It didn’t start the way most anticipated, but it surely ended exactly how the Seattle Storm wanted, securing its fourth WNBA championship and its second in the last three years in a tumultuous 2020.
Pushed back because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Storm entered the Wubble in Bradenton, Florida with high expectations of winning another title.
But they also entered the Wubble with a purpose.
“We wanted to bring awareness and give a voice to the Black women that are often forgotten in this country,” Alysha Clark said after winning the championship in October.
Before taking the court for the first time against the New York Liberty in a nationally televised showcase, both teams held a 26-second moment of silence in honor of Breonna Taylor, who was shot and killed in her own apartment by police.
Seattle didn’t stop there, advocating before, after, and during every game for social justice, dedicating every game to the Say Her Name campaign and for justice for Taylor and others who have experienced police violence.
All the while, the Storm got back to their championship ways, and bolstered by the return of Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird, got out to a record-breaking start. Seattle started 11-1, a franchise-best, and built up a nine-game winning streak during that stretch, which was second-best in franchise history.
“Stewie is just one of those players, a generational player that comes through once in a while that can face adversity and even get stronger because of it,” head coach Gary Kloppenburg said. “I think that’s what we saw with her.”
Stewart and Bird led the way through most of the regular season, but the Storm was helped tremendously by career-years from Clark and Jewell Loyd. Seattle’s second and third-leading scorers from the regular season, the pair were part of just three Storm players that started every game this season, along with Natasha Howard. Clark led the way defensively, leading the WNBA in defensive win shares and averaging double-digit points, while Loyd shot a career-best 44.3% from the field during the regular season.
They continued their tear through the WNBA, building on that record and finishing the season tied with the Las Vegas Aces for the best record in the league at 18-4, and securing a double-bye to start a playoff run.
The rest is history. The Storm swept their way through both opponents, but not without some drama. In Game 1 of the WNBA Semifinals against the Minnesota Lynx, it took a Clark buzzer-beating putback to win and steal the momentum for the series.
In Game 1 of the WNBA Finals, Bird set a playoff record and a personal best, dishing out 16 assists, and Stewart scored 37 points to go along with 15 rebounds. Stewart’s 37 points were a franchise-best and second-best in WNBA Finals history. In Game 2, the Storm set another record, assisting on 33 baskets, which was a Finals record and a playoff franchise record. After a dominant Game 3, the Storm were champions once again, their second title in three years.
Bird became the only player in WNBA history to win a title in three different decades, Stewart won her second Finals MVP, but perhaps more importantly, the Storm were once again at the forefront of a national movement.
“Just really excited to get to play so well, I thought, all the way through, with some adversity,” Kloppenburg said. “And just to represent what’s right and what’s just. That’s the bigger picture here, besides the basketball on the court. Just trying to progress justice in the right way the world should be going. I think it’s neat — our team made a statement.”
After winning her second championship with the Storm, Clark spent much of her postgame press conference talking about what the season meant to her.
“We are often overlooked and often unheard,” she said. “This championship was for them and for us … To be able to come out here tonight and win this, it’s a championship for little Black girls and Black women across this country. I hope each and everyone one of them feel just as victorious in this moment as I do. Because you should. We see you. We hear you. We acknowledge you and your life matters.
“That is what this season was about. To be able to win a championship with that message and with that on our minds, it’s special and really historic. I’m so honored and so thankful to be a part of that.”