I am getting old.
I am starting to creak where once I was springy, starting to need constant upkeep; refurbishments where I once sparkled. My floorboards, once meticulously snapped together and lacquered into place, have been polished and re-polished into mirror-like perfection over these past decades. I've been covered in ice, in tarp, painted in every hue of green and yellow, seen both elation and heartbreak occur on my surface. I've hung banners in my rafters; felt drops of sweat and tears on my surface. I've housed love, then loss. I've even been renamed--the Coliseum, the Pavilion, The Key.
I've felt many shoes walk, sprint, bounce, squeak, and jump across me in these last 52 years. They were all the same to me, varying only by their weight.
Fifteen years ago, though, something changed. I felt a tangible shift in energy; in the very atmosphere around me once this particular set of shoes lightly stepped across my surface. Sensible dress shoes. A slight limp, maybe from sore knees or hips, or the ghost of an old foot injury.
An icon recognizes an icon. A constant figure in a community recognizes when things are about to change. Once Karen Bryant walked across my boards, I knew I'd never be the same.
Surprisingly, it started with baseball.
Wiffle ball, to be specific.
Karen Bryant was three years old, and, according to her father, Mike, she was "already knocking the snot out of the ball." It was then that he realized she'd be a special little kind of athlete.
That prediction was reinforced when Bryant was a fifth-grade basketball player.
"Her teams would always win by 50-plus points," Mike laughed, blue eyes crinkling at their corners. "There was just no competition. She was always out with the boys."
Added Bryant, "I just really gravitated toward basketball. Part of it was growing up in the northwest--the first time you play soccer in the pouring down rain and freezing weather, you kind of realize 'Oh, maybe an indoor sport is best for me.'"
For Bryant, it was all about the analysis, even at a young age. Oh, and Dr. J. She loved Dr. J, according to her dad. That part is important.
"I guess I sort of realized I could be a leader in fourth or fifth grade, even a coach on the floor," she said. "I was the top scorer on my teams and obsessed with the x's and o's. I'd diagram plays when I was laying in bed at night."
It was reinforced yet again when Bryant was the top high school recruit in Washington. She played on AAU teams and the like--"back then, it wasn't what it is now"--and, without realizing it, started to build a network of people.
"Everyone knew who Karen was," said Mike. "She was always extroverted and friendly, and added with the basketball... people remembered her."
That also meant that everyone knew about her season-ending foot injury in her senior year of high school. It affected her mind ("I always thought 'Should I have signed with someone sooner? I was depressed.'") as well as her scholarship options at big schools, so she went to play at Green River Community College, then Seattle University. It was then that Bryant got a taste of what it'd be like to work as hard as possible for a dream.
"I had decided to not play anymore (after Seattle University)," she said. "I felt sort of resolved after that, and I liked going to school there, so I was just going to take my scholarship and get my degree. Shortly after, an assistant coach from the University of Washington who'd recruited me in high school and kept tabs on me through my injury contacted me and told me that there was a scholarship available. They couldn't offer it to me outright, but if I made the team it was mine."
So Bryant the leader, Bryant the extrovert, had to redshirt a season after walking onto the UW Women's Basketball team. But the scholarship was hers, and she was able to play her senior season.
"In a lot of ways I wouldn't trade it for anything," she said. "I had grown up watching UW and going to their games, but I also like to say to people that I had three basketball families. I had my high school basketball family, my AAU family, and all my college families.'"
That extensive network caught the ears of some very important people with plans to expand women's basketball. They wanted to call it the American Basketball League, or ABL, and play alongside the NBA season. It would be a standalone operation that emphasized grassroots marketing and a sense of community through--a business plan that Bryant would be perfect at spreading the word about, as she had limbs in every Seattle basketball community.
"I originally started out as kind of a volunteer, just helping (the ABL) spread the word about what we were trying to do," she said. "Early on they realized how extensive my network was. Regardless of what level you played or what town you were from, my network was people who had a passion for women's basketball. And I was sort of able to convene everybody around that."
The ABL's plan quickly adapted to include Bryant as more than just a volunteer.
"I still have the pink phone message slip," she said. "I was out of the office and my coworker took down the message from Steve Hams. It said 'ABL' and had a phone number. I called him and he basically explained: They were starting a women's pro basketball league and vetting different cities that they were looking to put a team in for their inaugural season in 1996, that Seattle was on the list, that he was coming up to Seattle for an initial site visit, that he'd gotten my name from a few people and that I had come up in a few different circles and he wanted to meet me, and ultimately asked if I wanted to get involved."
According to various publications about the creation of the league, there was a lot of excitement surrounding its inception. Here was a chance for the girls to compete with the boys for television coverage--eight different cities would have the chance to be a part of women's sports history. They'd host members of the 1996 Women's Olympic Basketball team, who in turn would provide a high level of competition and play.
"It started as me helping connect them to people, but ultimately led to Seattle getting picked for a team and me getting hired," Bryant said. "I think it was clear I had passion and connections. I had never worked in pro women's basketball--nobody had."
Bryant said at some level she'd realized she was a part of history, but most of her emotional reaction was about excitement and total enthusiasm about having the chance to work in women's basketball in her hometown.
"And then, very quickly, it turned into 'Oh, sh** ... we have SO much to do,'" she said.
The ABL launched in October. Bryant had been hired in May. That meant that after everything had been cleared and approved for the launch and everyone involved had taken a small breath, they had four and a half months to create a professional basketball team--they hadn't even gotten office space yet.
"It was really critical for the ABL season to launch prior to the NBA," Bryant said. "We were underdogs, and that just fueled everything we did." Her voice rose. "This sense of urgency, responsibility, stewardship, community...I think back on it and it's kind of a blur. I just remember never sleeping and working insane hours. I had the time of my life. I was 28 years old when I was hired. It was pretty cool."
Bryant wanted her team to be full of people as passionate and resilient as she. She laughed when she talks about how grossly underpaid everyone was in contrast to how good at their jobs they were.
"You had these people that were amazing at what they do, but they were making entry-level money," she said. "It didn't matter, because we were all so passionate. We all had the underdog, can-do mentality."
They were going to be the Seattle Reign, and they were going to be unlike every prior failed attempt to start a professional women's basketball league. For that, they needed the entire city of Seattle to jump on board.
"We started out our marketing with higher-level messaging about what it all meant," Bryant said. "We were thinking about the big picture--growing the sport of women's basketball."
Part 2 Coming Soon
Following Anne Donovan's resignation, Karen Bryant hired Brian Agler as the team's new head coach and general manager. Agler didn't waste any time beefing up his roster, adding legend Swin Cash and Sheryl Swoopes. Agler previously coached the Columbus Quest of the ABL and was the first head coach of the Minnesota Lynx. Brian's Bio
The Storm signs legendary guard Tina Thompson, who announced her retirement the following season. Thompson averaged 14 points per game in 20013, filling the void left by injured Bird and Jackson. Thompson was the first player ever drafted to the WNBA, and up until last season she was the only player to play in every WNBA season. She is a two-time gold medalist and four-time WNBA champion with the Houston Comets. For more, check out our Tina Thompson Tribute page.
The Storm finished the season with a record setting and franchise best 28-6 record, including a record setting perfect 17-0 mark at KeyArena. The regular season, however, was just the beginning. In addition to Jackson's third MVP, Brian Agler earns Coach of the Year honors.
Seattle defeats the Atlanta Dream, 87-84 to win the 2010 WNBA Championship. Lauren Jackson wins Finals MVP as the Storm sweep the Fever 3 games to none. For more, check out the 2010 WNBA Finals Breakdown.
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Swin Cash is named All-Star Game MVP following the West's 130-118 win over the East. Cash led all scorers with 22 points.
Force 10 Hoops L.L.C. announces its intentions to purchase the Storm, and save it from leaving to Oklahoma City with the Sonics. With the Sonics' fate already sealed, Force 10 Hoops was able to swoop in and keep the Storm in Seattle.
The WNBA Board of Governors officially approves the sale of the Seattle Storm to Force 10 Hoops. Click here for more on Force 10 Hoops.
Lauren Jackson adds more hardware to the trophy case, winning the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year Award.
Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson join 8 other greats as part of the WNBA All-Decade Team. Click here for the complete list of players.
The Storm selects Tanisha Wright with the 12th overall selection in the 2005 WNBA Draft. While playing guard at Penn State, Wright won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors an unprecedented 3 straight times. Tanisha's Bio
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The Storm defeats the Connecticut Sun 74-60 to win its first WNBA Championship. Seattle won the best-of-three series 2-1, after finishing the season with a 20-14 record. Betty Lennox was named the Finals MVP after averaging 22 points per game. For more, check out the 2004 WNBA Finals Breakdown.
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Lauren Jackson becomes the first Storm player to win WNBA MVP. She was the first non-American and youngest player ever to win MVP. This was the first of three MVP awards for Jackson. She also won in 2007 and 2010.
The Storm announces the hiring of Anne Donovan as the team's new head coach. She replaces Lin Dunn, who resigned in September of 2002. Donovan was inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995, and as part of the inaugural class of Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999. Anne's Bio
Storm lose its first-ever playoff game, 78-61 to the LA Sparks. Seattle would get swept in the first round to LA, losing the series 2-games to none.
The Storm selects Sue Bird (UConn) with the number one overall pick in the 2002 WNBA Draft. Bird won two National Championships with the Huskies, and remains the NCAA's top three point (45.9%) and free throw (89.2%) shooter. In her rookie season, Bird was selected as a starter on the 2002 WNBA Western Conference All-Star team in Washington, D.C. Bird's Bio
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Lauren Jackson is named a reserve to the Western Conference team at the 2001 WNBA All-Star Game in Orlando, Florida, becoming the first player in Storm history to receive the distinction. Jackson finished her rookie campaign as the team leader in points (15.2), rebounds (6.7), blocks (2.21), steals (1.86), and minutes (34.5).
The Storm selects 19-year-old Australian, Lauren Jackson, with the first overall pick in the WNBA draft. Jackson led her Australian team to the silver medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Lauren's Bio
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After starting the season 0-4, the Storm captures its first-ever victory with a 67-62 win over the Charlotte Sting at the Charlotte Coliseum.
The Storm then records its first-ever win at KeyArena with a dramatic 69-59 overtime victory over the LA Sparks. Storm finish its inaugural season with a 6-26 record. 142,594 Seattle fans saw the Storm in action during the first season.
The Storm loses its first regular season game at KeyArena, 77-47 to the three-time defending champion Houston Comets. The game also marks the first appearance of Storm mascot, Doppler.
The expansion Storm took the floor for the first time in the opener of the 2000 season at ARCO Arena, visiting the Sacramento Monarchs. The team led early, but the veteran Monarchs dominated down the stretch to hand the Storm its first loss by a 76-60 final. Guards Edna Campbell and Sonja Henning, forwards Katrina Hibbert, Quacy Barnes and center Kamila Vodichkova made up the Storm's first starting lineup. Hibbert scored the Storm's first basket and Campbell (22) along with rookie Vodichkova (20) had high-scoring outings.
The Seattle Storm commences its first training camp at the Sonics & Storm Training Facility, now the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation building at Seattle Center.
The Seattle WNBA franchise announces it will be called the Storm.
Seattle announces that it has secured more than 7,200 season ticket deposits, which is 1,700 more than the necessary 5,500 pledges to meet the WNBA's requirement.
One week later the WNBA officially announces that Seattle, Indiana, Miami and Portland have secured a franchise.
Full House & Entertainment hires Lin Dunn, former Purdue University and Portland Power (ABL) head coach, as the general manager and head coach of Seattle's new WNBA team. Lin's Bio
Lin Dunn and Karen Bryant dribble a WNBA basketball 5.5 miles through downtown Seattle to increase awareness of the drive for 5,500 ticket pledges.
Full House Sports & Entertainment names Karen Bryant the Senior Director of WNBA Operations. Bryant, a native of Edmonds who played basketball for the University of Washington, was the former general manager of the Seattle Reign of the American Basketball League. Karen's Bio
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Seattle is one of four expansion teams chosen to begin play in the 2000 season. The league calls for Seattle to secure 5,500 ticket pledges by October 15, 1999. Portland, Indiana, and Miami are the other three expansion invitees.