She’s a two-time Olympic gold medalist, a six-time WNBA All-Star and four-time WNBA champion, and the winningest player in league history. The former Golden Gopher is one of the state’s greatest homegrown athletes and an exemplary leader.

Thousands of young basketball fans who have proudly worn No. 13 jerseys over the past two decades have had an outstanding role model in Minnesota’s own, Lindsay Whalen.

Earlier this week, the college and high school basketball standout from Hutchinson announced her retirement at the end of this season. She has been a professional player for 15 years — the last eight with the Minnesota Lynx — and has helped generate attention, attendance and interest in women’s basketball.

The way Whalen played and talked about the game demonstrated her heartfelt, authentic commitment to teamwork. In just about everything she said and did, “I” was rarely part of her vocabulary. It was always about her teammates, coaches, family and the fans — whom she frequently credited for the Lynx’s success. During her retirement news conference, she said that this is what she’ll miss most — playing and being with her teammates.

That spirit has made following No. 13 and the rest of the Lynx both fun and inspirational. Whalen and her teammates are down-to-earth, accessible athletes who give back to the community and openly appreciate each other and their fans.

As much as the great point guard emphasized team play, it was a thing of beauty to watch Whalen be the closer — those too-many-to-count times when she put her head down and drove past defenders or let a three-pointer fly to make the money shot herself.

A celebration of Whalen’s stellar career will be held after Sunday’s last regular season game on what Gov. Mark Dayton has designated as “Lindsay Whalen Day.”

Although she’s retiring from pro ball, Whalen will continue to be a major player in the Minnesota sports scene as coach of the University of Minnesota women’s team. Minnesota fans who will miss seeing her on the court will watch her lead the next generation of young athletes, many of whom came of age wearing No. 13 on their backs.