Saturday, October 22, 2016

Sparks’ journey back to the title has been long, arduous, and unpredictable

I was pretty happy for the Los Angeles Sparks the other night.

When they pulled out the Game 5 win to take the 2016 WNBA Championship, I congratulated each one of them on social media, and I wore a smile on my face for the next 24 hours.

Even though I'm media and don't officially have "a team," I couldn't help but be happy for these women considering all the sad press conferences I've attended since I began covering them in 2010 (not to mention the games I watched before then). You can see pictures I dug out showing one of those interview sessions in my new story:

Sparks’ journey back to the title has been long, arduous, and unpredictable

It was great to see them end a season happy for a change this year. There were times in the past when the sorrow was almost unbearable to witness.

The worst was the 2012 Western Conference Finals loss. The last minute of the game was surreal - a typical Sparks-Lynx back-and-forth match up. Candace Parker had the hot hand on the night, but the decision was made to give Alana Beard the final shot of the game with LA behind by one. I could hear the ball clank on the rim across the arena. Then the buzzer sounded. I sat there blinking, my mouth partially agape, as I tried to register that the season was over. Then Candace Parker was sobbing, walking towards her mother sitting courtside.

The press conference afterward was not fun, nor was the one the following year when they lost to the Mercury in the first round. But in 2014, I noticed a change in Parker and other players. They handled that press conference like pros. Parker acknowledged the Mercury had what it took.

"Swing swing, pass pass - that's a championship team right there," she said.

I saw her in the hallway as I was leaving. We had a few words. Then I paused.

"It's nice to see you so...." I halted.

"Not devastated?" Parker said.

I smiled. "Yeah."

Now this year Parker is acknowledging her past errors and efforts to grow in public interviews.

I love the women in this league. I truly do.

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