The Chicago Sky are in the WNBA Finals.
A lot of people around here probably have no idea who the Sky are, much less who the players are in this women’s basketball franchise.
Still, they just might be the best team in the Chicago area that no one has ever heard of.
Women’s sports in general have a hard time gaining a following. In case you didn’t know, the WNBA turned 25 years old this year. Some of the greatest women’s basketball players have been a part of the league – Sheryl Swoopes, Lisa Leslie, Tamika Catchings, Cynthia Cooper and the list goes on.
Also on that list is a former member of the Sky – Elena Delle Donne – as well as a current one.
Sports fans might just remember this player, since she set all kinds of records when she played in high school at Naperville Central. She did more of the same when she went on to play at the University of Tennessee for the legendary coach there, Pat Summitt.
Who was that? None other than Candace Parker.
She was rookie of the year in 2008 and won a WNBA title in 2016 with the Los Angeles Sparks. She was the league MVP that year, as well as in 2013.
During the offseason, the Sky were able to get her to leave Los Angeles and come home.
Sports nerds like me did a happy dance of joy at the news. I’m still pinching myself.
That the team would return to the WNBA Finals was the dream. After all, the Sky last were there in 2014, when they lost to the Phoenix Mercury. That’s the same Mercury they are playing now.
But it’s not just Parker who leads the Sky. This team is loaded with talent.
There’s Courtney Vandersloot, also known as The General, who this year set a WNBA record for assists per game. She also has the all-time record for assists in a season and highest career assists per game. And she is one of only two players to have recorded a triple-double in a playoff game.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Vandersloot in action, you really do need to see her ability to find her teammates with no-look passes that defy belief.
Then there’s Kahleah Copper, who actually leads the Sky in scoring. She came to the Sky from the Washington Mystics in the trade that saw Delle Donne leave. She serves as the team’s engine, bringing energy and a slashing ability that has kept the team in more games than I can count. She was named to the WNBA All-Star team this year for a reason.
Another local player – Allie Quigley, who is from Joliet and played at DePaul University – is a three-point specialist who won the All-Star Weekend Three-Point Contest in 2017, 2018 and this year.
Stefanie Dolson, who at 6-foot-5 plays center for the Sky, was a member of the gold medal-winning 3x3 women’s basketball team at the Summer Olympics.
Another key player, particularly in the playoffs, has been forward/center Azura Stevens, who has made key rebounds and scored crucial points when the Sky needed them most.
To get to the Finals, the Sky had to win in single-elimination rounds against the Dallas Wings (81-64) and the Minnesota Lynx (89-76).
They then had to beat the Connecticut Sun, who were the No. 1 seed, in a best-of-5 series. The Sky took the first game, 101-95, then lost the second, 79-68. They squeaked out a win in Game 3, 86-83, then clinched the series with a 79-69 victory in Game 4.
If you haven’t given the WNBA a chance, this is a great opportunity to see some quality basketball.
The Sky beat the Phoenix Mercury in Game 1, 91-77, on Sunday.
In the victory, all five Sky starters scored in double figures, as did Dolson off the bench. Copper and Vandersloot had double-doubles.
Game 2 is tonight. You know what I’ll be doing.
• Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.