(left) Candace Parker (top), Essence Carson, (right) Alana Beard (top), Nneka Ogwumike (222786)
Credit: Contributed

The WNBA Finals came down to a fifth game, the fourth quarter and the closing seconds before a champion was determined, with the Los Angeles Sparks winning 77‑76 over the Minnesota Lynx. Finals MVP Candace Parker embraced legendary Los Angeles Lakers player Magic Johnson, saying, “Thank you so much for believing in us,” in recognition that Johnson saved the team in 2014 by heading an investment group that bought the Sparks when it was on the brink of extinction.

It was a first WNBA title for Parker, a two-time WNBA MVP, who paid tribute to her college coach, Pat Summitt, who died in June after a five-year battle with dementia. Parker also credited Sparks coach Brian Agler, who became the first coach to win WNBA titles with two teams (previously winning in 2010 with the Seattle Storm).

“I remember last year being here in that locker room [after the Sparks lost to the Lynx in the first round of the playoffs] and things being a lot different,” said Parker. “Coach telling us that if we just stayed with the process and believed in each other and got time on the court and practiced and did it the right way, that we would be where we wanted to be. It’s very ironic that we’re here in game five, in the same locker room spraying Champagne. I can’t even believe it.”

The Finals were not without controversy as there were two significant missed calls in the last two games. In Game 4, won by the Lynx, there was a missed eight-second violation call that would have gone against the Lynx. In Game 5, Nneka Ogwumike’s shot with 1:14 remaining in regulation time should not have counted because of a shot-clock violation.

It was a first WNBA title for New Jersey native Essence Carson, who joined the Sparks this year after playing the first eight seasons of her WNBA career with the New York Liberty.

“It feels like it was supposed to happen,” said Carson. “Not just because we thought about it and we said it out loud or we wrote it down—it’s because we did all those things and we put in all the work that you need to do to become a champion. We made all the sacrifices and it feels great.”