The Storm’s season came to a sudden end with Sunday’s single-elimination loss to Phoenix. And while it didn’t end as expected, the Storm had plenty to celebrate in 2021.
Here’s a look back at the top-10 moments of Seattle’s season.
1. First to a historic Cup championship
The setup: The Storm throttled the Connecticut Sun 79-57 on Aug. 12 to claim the WNBA’s first Commissioner’s Cup championship, which turned out to be the high point of the season. Seattle, which led from start to finish, delivered a dominant performance. The Storm was up 46-35 at halftime and put the game away in the third quarter by outscoring the Sun 22-5. Each Seattle player received $30,000 for the win, Breanna Stewart, who finished with 17 points, four rebounds, four steals, three assists and three blocks, collected an additional $5,000 for winning MVP honors.
What they said: “We’re the first to win this and that means something. Who knows what this grows into years from now? It could be really big. I hope so. But whatever it is, we’ll always be the team that won it first. So that feels good.” — Stewart.
2 — Five Olympians / Three gold medals
The setup: Sue Bird, Jewell Loyd and Stewart helped the United States claim its seventh straight gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. Bird, who was one of two U.S. flag bearers during the Olympic opening ceremony, captured a record-setting fifth gold medal while Stewart was named the FIBA tournament MVP. Ezi Magbegor and Stephanie Talbot helped Australia reach the quarterfinals. Katie Lou Samuelson earned a spot on the inaugural 3×3 USA roster, but contracted COVID-19 and was unable to participate.
What they said: “I couldn’t have asked for a better ending. I feel so proud to wear this uniform as long as I have.” — Bird on playing in her final Olympics.
3 — Hello, Mr. President
The setup: On Aug. 23, the Storm visited the White House to celebrate its 2020 WNBA championship. Seattle was the first sports team to receive an invitation from President Joe Biden and the first WNBA or NBA team make a trip to the White House since 2016.
What they said: “They don’t just win games, they change lives. They encourage people to get vaccinated so we can beat this pandemic. The speak out and stand up for racial justice and voting rights. Supporting education and mentorship programs for young people. And fighting to protect trans youth from an epidemic of violence and discrimination. That’s what winners do. They shine in the light. They lift people up. They are a force for change. That’s the Seattle Storm. That’s the WNBA. That’s what they do.” — Biden.
4 — Dan Hughes retires, Noelle Quinn is promoted
The setup: Three weeks after the start of the season, Dan Hughes abruptly and unexpectedly put an end to a 19-year WNBA coaching career in which he compiled a 286-312 record and led Seattle to a 2018 WNBA title. The Storm elevated assistant Noelle Quinn who became the first Black coach in franchise history. She also became the 19th Black woman to coach a WNBA team.
What they said: “You talk about Pokey Chatman, Teresa Edwards, Jennifer Gillom, Carolyn Jenkins, Vickie Johnson, Trudi Lacey, Cynthia Cooper, Cheryl Miller, Carolyn Peck, Julie Rousseau, Amber Stocks, Karleen Thompson, Shell Dailey, Jessie Kenlaw, Cathy Parson, Taj McWilliams-Franklin, Denise Taylor and Penny Toler. They crawled, so I can walk. I sit on those shoulders. For me, it’s important that I’m not just a woman. I’m a Black woman. I sit with that every day. Sometimes that can be a negative. A double negative for me, to be a woman and to be Black. But I’m empowered in that. There’s value in that. My experience is in that. It shapes me. It has molded me. And that is who I am. I am super honored to hold this.” — Quinn.
5 — Loyd comes up big at the buzzer again
The setup: A year ago, Loyd tormented the Los Angeles Lakers with a corner three-pointer over a defender while falling out of bounds as time expired for an improbable 90-89 win. The scenario was nearly identical on June 4 against the Dallas Wings. The game was tied in overtime with 0.8 seconds left when Loyd sprinted to the top of the arc and launched a rainbow three-pointer over two defenders that fell perfectly for a 105-102 victory. Loyd is among just four players in WNBA history with buzzer-beating, game-winning shots.
What they said: “I looked at the clock and I was like, we have time. I remember what my shooting coach always tells me to set your feet. Once you set your feet, you’ll make shots. I just knew I had to get both feet down. (Stewart) set a good screen. (Noelle) drew up a great play. I just set my feet and got a normal shot off.” — Loyd.
6 — LJ heads to HOF
The setup: Lauren Jackson became the first player drafted by the Storm and the first Australian athlete to be inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. The legendary forward, who won her three WNBA regular-season MVPs (2003, ’07 and ‘10), two WNBA championships (2004 and ’10) and WNBA Finals MVP award (2010) with the Storm, was one of 16 inductees enshrined on Sept. 11.
What they said: “This is absolutely a dream come true. It’s one of the greatest honors of my entire life and it’s something that I’m going to cherish for the rest of my life. It’s so special to be enshrined as the first of many Australians basketball players.” — Jackson.
7 — Special night for Loyd
The setup: Needing a win in its regular-season finale to clinch a top-four finish and first-round bye, Loyd scored a career-high 37 points, including a WNBA record-tying 22 in the first quarter, to carry the Storm to a 94-85 victory over the Phoenix Mercury. In the first six minutes, Loyd connected on 8 of 9 shots, including 2 three-pointers to tie the league record for most points in a quarter. After Phoenix pulled to within 89-85 in the final minute, Loyd capped the scoring with five straight points to secure the win. It was the most points scored by a WNBA player this season.
What they said: “When she was cooking like that, I got goose bumps.” — Quinn regarding Loyd’s first-quarter performance.
8 — Stewart goes bonkers three times
The setup: Stewart and Washington star Tina Charles are the only WNBA players this season to score at least 33 points in three games. Stewart tallied a season-high 36 points — two shy of her personal best — 11 rebounds, five blocks and three assists on May 22 during a 100-97 overtime win at Dallas. On June 27, Stewart finished with 35 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks, 3 assists and 2 steals in a 95-92 overtime loss at Las Vegas. And Stewart finished with 33 points and 5 assists to New York 85-75 on Sept. 2.
What they said: “I never go into games thinking, ‘Ok tonight I’m going to score this much or that much. My mentally is pretty much always just doing whatever it takes to get the win. Just seeing how the game is goes, how the other team is playing me and going from there. Big scoring nights sometimes just happen for no reason.” — Stewart.
9 — Stewie takes over
The setup: On July 7, the Storm led Los Angeles 57-54 with 4½ minutes remaining. Stewart took over the scoring while scoring 12 straight points for Seattle in myriad ways. She hit a contested layup, a short jumper, a midrange jumper, three-pointer and three free throws during a frenetic offensive flurry. Stewart finished with 27 points and 11 rebounds.
What they said: “Sometimes clutch gets labeled as a certain amount of seconds within a game, but there are different things that happen within a course of a game that can be labeled as a great play or a momentum shift or something that really impacted that game. … This is a form of clutch.” — Quinn.
10. Bird milestones
The setup: Bird became the first player in league history to reach 3,000 assists during an 85-77 loss to Phoenix on July 9. The 18-year veteran also moved into sixth place on the league’s all-time scoring list during an 84-74 win at Los Angeles on July 4, but has since been passed by Charles (6,613 points) is now seventh on the list with 6,561. Bird, who tallied 299 points this season, is 250 behind Cappie Pondexter who is in fifth place at 6,811. Candace Parker is the next highest active player at No. 12 with 5,990 points.
What they said: “Look, the people at top of that (scoring) list were the best scorers in our league and no one is going to confuse me with them. When you play as long as I do, these kinds of things happen.” — Bird.