Despite the final buzzer sounding 30 minutes beforehand, Madison Square Garden was still abuzz with frenzied anticipation.
Players from both teams piled into seats in front of a glass podium, and most of the crowd remained glued to their places in the stands. WNBA legend, and current Liberty mainstay, Swin Cash was about to be recognized for her tremendous contributions to the game of basketball. Cash announced earlier this season that it will be her last, a 15-year career that has withstood the test of time will finally come to an end.
Cash has a robust resume that boasts championships from coast to coast, both collegiately and as a professional. Sprinkle in a couple of Olympic gold medals, four All-Star appearances and some indelible memories at the All-Star game itself and it’s easy to see why saying goodbye to Swin Cash is no easy task.
The Liberty did their absolute best to remember the icon with a lineup of who’s who from Cash’s past. Each would offer a unique perspective on how she has impacted their lives and the game of basketball as a whole.
WNBA president Lisa Borders got proceedings started with excitement as she discussed Swin’s impact on the WNBA in general. “You have had an enormous impact on this league,” she said. “You have cut the path for this league, it’s 20 years old and you have been here for three quarters of that time. Leadership is passion turned into action, you have taken your passion for this game to a whole new level.”
Next up was Cash’s “jelly to her peanut butter,” former college roommate and WNBA legend in her own right, Sue Bird. Bird and Cash spent considerable time together pregame and their long-standing relationship both on and off the court was apparent in her playful exultation of Swin.
“Swin and I have played on many teams for many years and have made many memories, Bird said. “I know you’re worried but I promise you I’ll be nice. You’re passionate. You see on it the court, you see it off it, every team you’ve played on you’ve touched. When we talk about Swin’s career we’re going to be talking about a winner and you can’t argue that. For me I’m happy to be here because you helped me become that. In a lot of ways we became sisters.”
Following Bird was another W legend, Tina Thompson, who spoke with unabashed honesty about their first conversation. “The thing I remember the most was our first conversation. It was filled with a lot of questions from you, and it’s amazing to see that all of the questions have come to fruition. Those questions were big and filled with a lot of work needed to make them happen. It takes a lot to get to where you are and you’ve done that and so much more,” she said.
Then came admitted protege and one time Storm teammate Tanisha Wright as well as current Liberty companion Tina Charles. Both offered touching anecdotes about how Cash played a vital role in their younger years and basketball maturation.
Wright offered a conversation she had with Swin during her rookie year in Detroit where Swin inspired her to be a better player in her own right and her words lived up to Swin’s foundation’s slogan to “motivate, educate and elevate.”
Charles mentioned how Swin was pivotal in her decision to attend the University of Connecticut as a then high-school aged Tina met Swin at the NBA Store in New York and asked where she should go if she wanted to be the best. Swin simply replied “UCONN.” Charles went on to say that Swin is one of her two favorite players alongside Lisa Leslie and through tears highlighted how much she would miss “having her idol around her at all times.”
NBA luminaries and Liberty front men Bill Lambieer and Isiah Thomas concluded the evening with kind words about how Swin serves as an example of how much one player can mean to a team sport like basketball. Lambieer saying that after the Liberty acquired Tina Charles the one player he knew the organization needed was Swin Cash to be a mentor to the now MVP front-runner. Thomas added that he wished he would have had the opportunity to be a teammate of Cash’s and how she exemplified the kind of player that you want if you were starting a franchise.
Swin contributed an extensive list of thank you’s to everyone, from her high school coach to the maintenance crew at MSG. She concluded her thank you’s with an impassioned string of sentences delivered with the same fervor with which she terrorized opponents over the duration of her 15-year career. “I loved the game, I respected the game and now I’m giving it all back to you,” she said before an equally emotional standing ovation broke out as she stepped away from the podium.
The energy was palpable pregame as number 32 jerseys littered the MSG population, fans of all ages turned out to show their appreciation for Cash, a player who has reciprocated the love from her fans more than most.
Tonight was a celebration of the entirety of Cash’s genetic makeup. Fans were given a commemorative Swin Cash poster on their way out of the arena but they left with so much more. They left knowing that Swin Cash’s contribution to the game of basketball is far from over. The athleticism may have slowed, the jumper may not fall as often, but the heartbeat is as strong as ever.
Swin Cash has a whole lot left to give.