© Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Lynx retiring Lindsay Whalen's number

Ceremony to take place June 8th during game against Los Angeles

April 17, 2019 - 3:13 pm
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As a kid growing up in Hutchinson, Minnesota, Lindsay Whalen never figured she'd play professional basketball.  Until she was 14, the WNBA didn't even exist.  She just wanted to be a Gopher. 

"There was no WNBA. You hoped to get your four-year scholarship and that was it," Whalen told The Ringer lasts November after being named coach of her alma mater. 

Now, not only did she play professional basketball in the WNBA, she led Minnesota to four Championships, was a five-time All-Star, three-time All-WNBA first team and is only the second player in league history to record 4,000 points, 1,500 assists and 1,000 rebounds.  She's also getting her number 13 retired by her hometown team on June 8th, announced Thursday at Target Center by Head Coach and General Manager Cheryl Reeve.  Whalen is also scheduled to throw out the first pitch at Thursday's Twins-Toronto game at Target Field around 11:50am.  

“I want to thank Mr. Taylor, Coach Reeve and the entire Lynx organization for this outstanding honor,” said Whalen. “My time with the Lynx was nothing short of spectacular and to have my number retired, while being the first to do so means the world to me.”

“We couldn’t have selected a better person and teammate in Lindsay Whalen as the first Lynx player to have their jersey hung in the rafters of Target Center,” said Minnesota Lynx and Timberwolves Owner Glen Taylor.

To say Lindsay Whalen is the face of women's basketball in Minnesota is to underestimate her impact.  When LeBron James sends you a tweet congratulating you on your career, you know you've had some influence beyond the women's game.

Her career began in Hutchinson, just over an hour straight west of Minneapolis.  Three straight all-conference picks, three straight conference championships, and a four-time honorable All-State selection led to her dream coming true, a chance to play basketball at The U.  

She was recuited by Coach Cheryl Littlejohn, but played under Brenda Oldfield (now Frese) and Pam Borton during her career with the Gophers from 2000-2004.  She led the team to back-to-back Sweet Sixteen appearnces in '03 and '04, including the program's only Final Four in '04. 

Maybe more indicitive of how beloved she was while wearing the maroon and gold, is how fans showed up at Williams Arena.  The average attendance at women's basketball games grew from 1,087 during her freshman season to 9,866 her senior year.  When Whalen retired, she was the career record holder at the University in: points, scoring average, games in double figures, free throws made and free throw percentage.  

Drafted into the WNBA in the first round in 2004 by Connecticut, Whalen played her first six seasons with the Sun.  Then, Whalen came home again.

On January 12th, 2010, Whalen was traded to the Lynx and signed a multi-year contract.  One year later, she was part of the first championship for the franchise.  Three more championships awaited in 2013, 2015 and 2017.  She retires as the all-time wins leader in WNBA history with 323 career victories and 54 more in the postseason (which ranks 2nd behind teammate Rebekkah Brunson).  

Then there were gold medals.  In 2009, Whalen was invited to training camp for the USA Basketball Women's National Team.  She made the team, and was part of back-to-back gold medals at the 2012 games in London, and the 2016 games in Rio.  

Lindsay Whalen played the 2018 season with the Lynx, even though she had been named the new Head Coach of the Gopher Women's team in April of that year.  Juggling dual responsibilities all summer, she was a player for the Lynx, and a coach for the Gophers, before officially retiring from her playing career in August.  

RELATED: Whalen's playing career ends, up next is head coach for the Gophers

Whalen's first year on the bench for Minnesota ended with a 21-11 record and a loss in the WNIT Second Round.  

But as all of those Minnesotans who followed Whalen from Hutchinson, to Dinkytown, to the WNBA, the Olympics and back to Dinkytown again, we learn never to doubt Lindsay Whalen.  Success as a coach will come, just like it has throughout Whalen's career. 

The number 13 will now hang from the rafters of Target Center so we can remember the greatest athletes in Minnesota history.