Lynx player No. 1 set a school rebounding record in college, became a first-round draft pick, won multiple WNBA championships, and has made four All-Star teams and a first-team all-defensive team.
Lynx player No. 2 hasn’t made an Olympic team, never has averaged more than 12.3 points per game in a season and is rarely if ever referred to as a star.
Perhaps only on the Lynx can both résumés belong to the same player. Rebekkah Brunson is one of the winningest players in league history and will be a key figure in the team’s matchup with Los Angeles in the WNBA Finals, yet remains the team’s least-celebrated starter.
When you play with four Olympians, two current or former league MVPs, a former Finals MVP and the most accomplished female basketball player in Minnesota history, you can be the team’s least-celebrated starter and still do a lot of celebrating.
And she has. Brunson has won four WNBA titles, one more than her famous teammates, thanks to the title she helped Sacramento win in 2006.
“I try to tell people all the time about all of the things Rebekkah does that makes her one of the best players to ever play in this league,” Maya Moore said on Wednesday.
“She’s the ultimate pro, comes in to work every day, is always locked in, leads by example, backs up whatever she says day after day. She saves us on the defensive end and attacks on the offensive end. That makes her, on our team, a separator.”
“Rebekah is probably one of the most overlooked players on our team,” Seimone Augustus said. “She is the hardest-working player on our team.
“She doesn’t get a lot of play calls, but she is our defensive anchor, our rebounder. She’s the one who brings energy. It’s something that is invaluable. You can’t put a price on what she does for us.”
Brunson likely will match up with Sparks star Candace Parker. Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said that in a way Brunson will counter Los Angeles’ Alana Beard, the league’s defensive player of the year, who will cover Moore.
“Alana is to L.A. what Brunson is to Minnesota, in terms of how we feed off of aggression and intangibles,” Reeve said.
“A lot will be talked about with the matchup with Parker. There’s the one-on-one part of the defense she brings. We’re fortunate to have a defender who we count on for our identity.”
Brunson has tweaked her identity, at least offensively. Long known for chasing offensive rebounds, at the age of 35 she has developed into a three-point shooter.
Before 2017, she had taken 12 three-pointers and made two and was 0-for-1 last season.
In 2017, she took 66 and made 23, or 35 percent.
The arrival of a fourth Olympian, powerhouse post Sylvia Fowles, caused Brunson to want to stretch defenses, and making three-pointers allowed her to average double-digit points for the first time since 2013.
After practice Wednesday, she took dozens of shots as a computer program announced the launch angle of each shot.
“It was about understanding the team and the dynamics of what we do and what’s going to help us be successful,” Brunson said.
“There’s a lot of attention on Syl, so we want to be able to spread the floor.”
After Lynx games, players dance and interact with fans. After practices, they huddle and laugh. After all of these years together, that much laughter couldn’t possibly be forced.
Does her team have more fun than others?
“Yeah, I think so,” Brunson said. “I think that for some teams, in some sports, it becomes a grind, and then it just becomes getting through, and that can weigh heavily on you.
“We focus on the little things. It’s easy to enjoy getting a rebound. Or Mone hitting a shot, or Whay getting an assist, or Maya making a three. When you enjoy the little things, you enjoy everything.”