I had never really been a hoops fan before this year. Sure, I knew who LeBron James and Kobe Bryant and Diana Taurasi were, I liked March Madness and made brackets to compete against coworkers, and by nature of attending graduate school had to know enough about basketball to write about it. The first basketball game I attended in person was a Washington Wizards game against the Atlanta Hawks as an assignment for a sportswriting class this year.
After graduating from UMD in May, I got an opportunity to cover basketball in Israel. This was an all-expenses-paid trip funded by a donor who wanted coverage of a tournament, and we had full editorial control. Ball was life for two weeks, we were the only reporters there, and it was the experience of a lifetime.
When I came back to the States, I went to my first Washington Mystics game as a camp counselor for a sports writing camp. One of my coworkers, Jasmine Brown, was on her second year on the Mystics beat and had to write her gamer for WNBA Insider while being a camp counselor. Knowing that my friends were covering them made it more personal.
So when the Mystics made the playoffs, I kept tabs on my friends who were covering them. I wanted to read their game recaps and watch their videos because they were covering some phenomenal basketball.
The Mystics made the WNBA Finals for the first time in franchise history and tickets were $30. They were playing against the juggernaut Seattle Storm. I went with a few friends and let me tell you, DC fans showed up for their team, even though they were in Fairfax. For those wondering why the game wasn’t at Capital One Arena:
BREAKING: The Charles E. Smith Center Jumbotron has collapsed onto the court. More information to come soon. pic.twitter.com/D9dIh3Ix3d
— GW Television (@GWTV) September 11, 2018
It didn’t matter. Everyone was all in on #togetherDC.
George Mason University, where the game was held, supported the hell outta them.
— Darrell Green (@darrellgreen28) September 13, 2018
Ted was stoked that this Metro bus was rooting for the Mystics.
My feelings exactly! Thank you DC buses, drivers and the city! pic.twitter.com/xiJ08zbS4K
— Ted Leonsis (@TedLeonsis) September 12, 2018
The two teams were sung the national anthem by DC’s own Sergeant Caleb Green and Bob MacDonald.
— Hina Ansari (@orangeyHina) September 12, 2018
In the stands, Wizards stars Bradley Beal and John Wall sat in a VIP area court-side.
John Wall and Bradley Beal checking out the WNBA Finals in DC. pic.twitter.com/79ZYc2VkQi
— SLAM (@SLAMonline) September 13, 2018
Brenda Freese, head coach of the UMD women’s basketball team, and UConn women’s head coach Geno Aureimma were present.
The WNBA Finals has a strong @umdwbb presence this year.
— espnW (@espnW) September 13, 2018
— WNBA (@WNBA) September 13, 2018
Redskins running back Derrius Guice rolled through and took photos with fans.
— maggie (@maggieyanchulis) September 13, 2018
And on top of that, most fans wore red, mostly Caps gear, including this dude in a Kevin Shattenkirk Caps jersey who heckled the refs on terrible calls.
There were Nats hats, Wizards jerseys, and even an errant DC United shirt. This was DC sports fandom at its finest, showing up to support a team trying to vie for a championship.
But Wednesday night, the “Summer of Leonsis” wasn’t meant to be. The Mystics dropped their three game series to the Seattle Storm, 98-82. WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart was a damn hurricane, crushing the Mystics with 30 points en route to a Finals MVP.
Sue Bird, AKA “Grandma Sue” thanks to her sweet kicks featuring the Looney Tunes granny designed by Kickstradomis, knocked down 10 points of her own along with 10 assists.
View this post on Instagram
👀 @kickstradomis you absolutely killed this! Thank you 👵🏻🔥😂 #Repost @kickstradomis with @get_repost ・・・ 🔥 @sbird10 Granny PEs 👵🏻 My sis Sue Bird wanted some fire for the finals. She wanted something resemble her being the oldest woman in the @wnba so we had to do it! She’s a legend! @seattlestorm y’all got this! @breannastewart30 comin soon! @kyrieirving #kyrie4 #seattlestorm
A post shared by Sue Bird (@sbird10) on
Had the Mystics won three straight games to claim a championship, Ted’s teams would have gone a perfect 3-0 in finals. It also would have been their first win in the Finals, just like the Caps.
Speaking of the Caps, the Storm’s Crystal Langhorne is following Alex Ovechkin’s lead for her celebrations.
I’m Alex Ovechkin-ing all week!!!!!!
— crystal langhorne (@crystalanghorne) September 13, 2018
If history holds true, the Mystics may follow the Capitals, who lost to the Detroit Red Wings in a sweep two decades ago, then won the darn thing the next time they made it to the Finals. Here’s hoping another “Summer of Leonsis” is closer than we think.
Headline image: @cincodemaya21
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