October 18, 2021 

Sights and sounds from a Chicago Sky championship


CHICAGO — The Chicago Sky are your 2021 WNBA championship winners, overpowering the three-time champion Phoenix Mercury’s talent-loaded roster, including Diana Taurasi, the reigning GOAT of the WNBA. The skeptics who doubted that the Sky could ever overcome inconsistency and energy issues, as well as a deficit that reached 15 points in Game 4, were wrong.

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They entered the playoffs a six seed. They exited them holding the trophy.

This is how you make household names in your city,” Head Coach/General Manager James Wade said after the game. “People are going to go around, they’re going to know who Sloot (Courtney Vandersloot) is, they’re going to know who Kah (Kahleah Copper) is. They already know who Candace (Candace Parker) is, but there’s so many stories out there on the floor that are unique.”

Affectionately known as the Vanderquigs- Mrs. and Mrs. Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley (Photo: Alison Moran-Powers)

“I’ll play for you”

Less than a month ago, the Sky had a .500 regular season record, and a #6 seed in the playoffs. And they were feeling down. How did they get back up?

“We did this for each other,” said former DePaul star Allie Quigley. “Kind of like a breaking point, probably a month ago, and I feel like we all looked at each other and we said, ‘what are we going to play for?’

And Candace, the first thing she said, she was going to play for me.”

Five the hard way

“Everything that this team went through the entire year prepared us for this,” Parker said. “We were down nine, we were down 11. We just got to stay with it, and that’s what we’ve done all season. I am so proud of this group, with our fight, next man up mentality.”

No, this was not a straight line to a title.

“A seven-game win streak, a seven-game losing streak,” Quigley said. “We just didn’t know who we were. I feel like we were frustrated with ourselves, with each other and it was because we didn’t know who we were.” 

She continued, “I think, thank God, first game of the playoffs in Dallas, we found who we were, and it was by the leadership of our coaches and each other just really buying into our defense and this new way that we all wanted to play, and we believed in.”

For three and a half quarters, the Mercury seemed to have the game in hand, leading by as much as 15 at one point. Down by 14 points in the third quarter, the Sky stormed back and used a final push down the stretch to secure the franchise’s first-ever WNBA title with an 80-74 win.

Take a look at the moment the Sky went ahead in the fourth quarter, on a Stefanie Dolson shot.

The Crowd…my God, the Crowd…

Fifteen years in the WNBA, countless tears. It was this moment that 10,378 souls crowded into Wintrust Arena, and never dropped hope or noise level.

Don’t think the Mercury didn’t have their fans in the crowd as well. In fact, the area around Section 105 were swarming around the press table, waving purple rally towels brought from the first two Mercury home games and . They were yelling for ‘”BG!” “DT” “SDS!”

And they made a quick exit after politely applauding the champions.

Nothing like the Moment…. *We Are The Champions

Courtney Vandersloot and James Wade share an embrace. Three years ago, they began this journey as Wade was named Head Coach of the Sky. They met at a cafe, where Wade discussed his vision for the team. “I knew we would get a championship,” he said. “I didn’t know when or how, or how we were going to do it. l just knew we would. “

Parker burst into tears, following what she called a “full-circle moment” for the Naperville Central High School star.

“It was amazing to just hug my dad and my mom and my family, said Parker. “It was just an amazing feeling to be from here and see so many people in the stands that have been supporting you since you started. I sent Allie (a Joliet Central grad) a picture this morning of us when we were in high school, and it was like, man, not bad for two suburban kids. “

And her daughter, Lailaa. The two began the season apart for a whole month, Parker relocated to a new WNBA city. But they were together as it concluded.

“She came out to the court and said, ‘we did it,’ and it was just like, surreal,” Parker said. “She’s grown up. I owe everything I am to her, just because she’s been my motivation and my reason for everything.”

With 4:42 left in the game, the Sky had a 72-65 deficit, but kept their composure while they scored the next nine points to take a two-point lead on Stefanie Dolson’s layup. She then added another basket to make it 76-72 with 45.8 seconds left.

‘Copper is Golden

Outside Wintrust Arena, throughout the playoffs, a small, very loyal group of Kahleah Copper fans held up a sign that saying ‘Copper is Golden.” The sign made its way from Game 1 to yesterday’s ceremony. And this season, Copper was indeed golden. Making the All-Star team for the first time and averaging 18 points per game, and was awarded the 2021 WNBA Finals MVP Award, She finished Game 4 with 10 points and 2 rebounds.

Championship, followed by the strangest postgame ever

Well, October is the spookiest month.

First, it was Copper interrupting Coach James Wade’s emotional press conference to invite him to the ongoing celebration. Then, after Wade left, Sky owner Michael Alter disrupted the conference to pull Copper out of the room “for a party,” despite the objections of the WNBA PR staff. Copper returned, champagne-soaked, with Quigley, Vandersloot, and Parker, and continued their interview.

Wade and Copper
Champagne-soaked finish: Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley, Candace Parker, and Finals MVP Kahleah Copper.

A few minutes prior, the Mercury players, including Taurasi, Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith, refused to come out for postgame interviews. Things didn’t get better from from there.

So, where was the party going on?

Wintrust Arena’s Blue Demon Hospitality Club was party Central for the team. Vanderquigs passed the trophy around on a remote dance floor. Hundreds of longtime employees, their children and extended families were toasting each other as the night wore on.

The after-party

The Party continues for all….Tuesday!

Monday morning, the Sun-Times announced that the city’s celebration of the Sky’s WNBA championship will be sometime Tuesday at Millennium Park. Mayor Lori Lightfoot said Monday morning on The Score. More details will be announced later on Monday.

Written by Alison Moran-Powers

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