League Champion: Minnesota Lynx (first title in franchise history)
- Most Valuable Player: Tamika Catchings (IND), 1st MVP
- Rookie of the Year: Maya Moore (MIN)
- Defensive Player of the Year: Sylvia Fowles (CHI), 1st DPOY
- Sixth Woman of the Year: DeWanna Bonner (PHX), 3rd Sixth
- Most Improved Player: Kia Vaughn (NYL)
- Coach of the Year: Cheryl Reeve (MIN), 1st COY
- All-WNBA First Team: Tamika Catchings (IND), Tina Charles (CON), Angel McCoughtry (ATL), Diana Taurasi (PHX), Lindsay Whalen (MIN)
- All-WNBA Second Team: Seimone Augustus (MIN), Sue Bird (SEA), Sylvia Fowles (CHI), Cappie Pondexter (NYL), Penny Taylor (PHX)
- All-Rookie Team: Danielle Adams (SAS), Liz Cambage (TUL), Maya Moore (MIN), Danielle Robinson (SAS), Courtney Vandersloot (CHI)
- All-Defense First Team: Rebekkah Brunson (MIN), Tamika Catchings (IND), Sylvia Fowles (CHI), Angel McCoughtry (ATL), Tanisha Wright (SEA)
- All-Defense Second Team: Swin Cash (SEA), Tina Charles (CON), Katie Douglas (IND), Armintie Price Herrington (ATL), Sancho Lyttle (ATL)
- Points Per Game: Diana Taurasi (PHX): 21.6
- Rebounds Per Game: Tina Charles (CON): 11.0
- Assists Per Game: Lindsay Whalen (MIN): 5.9
- Steals Per Game: Sancho Lyttle (ATL): 2.4
- Blocks Per Game: Sylvia Fowles (CHI): 2.0
The 2011 season marked the 15th anniversary of the WNBA, and the history of the league was celebrated throughout the season. But in addition to looking back, 2011 also offered a glimpse of the future as it marked the beginning of a new dynasty in the WNBA – the Minnesota Lynx.
Heading into the 2010 season, the Lynx hired Cheryl Reeve as head coach and traded for hometown hero Lindsay Whalen as the team’s point guard. However, injuries robbed the Lynx of reaching their potential in 2010 as they finished 13-21 and missed the playoffs for the sixth straight season.
But there was a silver lining – the draft lottery – which the Lynx won to give them the top pick in the 2011 Draft. And sitting atop every draft board was an absolute game-changer in Maya Moore from the University of Connecticut.
Adding a player of Moore’s caliber to a team that already had Lindsay Whalen, Rebekkah Brunson and now a healthy Seimone Augustus was like adding gasoline to a small fire. The Lynx burned the rest of the league down in 2011 as they finished with a franchise-best 27-7 record. It was the first 20-win season in team history and started a streak of seven straight in Minnesota.
Moore would win Rookie of the Year honors, but it was a veteran in the Eastern Conference that took home Most Valuable Player. In her 10th season, Tamika Catchings captured her first MVP after finishing among the top three five times and among the top five in eight different seasons. She was the runner-up in 2003, 2009 and 2010.
Catchings led the Indiana Fever to the top seed in the Eastern Conference with a 21-13 record by excelling on both ends of the floor. She already had four Defensive Player of the Year awards to her credit (she would win a fifth in 2012 to extend her own record) and now added the top individual honor the league awards.
The 2011 season also saw the return of three-time MVP and three-time DPOY Sheryl Swoopes. After a two-year absence, Swoopes returned to the league at the age of 40 as a member of the Tulsa Shock. The 2016 Naismith Hall of Famer finished her final WNBA season averaging 8.2 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 0.7 steals in 33 games.
As part of the celebration of the WNBA’s 15th season, on June 21, the Los Angeles Sparks hosted the New York Liberty at Staples Center in the WNBA’s 15th Anniversary Game, played 15 years to the day of the league inaugural matchup between the same two teams in Los Angeles.
This was the first season under new WNBA President Laurel Richie, who joined the league on April 21, 2011 and served as President for four-and-a-half years before departing on Nov. 4, 2015.
The San Antonio Silver Stars hosted their first WNBA All-Star Game in 2011. It marked only the second time the contest was played in a Western Conference venue and the first since the 2000 game was held in Phoenix.
In a tightly contested game, that saw 28 ties, 25 lead changes and neither team leading by more than five points, the East All-Stars prevailed 118-113 for their third All-Star win in 10 games. Seattle’s Swin Cash was named All-Star MVP after finishing with game-highs of 21 points and 12 rebounds in a losing effort. Cash became the first player to win All-Star MVP from the losing team and joined Lisa Leslie as the only multi-time winners as Cash also won in 2009.
During the All-Star Game halftime ceremony, the WNBA unveiled the Top 15 Players of All-Time. With consideration given to on-court performance and ability, leadership, sportsmanship, and community service, as well as to contributions to team success and women’s basketball, voting was conducted by fans, select national and WNBA-market media, and by current players and coaches.
The players named were: Sue Bird, Tamika Catchings, Cynthia Cooper, Yolanda Griffith, Becky Hammon, Lauren Jackson, Lisa Leslie, Ticha Penicheiro, Cappie Pondexter, Katie Smith, Dawn Staley, Sheryl Swoopes, Diana Taurasi, Tina Thompson, and Teresa Weatherspoon.
- West Semifinals: Minnesota Lynx def. San Antonio Silver Stars, 2-1
- West Semifinals: Phoenix Mercury def. Seattle Storm, 2-1
- East Semifinals: Atlanta Dream def. Connecticut Sun, 2-0
- East Semifinals: Indiana Fever def. New York Liberty, 2-1
- West Finals: Minnesota Lynx def. Phoenix Mercury, 2-0
- East Finals: Atlanta Dream def. Indiana Fever, 2-1
- Finals: Minnesota Lynx def. Atlanta Dream, 3-0
After finishing with six more wins than any other team during the regular season, the Minnesota Lynx carried their dominance over to the postseason. After dropping Game 2 of their West Semifinal series with San Antonio, the Lynx would not lose again. They won the decisive Gamtichae 3 over the Silver Stars by 18 points, then swept the Phoenix Mercury in the West Finals in two games and swept the Eastern Conference champion Atlanta Dream in the WNBA Finals to claim their first championship in franchise history.
A year after her famous playoff duel with Cappie Pondexter, Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry faced off in a Finals scoring duel with Minnesota’s Seimone Augustus in Game 2 of the 2011 Finals. McCoughtry topped her own Finals scoring record (35 points back in 2010) with a 38-point performance, but it came in a losing effort as Augustus scored 36 points to lead the Lynx to a 101-95 win and a commanding 2-0 series lead.
Augustus would win Finals MVP honors after the Lynx completed the sweep on Oct. 7. That same day, the WNBA unveiled the Top 15 Moments in league history as voted by fans. The top moment was Teresa Weatherspoon’s half-court shot at the buzzer to win Game 2 of the 1999 WNBA Finals for the New York Liberty and send that series to a decisive third game. Ranking second was the WNBA’s first-ever game (NY Liberty at LA Sparks, June 21, 1997). Third was Sparks’ center Lisa Leslie throwing down the first dunk in WNBA history in the first half of a game vs. the Miami Sol.