As the WNBA’s 26th season approaches, take a look back at the league’s history which shows multiple periods of dominance over the past two and a half decades. And it all started in Houston.
The Unstoppable: Houston won the league’s first four championships behind the Big Three of Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson. The Comets amassed a 98-24 (.803) regular season record and 16-2 (.889) playoff record in those four seasons – a combined mark of 114-26 (.814).
The Breakthrough: After falling to Houston in back-to-back playoffs, the Los Angeles Sparks finally ended the Comets’ reign and went on to win back-to-back titles of their own behind MVP Lisa Leslie and Co. Fifteen years after their first title, the Sparks, led by Candace Parker & Nneka Ogwumike, defeated the Lynx for the teams’s third title.
Worst to First: L.A.’s hope for a three-peat was thwarted by the Detroit Shock, who became the first team in American pro sports to go from having the worst record in the league (9-23 in 2002) to champions the following season. The Shock would go on to win three titles in six years under the leadership of head coach Bill Laimbeer.
The Dynamic Duo: Seattle landed back-to-back No. 1 picks in the draft in 2001 and ’02 and by 2004, the combo of Lauren Jackson and Sue Bird led Seattle to its first of two WNBA titles.
Crowning Achievement: Sacramento won its first and only WNBA title in franchise history behind the outstanding play of Finals MVP Yolanda Griffith. This was the first year of the best-of-five Finals format as the Monarchs defeated the Connecticut Sun three games to one.
Desert Heat: Of the four teams that have won three titles, the eight-year span between Phoenix’s first title (2007) and most recent (2014) is the largest. The constant for all three titles is the brilliant Diana Taurasi; the first two came alongside Cappie Pondexter and the third with Britney Griner in the middle.
The Final Piece: Tamika Catchings owns one of the greatest resumes in WNBA history – Rookie of the Year, MVP, multiple Defensive Player of the Year, All-WNBA and All-Star honors – but it wasn’t until 2012, in her 11th WNBA season, that she finally captured the WNBA title for Indiana.
The Second Dynasty: The four titles won by the Houston Comets in the first four seasons of the WNBA was the benchmark for team greatness. From 2011 to 2017, the Minnesota Lynx won four championships and made six Finals appearances to cement their legacy as a WNBA dynasty. The core group of Seimone Augustus, Lindsay Whalen, Maya Moore and Rebekkah Brunson anchored the team for the entire run, while the addition of Sylvia Fowles in 2015 took the team over the top.
Back For Title No. 3: After winning their first two titles at the turn of the century, the L.A. Sparks returned to glory by dethroning the mighty Lynx in a class five-game series in 2016 to win their third WNBA title. Two years later, it was Seattle’s turn to win their third championship after an extended absence. Seattle won their first two titles in 2004 and 2010 behind the dynamic duo of Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson. While LJ has retired, Sue Bird helped lead a new generation of Storm players led by MVP Breanna Stewart to the title in 2018.
Joining The Club: For the first time since 2012, the WNBA was guaranteed a new champion in 2019 with a matchup between the Mystics and Sun. Washington prevailed in five games, being led by league MVP Elena Delle Donne playing through injury and Finals MVP Emma Meesseman being the missing piece that put the Mystics on top after coming up short in 2018.
No. 4: The Seattle Storm captured their fourth title, joining the Houston Comets and Minnesota Lynx as the only franchises to accomplish the feat. Sue Bird became the 10th player to have four titles, with a record 16 years separating her first and fourth, while Breanna Stewart earned her second WNBA Finals MVP.
The Underdogs: For the first time in WNBA history, the Chicago Sky won their first WNBA Championship in franchise history as the No.6 seed. After having a roller-coaster season, the pieces connected at the right time for the Sky, defeating the Phoenix Mercury in four games in the Finals. Kahleah Copper was named Finals MVP for her efforts.
|2021||Chicago Sky||Phoenix Mercury||Kahleah Copper|
|2020||Seattle Storm||Las Vegas Aces||Breanna Stewart|
|2019||Washington Mystics||Connecticut Sun||Emma Meesseman|
|2018||Seattle Storm||Washington Mystics||Breanna Stewart|
|2017||Minnesota Lynx||Los Angeles Sparks||Sylvia Fowles|
|2016||Los Angeles Sparks||Minnesota Lynx||Candace Parker|
|2015||Minnesota Lynx||Indiana Fever||Sylvia Fowles|
|2014||Phoenix Mercury||Chicago Sky||Diana Taurasi|
|2013||Minnesota Lynx||Atlanta Dream||Maya Moore|
|2012||Indiana Fever||Minnesota Lynx||Tamika Catchings|
|2011||Minnesota Lynx||Atlanta Dream||Seimone Augustus|
|2010||Seattle Storm||Atlanta Dream||Lauren Jackson|
|2009||Phoenix Mercury||Indiana Fever||Diana Taurasi|
|2008||Detroit Shock||San Antonio Silver Stars||Katie Smith|
|2007||Phoenix Mercury||Detroit Shock||Cappie Pondexter|
|2006||Detroit Shock||Sacramento Monarchs||Deanna Nolan|
|2005||Sacramento Monarchs||Connecticut Sun||Yolanda Griffith|
|2004||Seattle Storm||Connecticut Sun||Betty Lennox|
|2003||Detroit Shock||Los Angeles Sparks||Ruth Riley|
|2002||Los Angeles Sparks||New York Liberty||Lisa Leslie|
|2001||Los Angeles Sparks||Charlotte Sting||Lisa Leslie|
|2000||Houston Comets||New York Liberty||Cynthia Cooper|
|1999||Houston Comets||New York Liberty||Cynthia Cooper|
|1998||Houston Comets||Phoenix Mercury||Cynthia Cooper|
|1997||Houston Comets||New York Liberty||Cynthia Cooper|