Tuesday

    Yeah, Van was the Man in 2001. Natalie Williams couldn’t play due to an injury, so the West only had 10 players. Van switched them out 5 for 5 every time he subbed.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ben York

    @C.U. We’ve heard that before. If you’re going to bash the league, at least be somewhat creative.

  • Ace

    It was during the Western Finals 2009 LA vs PHX and DT packed the mess out of Betty Lennox as she went up for a layup. I had to rewind it and watch it again in slo-mo.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ben York

    @Ace – I remember that vividly. Great stuff.

  • kudos

    Seriously?!? SERIOUSLY!?? I could beat any wnba player bar none. Not only are they slower, faster, and weaker than your average high school team. I would dunk with my nuts in their face. Only thing they got going is their freakish height(for women). But even with some height only about 5% can dunk, and it can go a whole season without seeing ANYONE dunk. hilarious

  • Ace

    @Kudos do you feel better about yourself now? I would love to see you play DT or Candace Parker 1 on 1 b/c you would lose. Why bring this up “dunk with my nuts in their face.” unless your penis is so small that your “nuts” are the only thing that hang low enough to be in someones face in the first place during a dunk.

  • Jarrod

    I think it was ’99, but it may have been the next year with the Comets against the Liberty. I remember hating that terrible backup pg Becky Hammon every time she would give Theresa Weatherspoon a breather – I could watch her play all day now…

    Anyhow, time was ticking down in either game 1 or two of the finals (sorry – it was a while ago) and the ball was inbounded to Weatherspoon who launched it from well behind the half-court line to give the liberty the one point win. Of course, they didn’t win the series, but that was a great finish to a hard-fought game between the two best teams at the time.

    I know there are tons of NBA buzzer-beaters every week in the NBA, but I don’t remember seeing one from this deep, in that important of a game.

    Also, the friend of the writer above is probably lucky he didn’t try to mug Weatherspoon – she had arms like Garnett’s!

  • J.C.

    Favorite memory: Carolyn Peck AND her brother getting kicked out of Miracle game. Michael was her second assistant and after protesting a call, both were tossed. Priceless!

  • http://SlamOnline Damianhttp://www.slamonline.com/online/other-ballers/womens/2010/02/favorite-wnba-memory-or-moment/

    If the Liberty can get another piece like they with Nicole Powell I mean the right piece like a Katie Smith or Deanna Nolan because think about Nicole can provide some offense and Katie or Deanna can provide some defense from a role player standpoint but it in my opinion it all come to Donna Orender and the rest of the WNBA to try back the 13 players thing like it was.

  • AJVermont

    It has to be watching Tamika Catchings leave every molecule of her being on the court for the entire finals v. Phoenix. I have never watched anyone give such effort before, or watched anyone want anything more. I felt so bad that her teammates weren’t able to rise to that level themselves. I know they played well for the most part, but no one–not D, not Cappie, not Penny played harder that Catch.

  • Kels

    Cappie is my all time favorite player. so no doubt Mine was when i got Cappie’s autograph at a San Antonio game the 2009 season(i was one of the few Mercury supporters lol.) it felt surreal that i got to meet someone with so much talent and heart for the game and life. def my fav moment of all time

  • Nicole

    My all time favorite moment is attending my first game in Charlotte. Dawn Staley is my favorite pg and when I got her autograph, that made my day. Another moment is when I was able to meet Team USA here in NC. I got everyone’s autographs, and they talked to you like you’ve known each other for a long time. Last, the 2 Championships my Mighty Mercury have won.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ben York

    @AJVermont – It’s hard to disagree with you. Catch is one of a kind.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ben York

    @Jarrod – haha, great stuff. Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ben York

    @Kels – Great stuff, I’ll see if I can get her to respond on the blog..

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ben York

    @Nicole – I bet meeting Team USA was surreal. Were you able to talk to any of the players for very long?

  • Butch

    My favorite player was, Adrienne Goodson.
    Favorite moment was watching AG, beat L.A.
    with a last min. layup and stopping their
    winning streak. Gym went wild and all the
    players jumped on AG. Least favorite was
    listening to WNBA draft and expecting AG
    to get drafted first round, top five or six.
    Instead she got shafted and went in third
    round to Utah.

  • http://www.slamonline.com Ben York

    @Butch – I remember that. Still surprised she dropped that low. Good career nonetheless.

  • Chris

    My favorite experience was actually an NBA experience. I was at Game 2 of the 2008 finals in San Antonio, and I enjoyed seeing Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Bruce Bowen and Greg Popovich all there, supporting their ladies team. They were all sitting together and were all there from the opening tip to the final buzzer and they left together. Throughout, I snuck peeks over and all the Spurs players were into it.

  • http://www.slamonline. Ben York

    @Chris – Great stuff. Grant Hill and his daughter came to a bunch of Mercury games in 2009. I think Amare, Dragic, Tucker, and Lopez came to a few as well.