Lynx jersey retirement a 'thank you' to Lindsay Whalen

It’s hard to find a better script for a success story with a hometown athlete than what Lindsay Whalen has accomplished with the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Lynx.

The Hutchinson native was a high school star, and made playing basketball cool for young girls. She went onto star at point guard for the Gophers and helped fill Williams Arena as her squad made a run to the NCAA Final Four in 2004.

Whalen won four WNBA titles with the Lynx, and is a two-time Olympic gold medalist. Her pro career includes six WNBA All-Star game appearances, 13 trips to the postseason and eight WNBA Finals appearances

She’ll have her historic No. 13 Lynx jersey retired on June 8, when the Lynx host the L.A. Sparks, one of their biggest rivals.

“It’s good, I just want to mess with L.A. one more time. Throw off their pregame routine. Pretty much just that, I want to beat L.A. that day,” Whalen said.

There’s proof that the competitor in Whalen will never retire, even though she did as a player after last season.

For Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve, her relationship with Whalen goes back nine years. Reeve was hired in December of 2009. The next month, she got a call from her boss, Roger Griffith, about a trade offer from the Connecticut Sun. Whalen was coming home.

She helped lead the Lynx to WNBA titles in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017. In June, she’ll be the first women’s professional athlete to have her jersey hanging in the rafters at Target Center.

“I don’t think that there’s a better way to say to a player thank you for all that they’ve done,” Reeve said. “I can’t imagine the last nine years without that transaction. The nine years we spent together, just incredible when you think about where we started in 2010 and where we finished in 2018. Just an unbelievable ride.”

Whalen left the Gophers as the program’s all-time leading scorer with 2,285 points. She also holds the Minnesota career record for scoring average, games scoring in double figures, free throws made and free-throw percentage.

She spent 15 years in the WNBA, the last nine with the Lynx. She’s the Lynx franchise leader in assists (1,394), is second with 283 games played and fourth with more than 3,200 career points. She’s most proud of the team sacrifice and work it took to earn four championships.

“See what happens when you stay home? Good things happen when you stay home,” Whalen said.

Whalen also won two Olympic gold medals with Team USA, at the 2012 games in London and the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro. She also helped her team win the Turkish Cup in 2013 and the EuroCup in 2014.

She credits everyone around her for everything she’s accomplished in her basketball career. Whalen will go down as one of the greatest basketball players in Minnesota history, and most of what she did happened in her backyard.

“I wouldn’t have any of these kind of accolades if it wasn’t for all of us sacrificing together. I just happened to be the first one to retire,” Whalen said.

Whalen posed with Reeve and her legendary No. 13 jersey after Thursday’s celebratory news conference at Target Center. It will all become reality on June 8, when that jersey is retired before they play the Sparks. It will never be worn again.

“We wouldn’t have been able to do all those things if it wasn’t for the work we all did together. None of this would happen if the team didn’t have success,” Whalen said. “It shows what you can do when you work hard and surround yourself with really great people.”

Whalen is now a Lynx fan, and she’s just fine with that. She’s now a season ticket holder.

She has traded in her jersey for a practice jump suit and game day blazer as head coach of the Gopher women’s basketball program, where she made herself a star in college. She led Minnesota to 21 wins in her first season as a Division I head coach, and a trip to the WNIT.

She’s accomplished about everything that can be with a basketball. Whalen retires from the WNBA as the all-time leader with 377 victories, including 54 playoff wins. She’s third in career assists and is the only player in league history with 5,000 points, 2,000 assists and 1,500 rebounds.

If she wins enough as a coach, she hopes a statue like Sid Hartman’s in downtown Minneapolis might be in her future.

“I’m just waiting on that from the city or whoever has to make that happen. I guess that will be the next press conference we’ll have,” Whalen joked.