It was only nine months ago when the Los Angeles Sparks, locked in a do-or-die WNBA Finals Game 5 with the Minnesota Lynx, saw the clock running out on their magical season. Then with 3.1 seconds left, Nneka Ogwumike drained a jumper, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.
On Saturday, six players from that game- two from the Sparks and four from the Lynx -will take the court once again. This time, however, they’ll be wearing the same jerseys. Unlike in the NBA, where the Finals matchup is comprised of a team from the Western and Eastern Conferences, in the WNBA, two teams from the same conference can compete in the Finals. Thus, it is inevitable that former championship rivals could- and most likely will- end up playing together in the All-Star game.
Although it is a rare and unique experience, players from both teams said they are looking forward to it.
“It’s always a different vibe,” 2016 Finals MVP Candace Parker said. “You take a break in your season and you’re coming to play with your competitors but yeah, we’re excited to represent the West.”
Lynx forward, Maya Moore, sounded equally excited for the opportunity:
“Well I’ve just become a fan. When you’re competing you can’t really appreciate the other team because you’re mad they’re doing it against you. But when they are on our team, it’s like you can appreciate the versatility, the skill, the talent. I remember playing with Nneka the first time in the World Championships in 2014 and I was going crazy. I was her biggest cheerleader on the bench when I was out and she was in. It’s just really appreciating their talents.”
Soft-spoken Lynx center, Sylvia Fowles, making her fifth All-Star appearance said she doesn’t see the players as rivals.
“I don’t see it as a rivalry but that’s just me personally,” Fowles said. “Just to have them all on my team for this All-Star game, I think it means a lot. It’s an interesting dynamic on how we can switch it on and switch it off and be able to play against folks and also have them along side us.”
It will be interesting to see if there are any special cross-team moments during the All-Star game, such as a Moore assist to Ogwumike, or Parker to Fowles connection. In addition to Moore and Fowles, the Lynx will be represented by Seimone Augustus, making her seventh All-Star appearance and Rebekkah Brunson, replacing an injured Brittney Griner.