If memory serves, it was a pretty big deal when Brett Favre arrived in Minnesota, and when Jim Thome decided to play for the Twins.
When a future Hall of Famer chooses your locale, fans are treated to a career’s worth of anecdotes and, if they’re lucky, a dose of the magic that made the athlete great.
Now imagine if Favre had played alongside Jerry Rice in Minnesota, following a decade in which Ray Lewis, Reggie White and Barry Sanders had worn purple.
Imagine if Thome had played alongside Ken Griffey, Jr., a few years after Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Cal Ripken had worn Twinstripes.
This week, the Minnesota Lynx announced that star center Sylvia Fowles would return for one last season, and that the team had signed star forward Angel McCoughtry.
Lynx coach and General Manager Cheryl Reeve calls Fowles the best center in league history. Fowles and McCoughtry were part of the W25, the league’s list of its 25 greatest players released last year.
Fowles is the Lynx’s last bridge to their dynastic run of four titles in seven years. She played alongside Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore and Lindsay Whalen, three other members of the W25.
The Lynx will need Fowles and McCoughtry, who is recovering from a knee injury, to be healthy and productive for them to compete for a title this year. They will need point guard Layshia Clarendon to remain healthy, and they will need to overcome the at least temporary loss of their best young player, Napheesa Collier, who is pregnant but will remain on the team’s roster.
When talking about Fowles and McCoughtry, Reeve almost casually said, “I’m thrilled about being able to provide Sylvia Fowles another all-time great alongside her as we compete for a fifth championship.”
The signing of McCoughtry is a reminder of the Lynx’s relentless ambition.
They were a lousy franchise before 2011. Since then, they have made the playoffs every year, winning four titles. With a little more injury luck last season, they may have made another run, instead of losing a one-game playoff at home to eventual champion Chicago.
Moore left to pursue social justice. Whalen retired. Augustus left for Los Angeles, then retired. Fowles continued to dominate.
Reeve drafted Collier, who became an Olympian, and now has signed McCoughtry.
If you are a ticket-buying fan of the Minnesota Lynx, by this May you would have seen six all-time greats and another Olympian in Collier on the court, two other all-time greats working as assistant coaches (W25 member Katie Smith and Rebekkah Brunson, the only WNBA player to win five titles), and the current coach of Team USA (Reeve) on the sideline.
That two all-time greats do not make the Lynx a championship favorite is a reminder of how deep and talented the WNBA is.
My guess is that league media will rank the Lynx somewhere near the middle of the pack in preseason predictions.
The WNBA recently secured $75 million in funding. Las Vegas owner Mark Davis is among those who wants to see higher player salaries and better perks. The league has proven in its deal with ESPN that if women’s sports are televised, viewership will increase. Reeve calls the league’s deal with ESPN “an all-time bargain” for the network.
I believe that within a decade or two, the WNBA will expand dramatically and become an economic force, just as the NFL, MLB and NBA started with humble beginnings before being recognized as excellent investments.
With expansion will come roster dilution, which means that this era may represent the last chance to see a collection of WNBA super teams.
Every competitive WNBA team is an All-Star team filled with international standouts and Olympians. Remember, last year the USA women’s basketball team lost to a collection of non-Olympian WNBA All-Stars before going undefeated in Tokyo.
As the WNBA becomes a bigger, stronger league, Minnesotans get at least one more year to enjoy a stacked roster and unwavering expectations.