Sara Scalia remembers thinking that it was really, really cool, but also being kind of nervous.
“It was crazy, dancing in front of all the fans,” Scalia said.
Scalia, a former Stillwater High School standout, is entering her second season with the Gophers women’s basketball team. But a decade ago she was just a schoolgirl and attended Lynx games with her family, who had courtside seats at Target Center. And she still cherishes what is one of the more fun local sports traditions:
The post-win victory dance.
It began before the Lynx started dominating the WNBA in 2011. After home wins, at center court, some players — usually rookies and reserves, but sometimes the stars — gathered with a number of kids and danced to the Sugar Hill Gang’s rendition of “Apache.”
The song, with lyrics referencing “Tonto” and “Kemosabe," as well as the use of a racist slur for American Indian women, has its detractors. But it also has had staying power as a post-victory staple.
The game horn sounds, the song starts playing. You hear the bongo drums beating and suddenly center court is filled with people dancing.
This act of fan engagement has been put on hold, with the pandemic moving all of this season’s games to the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
But it’s been going on for years after wins, and so it’s happened a lot with the Lynx having won 123 of 153 regular-season home games since the start of the 2011 season.
That’s a lot of dancing.
“It’s really cool,” said Lynx forward Napheesa Collier, who jumped right into the tradition during her rookie of the year season in 2019.
“I love kids. And I love those postgames, with all the kids looking up at you, smiling. I love doing it.”
Just exactly when the tradition started is hard to pin down. It is generally agreed that “Apache” was kind of a team anthem as far back as 2006.
And former Lynx player Nicole Ohlde recalls that she, Vanessa Hayden, Tameka Williams and a rookie named Seimone Augustus might have started the tradition as early as then. At least informally.
Ohlde recalled dancing just off the court following a win during a preseason game. It wasn’t long after that, she recalled, that they started doing it on the court.
“We did it whenever we won,” she said. “It kind of kept building.”
Eventually the players were joined by fans. Longtime Lynx season-ticket holder Colin Titcomb said he first remembers players dancing to the song in about 2008; he got to dance with Charde Houston after a game in 2010.
Chadwick Folkestad, executive producer of live programming and entertainment for the Lynx and Timberwolves, thought it might have been 2009 when it really got going.
But it has evolved. It started with players inviting fans onto the court after games. Kids and adults celebrating. But it grew to be a bit unwieldy. Eventually it became more of an event for kids.
These days kids from all over the building are given tickets to get onto the court — should the team win — to celebrate.
Some players have really embraced the postgame dance with fans. Maya Moore loved the tradition. Ditto for Houston and Monica Wright, for example.
It was going strong by 2011 when Folkestad booked the Sugar Hill Gang to play at halftime of the opening game of the 2011 WNBA Finals.
“Monica Wright always pulled me out,” said Scalia, who recalls doing it about 10 times. “Me and my sister sat courtside and she would pull us out.
“Then it would be me and my sister dancing with her and Maya Moore. … I was super nervous. I felt everyone was watching us. But it was kinda cool.”
Said Collier: “That’s why Lynx fans are so loyal, because we do make a lot of effort to connect with the fans. It’s something as silly as a dance that takes no effort, really, from us. But it can mean so much to a fan.”
With no home games scheduled this season, Lynx fans might need to wait a while to see it again.