In 1998, the Minnesota Lynx franchise was born as one of two new WNBA expansion teams. Twenty-five years later, it is recognized as the most successful professional sports team in the state. But it didn’t all come at once for the Lynx. In the team’s first 12 seasons, it only made the playoffs twice and had an all-time record of 165 wins, 235 losses.
In 2011, the team turned things around dramatically when it made its first of seven straight finals appearances and won the first of its four championships. And for the next 11 years, the Lynx didn’t miss another postseason.
“I would say we had exceptional talent,” said Cheryl Reeve, who has been the head coach of the Lynx for the past 13 years. “We had Hall of Famers in each position. That group, they just cared so much about the team’s success. So we became the model franchise in terms of how we did it — not that we did it, but how we did it.”
During that time, the Lynx featured a plethora of talent, including legends like Maya Moore, Sylvia Fowles, Lindsay Whalen, Rebekkah Brunson and Seimone Augustus.
When asked about the success they have had as a franchise, Carley Knox, team president of business operations, said, “I’m super of these rings I’ve won in my career.”
“But I’m more proud of the work that we do off the court in terms of our social justice work and our activism.”
Activism has been a big part of the Lynx history as a franchise. An example of this came in 2016, after Philando Castile was shot and killed by a police officer. The Lynx came together to use their platform to call for justice. They decided on wearing black warmup T-shirts that read “Change Starts with Us” to call for accountability. And this season, they’ve unveiled the new Rebel jerseys, which honor that moment in time seven years ago when the Lynx came together to call for change.
“We will have a statement if we’re passionate about it,” Knox said. “[If] we see injustice or marginalization, we’re going to speak up, and that’s at the core of our values and that’s what the [Rebel] jerseys really represent.”
Now a couple years removed from the dynasty that brought the Lynx championships and consecutive finals appearances, the team is experiencing the growing pains of this new era. Despite this, the Lynx continue to grow in popularity.
“We’re really excited about our growth,” Knox said. “Our TV ratings have doubled. Our crowds have been awesome this year, which we’re really excited about. We’re continuing to grow our fanbase, our season ticket members.”
Lynx rookie Diamond Miller talked about what being a part of this franchise means to her as an up-and-coming player.
“Oh, it’s huge,” Miller expressed. “First of all, my coach is a legend, and I could learn a lot from her. My teammates are really good. So, I can learn from people around me and this environment.
This season, the Lynx are celebrating their 25-year milestone by honoring its 25 best players ever with an All-25 Team; new merchandise and apparel; and retiring Sylvia Fowles’ jersey. On “Whay Day” this season, the franchise will honor Lindsay Whalen’s induction into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.
As the franchise looks toward the next 25 years, it hopes to build on an already impressive legacy.
“Excited for the direction that we’re heading,” Knox said. “I know we will get back to that mecca, that land, once again and hopefully get more of these [championship rings].”
This story was produced in partnership with the Minnesota Lynx and Star Tribune Junior Reporter program, which brought five ThreeSixty Journalism students attending the Sports Reporting Workshop students courtside on gameday.