Chicago Sky Win First WNBA Championship

The story of how the Chicago Sky went from a .500 (16-16) team in the regular season to the new Champions is quite a remarkable story filled with trust, determination, and a special homecoming.  

Photo Curtesy of Getty

The Buildup

The road to the championship for this team had its fair share of disheartening and frustrating moments. Players like Allie Quigley, who came to Chicago in 2013, and Courtney Vandersloot, who was drafted by the Sky in 2011, have both seen their teammates’ demand to be traded elsewhere, only to win a championship the following years. After the Sky got swept in the 2014 WNBA Finals, Sylvia Fowles, the woman whom many believed to be the face of the franchise, demanded a trade out of Chicago. And in what is still arguably one of the biggest trades in WNBA history, in 2017 the Sky traded forward Elena Delle Donne to the Mystics in a sign-and-trade deal that sent Chicago both Stefanie Dolson and Kahleah Copper.  

After their two biggest stars were in their new homes, the Sky began the rebuild. Gaining Copper and Dolson, the Sky then drafted Diamond DeShields third overall in the 2018 WNBA draft. With the Sky having the talents of DeShields, Vandersloot, Copper, and Quigley (to name a few) they could feel the momentum building. When the franchise hired James Wade as the new head coach, the team flourished into a true championship contender… they were just missing one piece.

Flashforward to February of this year, the Sky pulled off possibly the biggest free agent signing in franchise history. They were bringing Chicago’s own Candace Parker back home. Candace, a native of Naperville, IL, played for Naperville Central High School and went onto the University of Tennessee. Led by the late Pat Summitt, Parker helped lead the Vols to a national title in 2007. She was drafted by the Los Angeles Sparks first overall in the 2008 WNBA Draft. She went on to win Rookie of the Year, won MVP in 2008 and 2013, and won a championship with the Sparks in 2016. She is CP3, a WNBA legend, and she wanted to help bring a championship to her hometown.  

Photo Curtesy of Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

The Sky got off to a 2-7 start, a lackluster beginning of the season at best. They had just signed free agent, Chicago native, and WNBA legend Candace Parker, why were they struggling? Injuries plagued the Sky at the beginning of the season, and they could never quite find a consistent type of play. But this season was all about resilience, and the Sky showed just that. 

Entering the 2021 WNBA playoffs as the #6 seed with a 16-16 record, the Sky faced a long list of challenges in order to reach the top. They first had two single elimination games. To open up their playoff run they played the #7 seeded Dallas Wings. The Sky beat the Wings 81-64, where Kahleah Copper scored 23 points and Candace Parker finished with 11 points and 15 rebounds. They then went on to another single-eliminating game facing the #3 seeded Minnesota Lynx. They beat them by a score of 89-76, with Courtney Vandersloot leading the offense with 19 points. The Sky then faced the #1 seeded Connecticut Sun. The series was action-packed from the start, having the first game go into double overtime, the Sky won the series 3-1.  

Photo Curtesy of SkySports

Phoenix vs Chicago 

After surviving two single-elimination games, and fending off the #1 ranked team, Chicago met with the Phoenix Mercury in their final quest for the WNBA Championship. The Sky, undoubtedly the underdogs who were on a hot streak, won the first game 91-77. Kahleah Copper led this effort with 21 points, and Allie Quigley followed closely behind with 18 points. The Sky knew they had their work cut out for them with Phoenix and the likes of Brittney Griner, Skylar Diggins-Smith, who were both named to the All-WNBA team earlier this month, and the declared “WNBA Goat” Diana Taurasi. Game 2 went into overtime and Skylar Diggins-Smith proved to be the difference scoring with 12.8 seconds left to seal the 91-86 Mercury OT win. Griner went on to score 29 points and Taurasi had 20 points, 8 of them coming in OT. Game 3 was an offensive blowout of the Mercury for the Sky. Kahleah Copper scored 20 points in the first quarter and Dana Evans came off the bench and shot three 3’s within a minute, the Sky blew past the Mercury 86-50, with the bench scoring 36 of those points.  

Game Four 

I was lucky enough to snag a ticket to Game Four super last minute. It was 1:20 pm and the game was slated to start at 2:00 pm. I knew I would miss the first quarter and I would have to go by myself, but of course, I still went. I got there in the middle of the second quarter and the building was LIVE. For a while it was a back-and-forth game, and then slowly but surely the Mercury were pulling away, at one point leading by 14 and they led by 11 heading into the fourth quarter. The Sky had 10 minutes to make all of the tears, heartbreaks, and feelings of betrayal worth it; and boy did they show up in those 10 minutes. With less than two minutes left, Parker hit a three that tied the game at 72-72. Dolson then scored with 1:22 left that gave the Sky a 74-72 lead. After a foul on Taurasi, all of a sudden it was a 74-76 Sky lead. Vandersloot secured a clutch last-minute bucket and a few free throws for the Sky, and suddenly, all those negative feelings were washed away. All in all, the Sky scored 26 points in the fourth quarter, leading them to their first ever championship in franchise history! 

The Chicago Sky did it. They won the 2021 WNBA Championship. When I tell you Wintrust Arena was rocking, it was ROCKING! Seeing what not only the Sky, but the WNBA continues to do for women in sports is something that none of us take lightly. It was such a surreal experience getting to see the hometown team win a championship. A team full of leaders and role models, it was such an amazing and inspiring experience. After battling players wanting to move, disappointing showings in the playoffs, and injuries upon injuries, the Sky finally reached the top, and they brought the whole city with them.  

Photo Curtesy of Chicago Sky

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