MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Lynx fans flocked to Target Center one more time Saturday to see No. 13 Lindsay Whalen on the court.
For the past nine years, fans had the pleasure of seeing No. 13 weave through defenders, battle for loose balls and lead the team to four WNBA championships. But on Saturday, a crowd of nearly 9,000 came for a different reason, to honor a native Minnesotan as Whalen became the first Lynx player in to have her jersey unveiled in the rafters.
“I always tried to represent (Minnesota) on the court as much as I could as a player and do my best,” Whalen said. “It was great today, to see the (fans) here and supporting as always. It was a lot of fun.”
Whalen joins late Timberwolves guard Malik Sealy and late Wolves coach Flip Saunders as the only people to have their names in the rafters of Target Center.
Whalen leads the Lynx in career assists and is second in games played and fourth in scoring.
The afternoon featured tributes from former teammates, including Twins great Joe Mauer and Whalen’s former coaches Geno Auriemma, and Cheryl Reeve.
“Two best coaches in women’s basketball right there,” Whalen said of Auriemma and Reeve. “To have those two get on there and say what they said, that was really great.”
Whalen, who is the head coach of the Gopher women’s team, added she hopes she can be what Auriemma and Reeve are for her players. Whalen will enter her second season coaching the Gophers later this year.
Reeve was emotional during the pregame video tribute as she saw her friend and former player become immortalized in team lore. Whalen left the WNBA as the career leader in victories.
“Her jersey is in the rafters because she is a winner,” Reeve said. “I’ve had so many, this is my 10th season now, people that have said they are following women’s basketball because of Lindsay Whalen.”
The Lynx couldn’t deliver a win in Whalen’s return, however, falling to the Los Angeles Sparks 89-85.