For all of their success and longevity in the WNBA, Liberty teammates Vickie
Johnson and Crystal Robinson
are the most accomplished players in WNBA playoff history not to have won a championship.
And that is a distinction they would not mind shedding.
Crystal Robinson has played over 1000 minutes in her playoff career.|
D. Lippitt/NBAE/Getty Images
As veteran members of one
of the most successful teams in the WNBA's first nine seasons, Johnson and Robinson
have been through almost everything together. From clutch game-winning shots to
devastating losses, the Liberty have appeared in the playoffs in six of the past
eight seasons and have gone to the Finals on four separate occasions, having lost
to the Comets in 1997, 1999 and 2000 and then to the Sparks in 2002.
they are again, about to face the Indiana Fever in the first round of the 2005
Playoffs. Guard Vickie Johnson is the last remaining original member of the Liberty
and comes into Tuesday nights postseason opener as the all-time leader in playoff
games played with 34, third in total minutes, fourth in field goals made, fifth
in total points and eighth in total rebounds. In appearing in every one of New
York's postseason games since 1997, Johnson has a record of 17-17 in her playoff
Johnson may have never been the face of the Liberty in her nine
seasons, deferring to the boisterous Teresa Weatherspoon early on and to the flashy
Becky Hammon the past couple
of seasons, but Johnson has been the sturdy, reliable anchor in New York's lineup
throughout. In six trips to the playoffs, Johnson averages 11.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg and
3.2 apg. She was also an All-Star in 1999 and 2001.
"V.J. means everything
to this organization," Robinson said. "She is the engine that makes this team
go and has been since the beginning. I don't care what anyone else does or how
many points anyone else scores, because without V.J., this team won't win. All
of her teammates know that and everyone just really appreciates the way she plays."
No one has played in more playoff games than guard Vickie Johnson.|
Jesse Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images
Robinson has been
right beside Johnson for most of the Liberty's big playoff moments. She did not
join the Liberty until 1999 after playing three seasons for Colorado's ABL franchise.
But in five playoff appearances since, the daughter of two former college hoopsters
averages 10.7 ppg, 3.2 rpg and 1.7 apg in her playoff career.
is a great player," Johnson said. "She is one of the best shooters in the league.
Unfortunately she broke her pink finger and she hasn't been shooting the ball
as well since, but you have consider her other attributes just as much, and those
are her great defense, her rebounding and just being intelligent on the court.
She brings a lot to the table."
She is tied for fourth in total playoff
games played with 32, fifth in total playoff minutes, ninth in total points and
the all-time leader in three-pointers made in the postseason with 61.
have definitely been in some battles together, lots of playoff games won," Robinson
said of Johnson."
In terms of career playoff games played, the threesome
of Johnson, Robinson and Hammon are matched only by the Sparks trio of Lisa Leslie,
Mwadi Mabika and Tamecka Dixon, also three original WNBA players, have played
in 33, 33 and 32 career playoff games respectively.
"The other leaders
up there all have a championship ring," Hammon said. All of the playoff career
stat leaders are Houston, L.A. and New York, but we don't have those rings like
Every player ahead of Robinson and Johnson on the total points
list has won a title.
"Being among the playoff leaders but not having a
championship like some of the others drives me a lot," Johnson said. "To win a
championship would complete my career. But I know it takes a lot of hard work,
team effort. It's not going to be easy. I've been in the Finals four times and
haven't won one yet, but hopefully this is the year we can pull it together and
| Robinson longs to win a ring with longtime teammates Johnson and Hammon.|
Jesse Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images
"Man, that championship
ring is what we play for," Robinson said. "That's what we practice for. That's
the ultimate goal. We talk about it everyday. We talk about how we'd like to win
a championship and we'd like to do it together.
But this group is not without
their share of great playoff memories.
"Spoon hitting that shot in 1999
was a great memory that we all share," Hammon said. "We were all there. We've
won a lot of Eastern Conference Championships together. The trip to the Finals
used to run through New York, and we want to get that back. Last year, we beat
in the first round and Bethany Donaphin's shot was a great moment. There have
been a lot of great memories. But none of that really matters. What matters is
the playoffs this year and going far, so we've been there."
is ready to hang up the jersey, nor have they even hinted that the end is in sight.
"When you win, that's fun," Johnson said. “That's our goal We have to go
into the playoffs rolling. We have to go to Indiana and pick it up on the defensive
end. We have to go in there and make a statement. In order for us to advance to
the second round, we have to beat Indiana on their court. It’s going to be very
intense. We’ll be ready.”