Ahead of her Lynx jersey retirement, Rebekkah Brunson’s legacy is simple: She was the ultimate winner
The key for any player, Brunson always says, is to find what it’s going to take to be successful, carve out your niche and stick to it. The 6-foot-1 forward exemplified that during her 15-year career
This is finally the time for Rebekkah Brunson to sit back, relax and enjoy herself, at least for the hour prior to the Lynx’s game Sunday night game against Las Vegas, before she returns to the Minnesota bench to resume her duties as assistant coach.
But prior to that, she’ll get to revel in her years of success, born out of an unrelenting, singular focus to do one thing: Win.
She did just that, more than anyone else in WNBA history. Brunson played a critical role in each of Minnesota’s four WNBA championships. Include the fifth she won in Sacramento, and Brunson has more championships than any player in league history.
That success, and her invaluable contributions to it, are why Brunson’s jersey will be lifted into the Target Center rafters on Sunday to hang alongside the likes of Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus.
“It’s an honor. I always talked about when I was a player just kind of having my head in the sand and focusing on the goal, focusing on the task at hand and what we need to accomplish,” Brunson said. “And now being able to sit back when all those things are done — the work is already done, I already did everything I needed to do — so now it’s an opportunity to sit back and enjoy everything, the moments that we made, the wins we were able to accumulate, and what we were able to do as a team. So just sit back and enjoy that.”
The key for any player, Brunson always says, is to find what it’s going to take to be successful, carve out your niche and stick to it. The 6-foot-1 forward exemplified that during her 15-year career.
“It was the role that not a lot of people accept, which is we didn’t run plays for her and she didn’t want to have plays run for her,” Lynx coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve said. “As a matter of fact, the one time I did, she came over and said, ‘Don’t ever do that again.’ ”
Brunson, 40, knew what she was on the floor to do — rebound, defend and simply outwork the opponent.
Is that sexy? Not necessarily. Is it important? More than can be put into words.
“I think that’s one of the things that separates me that, no matter what it was, I was going to go out there and compete and leave everything I had on the court,” Brunson said. “Never cheating the game. And then at the end of the day, it’s about being selfish in the way that you approach the game, but selfless in the way that you play it. I always played for my teammates, and that allowed us to have all those (championship) banners up there right now.”
Brunson’s will was ingrained in the Lynx’s DNA. Her determination to defend opponents’ best players and crash the glass to collect the all-important rebounds was contagious, relentless and exactly why every team she was on was so great.
Veteran Lynx center Sylvia Fowles is excited for Sunday’s ceremony. She said it’s “about time” Brunson receives the recognition. It’s not as if the five-time all-star’s achievements went unnoticed — she should be a shoe-in for the Hall of Fame — yet Fowles still thinks Brunson is “pretty underrated for some odd reason.”
“I don’t know why. I guess because defense isn’t so glamorous, so you really don’t get the credit for it outside of, like, your teammates and people that actually know what you have to do,” Fowles said.
But Minnesota basketball fans surely knew the value of what Brunson brought. Around here, hustle and defense are valued just as much as flash and buckets.
“How Rebekkah is remembered is for her relentless nature for attacking the game. That’s why fans just adored her. You’re just going to play so darn hard,” Reeve said. “You can be ready for it, you’re scouting your opponent, and it doesn’t matter. Rebekkah was only 6-1 … slight of build. If you’d see her walking around you’d go, ‘Wait, that’s the person I just saw dominating, flying around physically up and down?’
“It was what’s inside — that’s the will, that’s the heart — and everyone that watched would describe her in exactly the same way.”
It’s why she’ll be remembered, it’s why her jersey will forever hang in Target Center and it’s why she won — more than anyone in WNBA history.
There is no better legacy for such a special player.
“Everybody else views the game a little bit differently. Somebody might want to say, ‘I want to be the best all-time leading scorer.’ Somebody might say, ‘I want to have the most rebounds or the most assists,’ but for me, it’s always been about winning,” Brunson said. “That’s how I approached every game, that’s how I approached every team that I played with. ‘What can I do to continue to win?’ So, for me, that’s the best thing I could possibly have asked from this game.”
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