While many of the fans at KeyArena on Sunday for the Storm’s regular-season finale were die-hards who’ve been watching the team compete for years, there were also some newcomers in the house — Seahawks safety Bradley McDougald included.
McDougald took some time out of his busy preseason schedule to check out Seattle’s pro-basketball team and the league itself, as Sunday’s contest was the first WNBA game he’s attended.
And by the end of the game — a 84-68 Seattle win over the Dallas Wings — the Storm had gained a new fan.
“I came in with a blank slate, and I thought it was awesome,” McDougald said. “The crowd was really into the game. The team played awesome tonight. They got a big win by a big margin.”
The Storm — which improved to 26-8, the second-best record in franchise history — secured the win in front of a season-best crowd of 12,574. Sunday’s game also marked a fifth-straight sellout for the Storm, which have secured the No. 1 seed and homecourt advantage heading into this week’s WNBA playoffs.
“My first impression when I walked in was ‘big time,’ ” McDougald said. “I felt the energy. There was a lot of attention, a lot of fans out here. You could feel the intensity of the game picking up. I was shocked. There’s a lot of energy, there’s a lot of passion.”
Much of that energy was channeled into ‘M-V-P’ chants for Seattle forward Breanna Stewart, who ended the regular season averaging 22.2 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. She scored 15 points, going 6 for 8, including 3 for 3 on threes, in 12:31 played Sunday night and broke Lauren Jackson’s franchise record for points scored in a season.
McDougald said he’s onboard the #Stewie4MVP train.
“I respect Stewie. I actually know Stewie outside of the court,” he said. “I’m happy for her and all the success and the notoriety she’s getting is well deserved.”
McDougald joins a growing slate of professional male athletes who have been vocal in their support of the women’s game. Kyrie Irving, a friend of both Stewart and Sue Bird from their U.S. Olympic days, is also a well-known backer of the Storm. The Celtics point guard has attended two Storm games this year, Sunday’s and the July 10 game against the Sparks.
“I respect the WNBA as its own entity, and the NBA as its own,” McDougald said. “The WNBA doesn’t get as much acknowledgment or create media attention, but these ladies are going out there and competing at a very high level. They’re some of the best in the world out there doing what they’re doing.
“You just have to respect them too for its own thing. These ladies are out here going to work, game in game out. As you can see once you get to one of these games, you can feel the intensity and pressure that’s out there.”
And as the Seahawks season ramps up — they travel to Minnesota for their third exhibition game on Friday — so, too, do things for the Storm. The team gets a week off before starting its postseason run in the semifinals, which kick off Sunday.
Luckily for McDougald, that means he’ll make it back into town in time to catch some playoff basketball.
“I’m definitely going to try to make the next playoff game,” he said. “It’s on Sunday, and we get back from Minneapolis. So I’m going to try to make that.”
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