Part IV: The Aftermath
When highlights of The Shot are shown, not only do you see Weatherspoon launch the shot and follow the ball all the way to the basket, but replays also show the ensuing celebration. Weatherspoon falls to the court, sits up and is mobbed by her teammates. The Comets players walk off the floor wearing a look of collective bewilderment as the confetti to celebrate the championship they were about to win falls from above.
It’s rare to have such a swing of emotions in a matter of seconds. The Comets went from hitting the shot to win their third straight championship in front of their home fans to losing the game on a miracle shot in the span of 2.4 seconds of game time.
Adubato: We saw it this year in the NCAA where we saw a great shot made [by North Carolina] and then Villanova coming back and making another one. I don’t remember seeing another one that close. Usually they [Houston] would have won the game, except that they had the game taken away by a back-to-back buzzer shot to win the game. That was interesting compared to most situations.
Ackerman: I think the sense of the building was just complete shock. The fans in the crowd, everybody had their hands on their heads –these are Houston fans, remember, this is not New York fans who were court storming. They were in their seats standing up with their hands on their head and their mouths open. It took a few seconds for everybody to absorb what had happened. Of course the Liberty players are running on the court, they’re doing a dogpile.
Becky Hammon (Liberty guard): Right when she let it go, I just remember thinking in my head like, “Oh my gosh, that could go in.” … I was the first one over there on the pile.
Weatherspoon: We could’ve gotten hurt here. Look at this — the knees and the feet, and this is big Venus Lacy falling on top — I’m under the bottom. No one has ever asked me, “How were you on the bottom, were you okay?”
Hampton: Now everyone is running and jumping on her and the first thing I thought of was, “Don’t be jumping on anybody, because we’ve got another game. This championship is ours.” That’s what I was thinking. I just sat down. I didn’t want to jump on the pile; people get hurt like that.
Weatherspoon: We had that one game left to try to win and take that thing. And as you can tell, Kym Hampton was so excited. She just can’t believe it. She’s gonna fall on top of the pile and that just put more pressure on me. But during that moment, the excitement that we were all sharing — this is not just about me. This was about the entire team. This was a moment that we shared that was unbelievable, and that moment right there, I’ll take that any day. I’ll stay under that pile any day.
I can actually remember everything. At that moment [getting up from the dogpile] I was finding my family. My family was there, and my nephew had passed and I was just pointing up to him. Pointed at my family, then pointed up to him. That’s exactly what I was doing then. It was the hardest moment of my life that year. That was a very difficult year for me, but that was almost just magical. That was just magical to let me know that everything is okay.
Thompson: I can’t speak for everyone else, but I went from utter excitement to extremely pissed off, so I went into that locker room and I said some really bad things to my teammates. … I was rather upset that we would kind of relax. It wasn’t our first championship, so knowing that we should have been a lot more familiar — especially with a veteran team — we should have handled the situation better.
Weatherspoon: The same reaction that was happening here on the floor was happening in the locker room. We were still excited in the locker room. Of course we had to regain composure because we had to get ourselves ready for another game.
Thompson: Everybody went home and just to kind of rest up, we did treatment right after that game, but that was it. I don’t even think we got dressed –we just kind of put on sweatpants and stuff like that and we went home to rest up for the next game, because it was going to be less than 24 hours before we played again.
Van Chancellor (Comets head coach): I thought when Tina hit the shot we were in good shape. I didn’t know Teresa Weatherspoon would hit a prayer. It’s probably the most heartbreaking loss I’ve ever had. (via The Associated Press)
Thompson: After some tough conversations in those first few minutes, I don’t think coach Chancellor had to say anything after that game. We were ready to play again right then, so I knew right then that we would come in and finish it.
In addition to preparing for Game 3 the following day, there were a few other tasks that some of the players, league executives and broadcasters had to take care of shortly after Game 2 finished.
Hampton: We went to Pappadeaux’s after that to have a meal and I saw a table full of the WNBA executives that were there of course to perform the championship ceremony. So as I walked past the table I just said, “Sorry guys, we ruined your travel plans for the day.”
Breen: We all had flights that night. We expected it to be a two-game sweep, we’re going to fly home tonight and that will be it. And obviously when she hit the shot, its not the first thing we thought of, but after the game we all had to scramble to get new flights out of town because we were going to be in Houston a few more days.
Thompson: I was not really comfortable with Texas at that point. It was the first time I had lived away from home (Los Angeles) in that fashion; it was just the first couple years. I had already packed up my car, I had already shipped it. I didn’t have a vehicle [and] my plane ticket was for the following day, so I was ready to go home. So now you think, “I have to change my ticket, I’m going to have to keep this rental car for another day, I’m going to have to stay in a hotel because I don’t have an apartment.” Yeah, I was pretty upset.
Part V: The Following Day
While the Liberty forced a decisive Game 3 back at the Compaq Center the next day, they were unable to recreate the same magic.
After a poor Game 2 outing, Cooper returned to her MVP form, scoring a game-high 24 points to lead the Comets to a 59-47 win. Thompson had 13 points and six rebounds, while Swoopes added 11 in the Houston win.
The Comets completed their three-peat, and this time the confetti fell on the correct team as the hometown favorites celebrated on their court.
Ackerman: [The Shot] got people more riveted on Game 3, which was good for us. It certainly was a SportsCenter highlight – a top highlight on SportsCenter that night for sure.
Thompson: We were a veteran team as most of the teams were, a very mature team. We had experience winning championships before, so we knew what we had to do. I can say that I was 100 percent sure that we were going to win that game. That’s just the personality of our team, that rarely ever did we make a mistake and then do it again. We were one of those rare teams – when there is a problem, you fix it and move on. We didn’t dwell on things. We handled it, had the tough conversation at that moment and came back the next day as our usual selves, probably more focused than the day before and as focused as we needed to be.
Lisa Leslie (former Los Angeles Sparks star): I remember seeing enough highlights to go, “Wow.” In some ways it’s so heartbreaking because you know that New York has never won a WNBA championship. But boy did they fight us like crazy. They fought the Comets in ’99. And with Teresa Weatherspoon hitting that shot, it just gave you so much hope. Because that’s what sports are about – it’s about that, “It’s never over till it’s over –until that buzzer goes off.” And they fought so hard to push it to a Game 3. Unfortunately they came up short, but it was always going to be one of the best shots that ever happened in the history of the WNBA.
Adubato: They won four championships in a row; this was the third in a row, a fabulous team with three great players on it. I always say, “We had All-Stars, they had MVPs.” Tina Thompson, Sheryl Swoopes and Cynthia Cooper were MVP candidates — that’s how good they were and that’s why they won four in a row.
Weatherspoon: It’s just a blessing. It’s a tremendous blessing for all of us. Not just for me but for our organization. It gave us a chance to play another game to try to get that win, to bring home the championship. And unfortunately that didn’t happen. For us, as the athletes, we remember not bringing home the trophy more so than just the shot.
Thompson: Teresa is one of my favorite players of all time and I absolutely love her, but for me that shot means absolutely nothing. It doesn’t lead to anything else but disappointment. So I guess as great a moment as it is, it’s the same kind of moment to me as my shot before she made that shot — it’s almost a game-winning shot, it’s almost an opportunity to win the championship type of shot, but neither one of them fell through. As much as it is memorable for the league, it has no real value. And it sucks! That’s the reality of the situation because my mindset is focused solely on wining. I can be in a game and I can score 50 points, but if we lose, those 50 points mean absolutely nothing to me.
The same two teams would meet one year later in the 2000 Finals, with the Comets sweeping the Liberty to win their fourth straight WNBA title in Cynthia Cooper’s final season. The Comets never returned to the Finals after that astonishing run and the team ceased operations in 2008. As for the Liberty, they returned to the Finals for a fourth time in 2002, but lost in two games to the defending champion Los Angeles Sparks.
The Liberty are still chasing their first WNBA title and are among the favorites to compete for the title in this year’s playoffs. If the season ended today, the Liberty would be the No. 3 seed out of eight in the first year of the WNBA’s new playoff format.