The day was cool, gusty, overcast, joyous.
When the Lynx victory parade started at 12th and Nicollet around 11:30 a.m. Monday, fans were one- and two-deep along the route to watch the players in vintage convertibles, smiling and throwing candy. There were drums, whistles and pink Cadillacs oozing down the street.
As the team got closer to Target Center, the crowd grew deeper on both sides.
For the second time, Minneapolis helped the Lynx celebrate a WNBA title, this one clinched in Georgia on Thursday night. Inside Target Center, at a pep rally in front of about 5,000 fans and on a stage backed by an enormous screen, the Lynx danced, screamed and hugged.
Coach Cheryl Reeve poked fun at Atlanta star Angel McCoughtry and talked about a journey that started with a preseason game in Bismarck, N.D., and ended in Duluth, Ga. She thanked the fans but asked a favor: A two-month hiatus before people start asking her about a repeat championship.
“I don’t want to hear it until January,” she said, the crowd cheering.
Point guard Lindsay Whalen, doing her Shaq impersonation, grabbed the mic and screamed, “Minnesota, can you dig it?”
Guard Seimone Augustus took it and yelled, “This is what we do!”
Forward Maya Moore — winner of three high school championships, two NCAA titles at Connecticut and two with the Lynx — confided her secret: “I play on the best teams,” the WNBA Finals MVP joked.
And then while people filed out, behind that same screen, some of the players cried. It was a moving mix of emotions.
As is the norm in women’s professional basketball, players who became so close during the course of the season are now dispersing for their winter jobs overseas.
Rookie forward Rachel Jarry, who stood stunned on the Target Center floor as the fans streamed in — “I’ve never seen anything like this,” she said — was headed back to her native Australia on Monday afternoon. Within days, Lynx players will have flown to Russia, Italy, Poland, China and South Korea. So while Monday was a time to celebrate (again), it was also a time to say goodbye.
“We had a few people tear up,” Augustus said. “A few almost break down. This is bittersweet. We all enjoyed the moment, now we all go our separate ways.”
“It’s like you’re getting ripped from a good time,” Moore said. “I don’t know if we even have time to have closure. People think of closure with bad times, but you need closure from this awesome time, too. It’s happy, it’s sad. You spend every day with these people, and now we’ll be all over different time zones.”
The impending departures only added poignancy to a day that started with the pageantry of a parade.
Said Whalen: “You just try to enjoy this as much as you can. And then you get excited that you get to see everyone again next year.”
Despite Reeve’s plea, already the talk is of winning another, and perhaps multiple, titles. Olympians Whalen, Moore and Augustus, along with standout forward Rebekkah Brunson, will be back. Center Janel McCarville — whose thunderous pick on McCoughtry and her between-the-legs pass to Brunson became symbols of the championship series — wants to come back and the team wants her. This is a team loaded for another run.
“We have a great chance to accomplish history,” Moore said. “We have the talent. I think we have the character and the leadership that it takes to do something great for a long time. It’s great to dream.”
And to smile, hug, maybe cry a little. Monday had it all, and then some.
“I wish we could start another season right now,” Moore said. “This has been so much fun.”