Lindsay Whalen plays for the Minnesota Lynx in the 2017 WNBA Finals.

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WNBA Legend Lindsay Whalen's Jersey Is Going Into the Rafters Where It Belongs

April 18, 2019 - 1:55 pm

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- As a kid growing up in Hutchinson, Minn., Lindsay Whalen never figured she would play professional basketball. Until she was 14, the WNBA didn't even exist. She just wanted to be a Minnesota Golden Gopher.

"There was no WNBA. You hoped to get your four-year scholarship and that was it," Whalen told The Ringer last November after being named coach of her alma mater.

Well, Whalen did play professional basketball in the WNBA, and she led the Minnesota Lynx to four championships, was a five-time All-Star, three-time All-WNBA first team and is only the second player in league history to record 4,000 points, 1,500 assists and 1,000 rebounds.

She's getting her No. 13 retired by her hometown team on June 8, Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve announced Thursday at Target Center. Whalen also was scheduled to throw out the first pitch at Thursday's Twins-Toronto game at Target Field.

"I want to thank (Lynx owner Glen) Taylor, Coach Reeve and the entire Lynx organization for this outstanding honor," Whalen said. "My time with the Lynx was nothing short of spectacular and to have my number retired, while being the first to do so means the world to me."

Taylor, who also owns the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves, said: "We couldn't have selected a better person and teammate in Lindsay Whalen as the first Lynx player to have their jersey hung in the rafters of Target Center."

To say Whalen is the face of women's basketball in Minnesota is to underestimate her impact. When LeBron James sends you a tweet congratulating you on your career, you know you've had some influence beyond the women's game.

Her career began in Hutchinson, just over an hour due west of Minneapolis. Three straight all-conference picks, three straight conference championships, and a four-time honorable All-State selection in high school led to her dream coming true: a chance to play basketball at The U.

She was recuited by Coach Cheryl Littlejohn, but played under Brenda Oldfield (now Frese) and Pam Borton during her career with the Gophers from 2000-2004. She led the team to back-to-back Sweet 16 appearnces in '03 and '04, including the program's only Final Four in '04.

Maybe more indicitive of how beloved she was while wearing the maroon and gold is how fans showed up at Williams Arena. The average attendance at women's basketball games grew from 1,087 during her freshman season to 9,866 her senior year. When Whalen retired, she was the school's career record holder in points, scoring average, games in double figures, free throws made and free throw percentage.

Drafted into the WNBA in the first round in 2004 by Connecticut, Whalen played her first six seasons with the Sun. Then, Whalen came home again.

On Jan. 12, 2010, Whalen was traded to the Lynx and signed a multi-year contract. One year later, she was part of the first championship for the franchise. Three more championships awaited in 2013, 2015 and 2017. She retires as the all-time wins leader in WNBA history with 323 and 54 more in the postseason (which ranks second behind teammate Rebekkah Brunson).

Then there were gold medals. In 2009, Whalen was invited to training camp for the USA Basketball Women's National Team. She made the team, and was part of back-to-back gold medals at the 2012 Games in London and the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Lindsay Whalen played the 2018 season with the Lynx though she had been named the new head coach of the Gophers women's team last April. Juggling dual responsibilities all summer, she was a player for the Lynx and a coach for the Gophers, before officially retiring from her playing career in August.

Whalen's first year on the bench for Minnesota ended with a 21-11 record and a loss in the second round of the WNIT.

But as all of those Minnesotans who followed Whalen from Hutchinson to Dinkytown to the WNBA and the Olympics and back to Dinkytown again, we learn never to doubt her. Success as a coach will come, just like it has throughout Whalen's career.

The No. 13 will now hang from the rafters of Target Center so we can remember one of the greatest athletes in Minnesota history.