It isn’t glamorous. It doesn’t get your name trending on social media. In fact, it’s often an afterthought. But, it’s the common denominator in any championship equation: rebounding.
Over 20 seasons of WNBA basketball the league has seen its share of impressive rebounders. The one that most readily comes to mind is Lisa Leslie. The preeminent face of women’s basketball over her 12-year career, Leslie made a name for herself as a force of nature on the block who gobbled up any ricochet off iron that was in her immediate vicinity.
While Leslie may hold the all-time record for total rebounds, she’s overshadowed by five players in the specific category of career offensive rebounds. Up until the 6:26 minute mark of the first quarter in the Minnesota Lynx’s 92-80 win over the Storm on Sunday, that record belonged to Taj McWilliams-Franklin and her 1062 offensive boards. But, when Rebekkah Brunson secured a Lindsay Whalen miss, she leapfrogged McWilliams-Franklin to take sole possession of the most career offensive rebounds.
She added another in the fourth quarter for good measure, giving her a grand total of 1064.
Rebekkah Brunson with 2 offensive rebounds and is now the WNBA leader in that category! She passed Taj McWilliams-Franklin (1062) for 1st.
— Lynx PR (@Lynx_PR) August 28, 2016
THE MACHINE 💪🏽!
— Minnesota Lynx (@minnesotalynx) August 28, 2016
The former 10th overall pick in 2004 by the now defunct Sacramento Monarchs has seen her professional career take her from northern California, to the quaint beach town of Godella on the eastern coast of Spain, to the western most hub in Russia, Kursk, and ultimately back to the States and the Minnesota Lynx in 2010.
Though her compass has pointed in every direction, one thing about her basketball exploits has remained constant, Brunson can crash the boards. The 6’2″ forward may not have the size of many others around the rim, but it’s never all about height when it comes to who can secure a rebound, especially an offensive one.
No, it’s as much about intuition, determination, and above all else will. Brunson has never averaged over 13 points in her career but has played an integral role in four championships and boasts the equivalent rings to prove it. How? She does what few else are willing to.
Brunson’s place atop the all-time offensive rebound list is a just reward for the 34-year-old who finds herself in the twilight of a title-filled career. Her quartet of championship trophies place her in the same class as Houston’s trio of stars, Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson, that dominated the inception of the WNBA with four-straight championships.
Right now, it looks like Brunson may have the chance to add a fifth trophy to her mantel this season as the Lynx find themselves atop the WNBA after the Sparks dropped two-straight over the weekend. With Maya Moore raining jumpers from outside, Sylvia Fowles setting up shop in the lane, and the aforementioned Brunson bouncing around the floor extending possessions, this team is a surefire contender.
Every squad that plots a course for a championship will ideally have a dominant scorer, play lockdown team defense, have exceptional coaching, and have players who are willing stick their hands in the mud and dig around a little. Rebekkah Brunson is the embodiment of the latter, and plays the role of an unsung hero to a tee.
Perhaps, Lindsay Whalen said it best to the Minneapolis Post when describing Brunson’s value to the Lynx in the midst of their 2015 championship run. “She just has a will that I don’t know if many other players have, a tenacity to get after the ball,” she said. “Rebounding is a lot about heart and desire, and her will. I haven’t been around too many players quite like her. It’s no coincidence we’ve been in the Finals so many times, because we’ve got a player like her that does everything, gets every huge rebound, and makes great plays. She’s one of the reasons why we’re in this position.”
Nothing seems to have changed 10 months later, except that Brunson has etched Whalen’s praise in stone by making sure her name sits atop the all-time offensive rebounds list.