The former point guard becomes the first Lynx player to have her number retired.
MINNEAPOLIS — Cheryl Reeve and Lindsay Whalen have shared many moments together since the two arrived in Minnesota nearly 10 years ago. Sure, there have been the four WNBA championships and many other accolades among them. But if there’s anything the past few months has proven, it’s that no honor is more important than family.
The duo shared the stage at a press conference Thursday to announce a history-making move. The Minnesota Lynx will officially retire Whalen’s No. 13 jersey before their game on Saturday, June 8, on ABC. This move makes her the first Lynx player to have her number in the rafters.
“It’s an honor I don’t take lightly,” Whalen said to a crowd of media, family, and players. “It’s really hard to say until it actually happens, but to be the first one of all the amazing players (to have their number retired) is really truly special. It’ll be a great day for my family, and Lynx family and Gopher family.”
The mood at the Target Center Thursday morning was almost jubilant, a drastic change from just eight months ago when Whalen announced her retirement from the WNBA. Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve shed tears at that press conference. But when asked by Fox Sports North’s Marney Gellner about the impact of Whalen’s jersey retirement, Reeve was all smiles – and jokes.
“It says that (Whalen) got tired of it first,” she quipped. “I think she probably at some point thought about this, if I go now I’ll be the first jersey to be retired. So she was always smart that way.”
After some laughs from players, staff, and fans in attendance, Reeve spoke on the legacy Whalen has had in her home state.
“I don’t know if if you can live a more charmed sporting life than what Lindsay Whalen has been able to experience here in Minnesota,” she said. “As a youngster here, as a high school player, going to your state school, the University of Minnesota, and then (to) be able to come back here and win championships for the WNBA franchise.”
A native of Hutchinson, Minn., Whalen played in the WNBA for 15 years after a successful college career. She spent nine of those years with the Lynx, winning four championships with Reeve along the way.
“And then when she retires and … transitions into being a college coach, she gets the announcement that her jersey is going to be retired. I don’t know that it could have gone any better,” Reeve said. “And I just can’t tell you how thankful I am to have been able to spend nine years of my career with this very special point guard right here.”
Ever the recruiter now, Whalen sensed an opening, as she did so often during her playing career.
“You see what happens when you stay home?” Whalen responded with a smile on her face. “Good things happen.”
Reeve briefly mentioned the trade that got Whalen back to her home state in 2010 from the Connecticut Sun, calling it “the right thing at the right moment.” You could tell the impact of that statement throughout the event, which felt more like a conversation between friends. As a nearby ticker scrolled through a list of her accomplishments, Gellner asked Whalen for her favorite moment of her career.
“I think somewhere between our first and last championships, those are probably the most special,” she joked.
Despite reaching or winning the WNBA Finals in six of the seven years between those titles (2011-2017), the Lynx did have some down moments during that time. Reeve told a story about an overtime loss to Chicago in 2012 that Whalen took exceptionally hard. Moments after she had come into the coaches’ locker room and cried, Reeve had them watch the video of a misstep from her player near the end of regulation.
“I wanted Lindsay to see that it wasn’t as bad as she thought,” she said. “One thing I said to Lindsay was we’re leaving this right here in this locker room. You’re a great player, we’re moving on. We’re gonna win a lot of games together.”
That they did, including 27 regular-season games in 2017 en route to the Lynx’s fourth title.
“We went through a lot that year,” Whalen said. “We (played) at (the) Xcel (Energy Center), then the finals were at Williams (Arena on the University of Minnesota campus), but we didn’t let anything stand in our way.
“After we lost (the Finals) in 2016 on that buzzer beater, everyone was motivated that much more for the whole season. Everybody sacrificed a lot to get us back here in 2017.”
“Beat L.A. one more time.”
The Lynx’s finals opponents in 2016 and 2017 were none other than the Los Angeles Sparks. Those two teams will take to the Target Center court moments after Whalen’s number is officially retired on Saturday, June 8.
Both Whalen and Reeve agreed that this chapter of the teams’ rivalry will add something special to what will be a historic day.
“Good,” Whalen said. “I just wanna mess with L.A. one more time. Throw off their pregame routine.”
She then gestured to former teammates Danielle Robinson and Rebekkah Brunson, who were in attendance Thursday.
“Beat Candace (Parker) and Nneka (Ogwumike),” she smirked. “And more (times) after that. But (a win) would be good to mess with them.”
“It’ll be electric,” Reeve said. “They’re going to want to show their appreciation. We already did that for Lindsay on Lindsay Whalen day last season but this is different. To have the iconic #13 jersey in the rafters, the energy in the building I think will be palpable.
“Even though we’re going to have a lot of new faces (on the team), it’s going to be energizing to them as well. And just a huge way to say thank you to a player that gave this franchise so much and gave our fans so much.”
But no matter who wins or where the Lynx will be in the standings come June 8, Whalen will still support her hometown team – just from a different perspective.
“I got my season tickets, so I’m ready to go.”
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