Gridlocked in an 82-82 contest at Target Center on May 24, the Lynx needed a spark. Sporting a 2-0 record and coming off a pair of wins in which the average margin of victory was 20 points, Minnesota found itself trading basket for basket with the Los Angeles Sparks in its first late-game battle of the year.
With 2:19 to play and the Target Center crowd waiting for a reason to erupt, Lynx guard Candice Wiggins took a pass from Taj McWilliams-Franklin in the corner, drained a 3-pointer from 21 feet and threw a patented fist-pump in the air to show her excitement. Moments earlier, after Wiggins connected with Rebekkah Brunson for a basket and the foul, Wiggins dashed across the court, gave Brunson a chest bump and was the emotional fuel at the center of a game-changing moment for the Lynx.
No matter who makes the play, when the game is on the line its a solid bet Wiggins will be in the middle of the celebration. She brings a joy and passion to the game that makes fans reminisce about playground pickup games growing up.
Its just happiness, Wiggins said. Im just happy to be able to be here. A lot of times, players in the WNBA dont even realize what theyre doing. Were living our dreams, at least I am, so I feel like I just express it as much as I can.
Her reactions are candid and sinceresimply a way to channel her energy after a big play. But the Lynx say Wiggins actions mean a lot more than simply reacting to a made shot. For her team, its an emotional charge that runs up and down the bench. It ignites the fans in the stands, and it likely gets under the skin of her opponents.
All are part of the package, but with Wiggins each day is the same. If shes practicing in an empty gym with no one but her teammates around, shell still bring those same reactions.
During Sundays morning shootaround before their game against San Antonio, McWilliams-Franklin made a behind-the-back pass during a 5-on-0 walkthrough drill. As her teammates erupted with praise, Wiggins praised Mama Taj from the baseline with a short and sweet: Oh no you didnt!
Candice is the same. If shes at practice and she hits a shot, shes the same way, coach Cheryl Reeve said. Maybe turned down just a little bit, but that same idea of energy. She just has a great passion for the game. That comes through. Our players like it. We need it. Thats her jobwe look to her for that.
Wiggins said its become part of her identity among fans, some of whom relate to the way she energizes those around her farm more than her numbers in a box score.
She said regardless of how many minutes she plays or how many points she scores, she still gets comments from fans about the joy she shows on the court.
Fans will always remember how you make them feel when they watch you, Wiggins said. They remember, Wow, I remember I felt about her play. I think that resonates way more than statistics.
In the locker room, theres a similar reaction.
Shes the hype-man on the team, forward Amber Harris said. Shes always involved, always positive, everything like that. We feed off her energy. Shes having fun while shes doing it, so she makes us want to have fun out there, too.
Rest assured, Wiggins will continue to be that spark on court for as long as she plays the game. Its a part of her game that is overlooked by stat sheets but impacts her team just as much as any point total could suggest.
Teammates can feed off it; I know it annoys the other team sometimes, and it probably annoys my teammates sometimes, she joked. But its energy. Sometimes people dont know how to handle energy, but I dont really notice it. A lot of times, honestly, I feel like Im low energy compared to how I used to be.