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Milestone Watch: Sparks First Team To 450 Wins

With Sunday’s 98-81 win over the Washington Mystics, the Los Angeles Sparks became the first team in WNBA history to reach 450 wins. Not only does L.A. have the most wins, they also own the highest winning percentage among active teams (.606) and second highest in league history behind the Houston Comets (.618).

Most Wins, WNBA History (through games played July 7, 2019)

TEAM W L PCT
Los Angeles Sparks 450 293 0.606
New York Liberty 385 360 0.517
Phoenix Mercury 384 358 0.518
Minnesota Lynx 373 313 0.544
Connecticut Sun 369 317 0.538
Seattle Storm 337 319 0.514
Indiana Fever 322 333 0.492
Dallas Wings 315 400 0.441
Las Vegas Aces 314 430 0.422
Washington Mystics 304 411 0.425
Houston Comets* 241 149 0.618
Sacramento Monarchs* 224 200 0.528
Chicago Sky 199 257 0.436
Atlanta Dream 186 201 0.481
Charlotte Sting* 143 179 0.444
Cleveland Rockers* 108 112 0.491
Miami Sol* 48 48 0.500
Portland Fire* 37 59 0.385
*Defunct Franchise

 

The Sparks are one of the WNBA’s original eight franchises – along with the New York Liberty, Phoenix Mercury, Utah Starzz (now the Las Vegas Aces), Charlotte Sting, Cleveland Rockers, Houston Comets and Sacramento Monarchs – that opened the league in 1997. Among the four active teams from that group, the Sparks have 65 more wins than Phoenix, 66 more than New York and 136 more than Las Vegas.

Home vs. Road

Not only does Los Angeles own the lead in overall wins, they also have the most home wins (262) and road wins (188) in WNBA history. L.A has 30 more home wins than the second ranked team (Phoenix, 232) and 32 more road wins than the second ranked team (New York, 156).

The Sparks’ home win percentage (262-109, 0.706) leads all active teams and ranks second ever behind the Houston Comets (143-52, 0.733). On the road, the Sparks (188-184, 0.505) lead all teams as they narrowly edge Houston (98-97, 0.503) being the only two teams to win more road games than they have lost.

Playoffs

L.A. not only sits atop the wins column in the regular season, but their 46 playoff wins are also more than any team in WNBA history. The Sparks have the most playoff appearances in league history as they have qualified for the postseason in 18 of their 22 seasons as a franchise; New York ranks second with 15 playoff appearances.

Most Playoff Wins, WNBA History

TEAM W L PCT
Los Angeles Sparks 46 39 0.541
Minnesota Lynx 41 20 0.672
Phoenix Mercury 40 32 0.556
Indiana Fever 35 33 0.515
Dallas Wings 30 22 0.577
New York Liberty 27 36 0.429
Seattle Storm 25 24 0.510
Sacramento Monarchs* 24 19 0.558
Connecticut Sun 21 22 0.488
Houston Comets* 20 14 0.588
Atlanta Dream 17 21 0.447
Washington Mystics 12 26 0.316
Las Vegas Aces 10 23 0.303
Chicago Sky 7 12 0.368
Cleveland Rockers* 6 9 0.400
Charlotte Sting* 6 13 0.316
Miami Sol* 1 2 0.333
*Defunct Franchise

 

The Sparks are one of four teams to have won three WNBA championships – along with the Seattle Storm, Phoenix Mercury and Detroit Shock (now the Dallas Wings). Those four teams remain one title shy of the all-time lead, which is held by both Houston and Minnesota.

Most Valuable Players

You don’t win more games than any team in league history without great players and the Sparks have had plenty of them throughout their history. In fact, their six WNBA Most Valuable Player honorees – Lisa Leslie in 2001, 2004 and 2006; Candace Parker in 2008 and 2013; and Nneka Ogwumike in 2016 – are the most in league history. The Houston Comets rank second with five league MVP honorees in their 12-year history as Cynthia Cooper won the first two MVPs in league history and Sheryl Swoopes became the first player to win three MVPs in her career (2000, 2002 and 2005). Leslie matched that feat a year later (2006) and Lauren Jackson became the only other player with three MVPs in 2010. Seattle ranks third in MVP honors as Breanna Stewart gave the Storm their fourth MVP award last season. Minnesota is the only other WNBA team to claim two MVP honors with Maya Moore (2014) and Sylvia Fowles (2017). The Sparks are the only franchise to have three different players win league MVP.

And in case that wasn’t enough, the Sparks also tout the most All-Star Game MVPs with five awards by three different players – Leslie in 1999, 2001 and 2002; Nikki Teasley in 2003 and Parker in 2013. The Sparks claim one-third of the All-Star MVPs in league history. The Comets (Tina Thompson in 2000, Swoopes in 2005), Storm (Swin Cash in 2009 and 2011) and Lynx (Moore in 2015, 2017 and 2018) are the only other teams with multiple All-Star MVPs; again the Sparks are the only team with three different players winning the honor.

Milestone Wins: L.A.’s Path To 450 Wins

The key to the Sparks racking up 450 wins before any other team even reached 400 has been their consistency over the past 22-plus seasons. When looking at the Sparks wins by season – as the chart below illustrates – there are two elements that stand out.

First, the Sparks have never finished a season with single digit wins; the seven wins in the 2019 column is through just 13 games as L.A. is on pace for at least 18 wins this season. The only other active teams to never finish a season with single-digit wins are the Lynx and the Sun; every other team has hit the cellar of the standings.

Second, the Sparks have reached 20 wins more times than any other WNBA team. They have won at least 20 games in 12 of their 22 seasons and 10 of those seasons featured at least 24 wins.

Let’s put those numbers in perspective. The next closest teams in terms of 20-plus wins seasons are the Lynx, Sun and Storm at seven apiece. Those three teams combine for 11 seasons with at least 24 wins; the Sparks have 10 all by themselves. In fact, the team with the second-most 20-plus win seasons is the Houston Comets with four in their 12 seasons of existence.

TEAM 20+ WINS 24+ WINS
Los Angeles Sparks 12 10
Indiana Fever 8 0
Connecticut Sun 7 3
Minnesota Lynx 7 6
Seattle Storm 7 2
New York Liberty 6 0
Phoenix Mercury 6 1
Houston Comets* 5 4
Las Vegas Aces 4 1
Dallas Wings 4 2
Sacramento Monarchs* 4 1
Atlanta Dream 2 0
Chicago Sky 2 1
Washington Mystics 2 0
Cleveland Rockers* 2 0
Miami Sol* 1 0
Charlotte Sting* 0 0
Portland Fire* 0 0
*Defunct Franchise

 

Win No. 1
June 25, 1997: Los Angeles Sparks (74) vs. Charlotte Sting (54)

The Sparks earned their first win in franchise history with a 20-point victory over the Charlotte Sting on June 25, 1997. Hall of Famer Lisa Leslie scored a game-high 19 points, while current Sparks general manager Penny Toler dished out a game-high seven assists.

Win No. 100
August 08, 2001: Los Angeles Sparks (79) vs. Phoenix Mercury (67)

L.A.’s 100th win came on August 8, 2001 behind another strong performance from Leslie as she finished with a game-high 24 points; she fouled out with under five minutes remaining, but the game was already well in hand as the Sparks led by 16 as she left the court. Tamecka Dixon added 15 points, while Mwadi Mabika dished out a game-high eight assists (then a career-high).

Win No. 200
June 17, 2006: Los Angeles Sparks (82) vs. Connecticut Sun (70)

The Sparks’ 200th win saw Leslie match her then career-high with 32 points as the Sparks picked up their fourth win of an eight-game win streak. Christi Thomas posted a double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds as the Sparks topped the Sun, who entered the game with a league-best 7-2 record. Eight days later, Leslie would set a new career high with 41 points, which stood for the rest of her career, in the final game of that eight-game win streak.

Win No. 300
June 08, 2012: Los Angeles Sparks (90) vs. Phoenix Mercury (74)

The Sparks used their dominant frontline to earn their 300th win in franchise history as Nneka Ogwumike (25 points), Candace Parker (23 points) and DeLisha Milton-Jones (21 points) combined for 69 of L.A.’s 90 points as they defeated Phoenix by 16 points. The Mercury were shorthanded as Diana Taurasi (hip) and Penny Taylor (knee) did not play. Milton-Jones was part of L.A.’s 100th win as she played the first six seasons of her career with the Sparks (1999-2004). She returned in 2008 to being a second run with the team that lasted five seasons and saw her be part of another milestone win for the franchise.

Win No. 400
May 19, 2017: Los Angeles Sparks (99) vs. Washington Mystics (89)

Before winning their 400th game in franchise history, the Sparks celebrated their third WNBA title as they were presented with their 2016 championship rings prior to tip off. Once the game got underway, reigning MVP Nneka Ogwumike led the way with a team-high 23 points, while rookie Sydney Wiese scored 22 points and knocked down six 3-pointers off the bench – both marks remain career highs for Wiese, who is now in her third WNBA season with the Sparks.

Win No. 450
July 7, 2019: Los Angeles Sparks (98) vs. Washington Mystics (81)

The latest milestone win for the Sparks followed a similar theme as the others on this list – they all came at home and each of the wins came by double digits. This game also featured a career-best performance from Chelsea Gray, who recorded her first career triple-double (and just the ninth in WNBA history) as she finished with 13 points to go with career highs of 13 assists and 10 rebounds. Eight players have recorded a triple-double in WNBA history – three of those players were Sparks (Gray in 2019, Parker in 2017 and Leslie in 2004).

Nneka Ogwumike knocked down a career-high five of L.A.’s franchise-record 16 3-pointers in the game. Ogwumike finished with a season-high 31 points as the Sparks scored a season-high 98 points and extended their win streak to three games.