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From Hutchinson to the Hoops Hall: Lindsay Whalen’s Greatness Is Eternal

The homegrown champion of Minnesota basketball was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday.

2022 Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Ceremony - Tip-Off Celebration and Awards Gala Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Lindsay Whalen has accomplished nearly everything a basketball-loving kid growing up in Minnesota can only dream of.

A three-time state champion and four-time All-State selection at her high school, Hutchinson.

A homegrown superstar that led the Gophers to their first ever Final Four appearance while rewriting the record books at the University of Minnesota.

A four-time WNBA Champion and five-time All-Star that turned her hometown Minnesota Lynx into the state’s greatest modern dynasty.

A two-time Olympic gold medalist and four-time FIBA gold medalist representing the United States of America on the international stage.

And now, the ultimate achievement:

Enshrined as a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Very few people become synonymous with a sport in their home state, but Lindsay Whalen has accomplished that feat.

Not only is Lindsay Whalen Minnesota basketball, but she is the greatest homegrown sports hero that this state has ever seen.

She grew up before everyone’s eyes into a national phenomenon who set a bar that tens of thousands of young girls and boys across the state aimed for.

“Young girls in Minnesota in their backyards want to be Lindsay Whalen,” Lynx head coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve, who coached Whalen from 2010-2018 and for all four championship seasons, said in a tribute video the Lynx made for Whalen when she retired.

Current Lynx point guard Rachel Banham was one of those girls in the backyard who saw her dream in Whalen, worked tirelessly to achieve it, and joined her as a homegrown legend.

“Playing at the U, you always got to look up and see Lindsey in the rafters,” Banham said with a smile, reflecting on her time in The Barn. “She just set such a high standard of basketball at Minnesota, and I wanted to become that, too.”

Banham in 2015 broke Whalen’s all-time scoring record (2,285) at Minnesota, where Whalen transformed the program into a national power and first put her name on the national map as a three-time All-American.

Rachel Banham and Lindsay Whalen
Kyndell Harkness / Star Tribune

Whalen had that influence on her home state because wherever she went — from Hutchinson to Minneapolis, Uncasville to Beijing, London to Prague, and back to Minneapolis again — all she did was win.

“There’s a reason why those teams had that success. It ends and begins with Lindsey,” 13-time WNBA All-Star Sue Bird said. “I could sit here and 100% talk about her competitiveness and her ability to score the ball, her ability to pass the ball. But I think she was able to build chemistry with people and I think that allowed her to be a successful point guard on the court.”

Image courtesy of Minnesota Lynx / Twitter

“Lindsay Whalen, 360 degrees, prepares to be a champion every single day,” former Minnesota Lynx assistant coach and Bally Sports North Timberwolves color analyst Jim Petersen said. “Wherever Lindsay’s been, the interest has piqued because she’s just that kind of player.”

In a city that became a winning desert, Whalen made winning rain down like sideways sheets in an April storm, delivering four titles in six years (2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017) while building an all-time great WNBA resume.

Whalen retired in 2018 as the winningest player (307) in WNBA history. The Lynx Legend also ranks fourth all-time in career assists (2,345) and still holds top 10 marks all-time in games played (480 - seventh), win shares (59.8 — ninth) and free throws made (1,407 — ninth).

When it mattered most, Whalen turned winning time into Wheezy time by elevating her teammates and leading her team to victories in the playoffs.

Her 341 assists, along with her 82 games played, are the most in W playoff history. Whalen holds a Hall of Fame worthy playoff record of 40-16, with a winning percentage (71.4%) that is better than that of any WNBA franchise, regular season or playoffs.

In addition to her place in Springfield, the WNBA named Whalen to its W25 list last year, marking the league’s 25 greatest players. Whalen also has her number 13 retired by the University of Minnesota, the Connecticut Sun (by whom she was drafted) and the Minnesota Lynx.

I will always remember Lindsay Whalen for how she beautifully blended two equally infectious, and uniquely complementary traits — a fiery passion for the game and seasoned calmness in the game’s biggest moments. The result was a galvanizing, indomitable presence on the basketball floor that drove the Minnesota Lynx’s transformation into one of the most revered dynasties the sport has ever seen.

You couldn’t write a better script for Whalen, who has inspired thousands athletes growing up in the Land of 10,000 Lakes dreaming of bringing their glory to their home state at the highest levels.

“A small-town girl who worked hard and was able to attain her dreams. You just don’t hear stories like that very often,” her mother Kathy said in the video tribute. For it to have happened to my daughter, it’s just been a dream come true.”

Whalen has left an iconic, homegrown legacy in her wake that will never be touched.

“She was one of the best point guards to ever play the game,” Reeve said in the tribute video. “She’s not just one of the best female basketball players in the state of Minnesota. She’s one of the best athletes ever, male or female, for this state and what she’s accomplished.”

Lindsay Whalen Announces Retirement at End of WNBA Season Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Lindsay Whalen has taken all of us growing up with her in Minnesota on a generational ride.

25 years after she first etched her name in Minnesota’s basketball history books, the dream of a small-town kid from Hutchinson, Minnesota will live forever, enshrined among the giants of the game in Springfield, Massachusetts at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Lindsay Whalen’s greatness is eternal.