This story seems in WSLAM 2. Get your duplicate listed here.
In the yr Question coach Michael Cooper, who led the Los Angeles Sparks to back-to-again titles in 2001 and 2002, what he remembers most about those two seasons and you can expect to get an sudden reaction.
No, truly. He usually means it.
“The explanation I say that is because they set the bar pretty, very higher,” claims Cooper. “And we were being seeking to contend with them. They were our measuring adhere.
In those two decades, two a long time back, the Sparks did much more than compete. By ending the Comets’ 4-year WNBA championship run and heading again-to-back again – winning again-to-back again WNBA titles in ’01 and ’02 – they accomplished some thing that only Houston and no other WNBA workforce – not the Seattle Storm, not the Minnesota Lynx, not the Phoenix Mercury – had done considering that. .
“It displays me how hard a job it was,” Sparks ahead Delisha Milton-Jones reported. “I am proud to know that we have performed some thing that are unable to be attained once again.”
The foundation for a back-to-back title run was laid final period, and disappointment and disappointment gave the Sparks the supreme push to consider their match to the following degree.
Los Angeles has established alone as one of the league’s ideal teams in Cooper’s very first season at the helm.
In the yr In the 2000 marketing campaign, Los Angeles entered the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the West with the finest history in league record (28-4) and misplaced two straight to the Comets in the convention finals to finish the time. .
“I recall that emotion of getting rid of,” former guard Tameka Dixon said. “It was then that we all entered into a covenant and an settlement. In all places we went [overseas]We will improve our games just to place collectively a championship.
Cooper walked into that locker home and advised the group, “Remember that sensation.”
“He informed us to let him generate, so that would be our gas,” Dixon reported.
Cooper remembers that year effectively. Star centre Lisa Leslie—as “Easy” Cooper even now phone calls her—stayed dwelling, passing up an chance to play overseas.
“We labored 4 days a 7 days and labored really hard each individual day,” states Cooper. “She just necessary to get her match collectively. [Houston] He experienced. [Cynthia] Cooper, et al [Tina] Thompson et al [Sheryl] Swoopes. We wanted you to be at least as great as two of the three.
Cooper convinces Mwadi Mabika to keep property and perform on intention protection to strengthen her guarding capabilities.
“Individuals had been the factors we essential to place ourselves in a position to win,” Cooper said.
“Intuitively, I feel we know we are there,” Dixon additional.
The get started of the 2001 season was marked by intensive techniques. Physical fights between teammates, video game time competitors. A obvious starvation for more.
“We defeat every other up,” Dixon claimed. “We felt that no one could challenge us much more than us. And I imagine that instruction camp established him up for the time.
The Sparks moved into the new STAPLES Center for the 2001 period, a clear slate in numerous strategies. Leslie, Milton-Jones, Mabika and Dixon blended for another 28-4 document and yet another to start with put complete in the West.
“Latasha Benners was significant for us, we experienced a authentic legit level guard with Ukari Feigs. She failed to have to be unique, she just experienced to be very good, and she was,” suggests Cooper. She did not have to score a ton for us, but she experienced to hit her pictures when we desired them.
The Sparks opened the playoffs versus Houston, sweeping the four-time champions with two wins in 3 straight online games. What adopted was a 2-1 sequence gain in excess of Sacramento and then a 2- gain about Charlotte for LA’s first title. Leslie, who averaged 19.5 details per video game, was the All-Star Match MVP, League MVP and Finals MVP that year.
“We were being pretty linked, identified and quite committed,” Dixon recalls. “We experienced a bunch of stars on that team—we stacked up—and we were being equipped to put egos apart. It didn’t matter who scored, who did what.
Winning a championship was just one factor, successful a second was a different.
Cooper said he experienced no uncertainties.
“The initial championship, I was a minor nervous about whether we could handle the weather. [Houston] And play very well on their property subject,” states Cooper. “But that is all I wavered on. The 2nd 12 months, I knew from day one particular that we had been likely to earn once more.”
Cooper may well be the only a single who appreciates for certain.
“The variation in between the very first and the second was that the second was very tricky to achieve,” says Milton-Jones. “Each individual staff gave us their most effective effort and hard work and played each individual sport like a championship game.”
“We had a focus on on our again every evening,” Dixon included. “The most difficult part was never ever being equipped to rest. But we were tested in battle.
As Milton Jones reported, the gamers are more accountable to every single other than the coaches.
Nikki Teasley He was the No. 5 draft decide on in 2002 from North Carolina to the Portland Fire. Cooper and then-general manager Penny Toler resolved to go soon after Teasley and traded Figgs and a 2nd-spherical decide on to hold her on the workforce.
Cooper said he is aware of Tesley will be a video game-changer for the workforce, contacting the rookie guard the “it aspect” for the Sparks. Teasley started out just about every recreation that year, averaging 4.4 assists.
“She reminded me so significantly of Magic: she built baskets straightforward for all our gamers. “After we got Nicky, we realized we have been likely to be in a very good position,” Cooper suggests. He remembers that when she arrived, Tesley identified as his workplace and told her she was receiving a shot at the championship.
It wasn’t a standard time without the need of it. There could be significant accidents to star players. He will be a significant contributor off the bench.
“Coop can go 10 deep and not stress about it,” Dixon states.
But the stop outcome will be the identical.
The Sparks would go 25-7—again, the league’s best record—to get the West for the 3rd straight season. Los Angeles led the then-16-workforce league in scoring and rebounding with four gamers averaging double figures: Leslie, Milton-Jones, Mabika and Dixon.
The Sparks at some point went 6-, beating Seattle, Utah and New York for their next consecutive WNBA championship. And Cooper’s prediction for Teasley would arrive accurate when the rookie hit a a few-pointer to seal the championship series get and finish a back-to-back.
“For me, No. 2 was more enjoyable because it was more difficult,” Dixon states.
Detroit Shock In 2003, LA denied a probability at a a few-peat.
Nonetheless, the feat is amongst WNBA information.
“Houston confirmed us it was feasible,” Dixon stated. “And they manufactured us realize how really hard it is.”
It truly is so hard that no 1 has carried out it yet. Minnesota is as shut as any individual, winning four titles in seven several years, but none again-to-again. Sparks They gained the title in 2016 and returned to the finals in 2017, but fell to Minnesota in 5 straight game titles.
“It’s an attention-grabbing combine, for the reason that you have to have talent to do it, and there is a tiny likelihood,” Dixon says. “The harm bug cannot strike you as well hard, you just have to retain up the stamina and be wonderful. And you have to be egocentric. Occasionally you earn a single and occur back again and maybe someone desires a minimal extra sport time, a small additional funds. It really is actually a balanced harmony.
Dixon believes those people Sparks groups were being some of the greatest in league background.
“When you have to glimpse at the leading a few or 4 groups of all-time in league heritage, you have to appear at us,” Dixon said. “We did it back-to-back again and as a participant, we had amazing talent. We place the parts collectively.
“We experienced five starters that would be important players on any team in the league,” she mentioned.
“We loved basketball and each other. Our heritage will under no circumstances die.
WSLAM 2 is now available. Get your copy listed here.
Pictures by using Getty Illustrations or photos.