Three in the D!
“Three in the D!”
How sweet the sound for Shock players, coach and staff, who were honored by Detroit city officials in a rally that drew a larger crowd than the championship festivities of two years earlier despite a cool and overcast day.
“We had a lot of people that came out here for an event that was organized on very short notice,” said Detroit Mayor Ken Cockrel, Jr. “I think that shows the level of love and support that this town has for the Shock.”
The Shock play their home games at The Palace of Auburn Hills and clinched their last two playoff rounds at Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti. The Shock clinched their second title in 2006 downtown at Joe Louis Arena. Given the chance, the mayor hopes to see them clinch title No. 4 there, too.
“The bottom line is the city of Detroit has the Shock in its heart,” Cockrel said. “But if we do get an opportunity to have them bring it home in the city of Detroit, next time, trust me, I’d love to see that happen.”
Many Detroit residents have followed the Shock wherever they have played this season. “As a matter of fact I was supposed to go to the hair dresser and the Shock were playing and I cancelled it,” said Juliana Lawson, 68, of Detroit. “I went the next day because I had to see my Shock.”
“I was off (work) yesterday and today,” she added. “I would have taken off for this.”
“For how chilly it is, it was great,” said Kimi Kondo, 40, who flew with her partner from Denver Saturday to see the Shock clinch the WNBA championship. “There are people out here and the Shock are very appreciative of the fan support.”
Finals MVP Katie Smith was the first member of the team to speak, followed briefly by Deanna Nolan and head coach Bill Laimbeer. The familiar chant of “Baaad Boyyys” rang loud and clear when Cockrel recognized Laimbeer and assistant coach Rick Mahorn for their continued involvement in Detroit basketball and the Metro Detroit community, two decades after bringing the city its first professional basketball championship with the Pistons in 1989.
“All year long, Detroit is a great, great city, great sports town,” said Smith, who presented Cockrel with a Shock jersey. “We put in a lot of work, but we hope you guys enjoyed it.”
No one savored the moment more than forward Taj McWilliams-Franklin, who danced on stage to Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On,” and stirred more laughs with her remarks. “I’ve been an extremely blessed, it’s been an awesome, awesome, only eight weeks,” she said. “I don’t think I could put up with Bill any longer than that.”
The smile that never left her face Monday says she’ll get used to him. McWilliams-Franklin signed a one-year extension after her August arrival. She thanked everyone from The Palace, Eastern Michigan, and her coaches and teammates – even the media – for her warm welcome to Michigan.
“It’s my first time in Detroit as a player and just seeing the city but I love it and I’m waiting for next year,” she said. “Three in the D! I love it!”
The first-time WNBA champion wanted to let everyone it’s never too late to achieve your dreams, even as “an old lady.”
“That’s why they played the Marvin Gaye. For all the old people that Marvin’s for you,” said McWilliams-Franklin, who turns 38 in two weeks. “We love you, thank you!”
The Shock persevered through the ugly July 22 skirmish with L.A. that led to multiple suspensions and a season-ending injury to All-Star Cheryl Ford to win the Eastern Conference. In the playoffs, they didn’t let star reserve Plenette Pierson’s shoulder injury sidetrack their title quest. Detroit loves a champion, and embraces a difficult championship journey even more. The Shock’s tumultuous 2008 campaign certainly qualifies.
“One of the things we always hear about the Shock is what a tremendous inspiration that they are to young women, and that’s all very true but it goes beyond that,” said Cockrel, who issued an official city resolution to a similar effect. “If you look at the hardships, and the challenges and the obstacles that this team rose to overcome, they are an inspiration to young women and young men and to each and every single one of us.”
The ceremony ended with the announcement that Shock T-shirts would be handed out to the loyal fans who attended the rally. Several minutes passed, however, and no T-shirts. That set off another chant.
“We want T-shirts!”
The Shock fans are just like their team.