Shock's two titles in four seasons ranks them among best in league history
Two for the Record Books
By Andrew Pearson, WNBA.com
DETROIT, September 9, 2006---Three years ago when the Shock captured the first championship in franchise history by beating the Los Angeles Sparks in three games, you could say it was a bit of a surprise.
"2003 came so suddenly," said Laimbeer. "It was like, my God, we won."
Although they finished with the second best record in the East to Connecticut at 23-11, they had arguably the most talented team in the league, especially having added Katie Smith (#2 on the team in 2006 with 14.4 points-per-game) for the final 13 games of 2005, and their ability on the court was a surprise to no one according to Monarchs' coach John Whisenant.
"If you polled every GM and coach in the league of who's the most talented team, this team, Detroit, would probably get the most votes," said Whisenant.
The team finished number two in the league in overall defense, allowing 70.1 points-per-game and led the league in rebounds-per-game with 37.9. The only thing that seemed to hold the team back in its quest for a second title was its penchant for losing focus every now and then. Still, the team seemed to be able to right itself at just the right moment, losing back-to-back games only once all season, and rebounded in the most crucial of spots after a demoralizing loss in Game 3 against Sacramento to win Game 4 in record-setting fashion nonetheless. During the fourth quarter of that game, Detroit held the Monarchs to a WNBA Finals-low two points in the fourth quarter. In Game 5 they rebounded once again.
Trailing by eight in the final game of the season, Detroit shot out of the halftime gate re-energized and scored 18 of the first 21 points in the second half to take a 54-47 lead, and ultimately the game, behind a boisterous crowd at the Joe.
"We had an up and down season," said Ford. "Nobody expected us to be here or even get past the first round, but we all gelled together, played together as a team and got it done."
Now the possessor of two WNBA championships, one of only three franchises to do so along with Houston and Los Angeles, talk has to begin on where the Shock rank in WNBA history. Although they didn't win four straight championships like Houston or even back-to-back titles like Los Angeles, one could argue that their two titles in a four year span is equally as impressive if not more so when looking at the current state of the WNBA.
Consider: When the Comets were on their tear through the league from 1997-2000, they only had to play a maximum of two games in the playoffs in 1997 - one in the conference finals and one for the championship. In 1998, they played a maximum of five games and in 1999, they were afforded the luxury of a first round bye, playing only six games. During their last championship season in 2000, they played six games, though there was a potential to play nine. Los Angeles had it a bit tougher with a potential for nine playoff games in each of their championship seasons in 2001 and 2002.
But with the advent of the five-game championship series last year, Detroit has had a tougher road to hoe. Add in the fact that the regular season now stretches for 34 games, the league's expansion to 14 teams, the markedly increasing talent level, and the inception of free agency and a salary cap, and the Shock's two titles stack up favorably in the history books, something that Cash enjoys greatly.
"It means a lot," said Cash, in the champagne-soaked Shock locker room following the game. "I like putting my name in an elite group and that is what I play for."
Now with the confetti having fallen on the Shock for a second time in Detroit history, one can only wonder how many more are in the future for a team that is relatively young.
"Well I think we're not done yet," said Laimbeer. "We're so young. We should have been here three of the last four years. Unfortunately we've only been here two of the last four years. I envision great things for this ballclub. We have a great nucleus and they enjoy playing with each other."
And if you don't believe Laimbeer or those in attendance at Joe Louis Arena, check the record books. They'll show you.