MINNEAPOLIS — This tender scene was striking.
Rebekkah Brunson was sitting on a couch of her Minnetonka living room, her son on her lap, her big, strong hands cradling his tiny head.
For the last decade Brunson has put the power in the Lynx’s power forward position, been the 6-2 soul of a team that has won four WNBA titles. The only player in league history with a championship ring for all four fingers and a thumb has spent her career battling opponents on both ends of the court, using those strong hands to rip rebounds off the glass.
And now this.
Graham Matteo Lamar Brunson.
He’ll be 4 months old next week. He is the nearly brand-new son of Brunson and her wife, Bobbi Jo Lamar Brunson. They first met in Sacramento, where Brunson played — and won a championship — before coming to Minnesota. With the sun streaming in the bay window and Graham fussing, just a bit, Brunson looked down and smiled. “It’s hard to even put into words,” she said. “But everything has changed.”
Brunson and her wife are new parents. They have launched a food truck and catering business, one that, of course, was slated for its grand opening on the day Graham decided to show up early. They have recently moved into a new home and Brunson has begun dabbling in broadcasting, appearing in selected Timberwolves broadcasts on FSN this season.
“There is a lot going on,” Brunson said. “It’s busy. But I’d rather be busy than bored.”
There’s more, of course. At 37 she’s still a player, not ready to let go of a game that, while not defining her, certainly offers her a sense of camaraderie and competition she doesn’t know if she can find somewhere else. She wants to return for another season, she plans to, but there are issues.
Late last season, on Aug. 5, the Lynx were hosting the Atlanta Dream at Target Center. In the second quarter under the Lynx basket, Brunson took a Tiffany Hayes elbow to the face, breaking her nose. The next day, she was diagnosed with a concussion, the effects of which she feels to this day.
But on this day, that is on the back burner. Brunson and her wife are on the couch, adoring their son, smiling. Joking back and forth.
Will you have another?
“We have so many things going on right now I cannot imagine another,” Brunson said. “They say one is one and two is 20.”
Countered Bobbi Jo: “I disagree. He popped out, and I was like, again! Again!”
This discussion is to be continued. But one thing is clear.
“The little things? They don’t matter,” Brunson said. “It’s really all about him.”
On New Year’s Day 2017, Bobbi Jo asked her wife for a resolution. Brunson said it was time to give the idea of a waffle truck a go.
For Bobbi Jo, who had corporate experience, it seemed a rather modest goal.
“I was like, really? Aim higher,” Bobbi Jo said. “But when it came down to it, and we started talking about it, we knew it could be something way more than that.”
So call it a waffle business. Early in Brunson’s career, one of her first overseas playing destinations was in Namur, Belgium. It was there she fell in love with Liege waffles — small, sweet waffles that can be topped, practically, with anything.
This is not the waffle you first think of, found at a pancake house, drenched with syrup, and Brunson had been thinking about this for years.
So, just days after the Lynx celebrated their 2017 WNBA title following a Game 5 win over Los Angeles at Williams Arena, the couple bought a 1950s bread truck and went about having it rebuilt, starting at ground level, including a raised roof. Brunson went about perfecting the recipe.
It was the birth of a catering company, Sweet Gypsy. The truck took a while to complete and has yet to be pressed into service. Remember, that grand opening was delayed by circumstances. But it’s coming, this spring, to events and festivals near you. In the meantime, Sweet Gypsy is already doing catering gigs.
Both Brunsons are vegans. And there are vegan options with the waffles. But there is a pretty vast menu. There are sweet options, with toppings of sugar or cinnamon, fruits or nuts, caramel, whipped cream. And the savory, which includes toppings of chili, avocado and tomatoes or beer cheese.
“We really feel like food is just a vessel to bring people together,” Brunson said. “It’s a meeting point, a conversation point, a way to help, a way to nourish. Yes, we have a waffle truck. But we’re keen on doing things in the community, to have our imprint in this newfound home we have.”
And all this around Brunson’s new job, broadcasting. Lynx fans will remember Lindsay Whalen dabbling in Wolves broadcasts last season. This year it’s Brunson.
She talked with Whalen about it when the opportunity arose. Ultimately the chance to work with Jim Petersen — Wolves analyst and her former Lynx assistant coach — was intriguing.
“It’s something I’m trying,” Brunson said. “I’m a fan of, when opportunities present themselves, trying things out. If it’s something you just enjoy for the moment, fine. But if it’s something you enjoy and want to pursue, it opens a door.”
You get a sense of why the Lynx have been so successful on the court by the way things go off it.
Examples: The other day Lynx head athletic trainer Chuck Barta babysat Graham. When Rebekkah and Bobbi Jo had an event recently, Graham was dropped off with Seimone Augustus. “She was terrified,” Brunson joked. “But she managed.”
Talk about an extended family.
“The thing that has always made us special is we pride ourselves on caring about each other off court just as much,” Brunson said. “We pride ourselves in calling each other friends and family. And that is proven so much with having Graham.”
And it’s hard to let family go.
That’s why, with so much else going on, Brunson wants to continue playing and isn’t thinking about retirement from the Lynx, which has a roster of veteran players and could be a team in transition.
“It’s going to be the hardest time in both of our lives,” Bobbi Jo said of the day Brunson retires. “Because I know how much it means to her, and you see the family she created with the Lynx.”
Brunson’s postconcussion issues have remained to a certain extent. This was the first time she had been officially diagnosed with a concussion. But, looking back, given the long road to recovery, she’s certain it has happened before.
There is still some sensitivity to noise and headaches — symptoms that become apparent during trying workouts. Still under doctor’s care, Brunson said she believes she will get past this. But she’s not going to push it.
But the team, the game, still has a powerful lure.
“Being an athlete is special,” she said. “I don’t think you can find what you find in a team sport in any other facet in life. The camaraderie and competing? It’s special.”
But Brunson has a lot to think about these days.
“My body and my head will tell me,” she said. “I don’t think I can say, ‘I can power through.’ I have been that player who has thought, ‘I can power through it.’ Maybe 10 years ago I would say that. But I have to be smart.”
Brunson adds, though: “If there should be any speculation about what I’m doing, it should be speculation that I’m playing.”
If she does not, she’ll still be busy. There is the business. And Graham. His first name is Bobbi Jo’s mom’s maiden name. Matteo is a version of Matthew, the name of Brunson’s twin brother.
And besides, Brunson has never been defined by just basketball.
“Basketball is something I do,” she said. “I don’t think it makes up who I am as a person in its entirety. There are a lot of things that are important to me, and basketball just happens to be what I do.”
Brunson looked at Graham.
“So I play basketball, and we have a small business. Who am I? You can add parent to that.”
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