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The Minnesota Lynx Are Thriving, On and Off the Floor

Lynx President of Business Operations spoke with Canis Hoopus to discuss the growth the organization has enjoyed so far this season.

Minnesota Lynx v New York Liberty Photo by Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images

The Minnesota Lynx have won each of their last three games to climb back to .500 at 13-13 and now sit sixth in the WNBA standings, 2.5 games clear of the draft lottery — where most preseason projections expected them to be at the end of the season.

Despite losing legendary center Sylvia Fowles to retirement, no splash free agent signings, injuries and illnesses forcing the team to look different on a near nightly basis, two rookies playing big minutes, and now superstar forward Napheesa Collier missing time with an ankle sprain, it has been business as usual for the Lynx — on and off the floor.

Head Coach and President of Basketball Operations Cheryl Reeve and her staff have done an excellent job getting the most out of a retooling team playing an exciting, up-tempo brand of basketball. The team’s offensive system has helped fuel Collier’s ascension to superstardom and created an environment in which two rookies have thrived. Collier earned her third WNBA All-Star Game selection, while No. 2 overall pick Diamond Miller and former UCONN star Dorka Juhász each rank in the top-three in win shares added among rookies this season.

Los Angeles Sparks v Minnesota Lynx Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Those developments have not only led the Lynx to a 13-7 record over the team’s last 20 games, but also driven impressive growth on the business side of the house.

Minnesota is fourth in the WNBA in attendance per game (8,067, according to Across the Timeline) — a testament to the team’s incredibly loyal fan base, whose support didn’t waver despite the team’s 0-6 start to the 2023 campaign.

“I definitely feel like we have the best fans in the entire WNBA, that are with us and a part of this larger movement of using sport as a vehicle of change to fight for all marginalized groups. And it’s not about the wins and losses for our fans. They really feel like they’re a part of something special. They’re part of our Lynx family,” Lynx President of Business Operations Carley Knox told Canis Hoopus last week. “We’re just incredibly excited about the future and [this] new era of Lynx basketball. I know our fans are really excited as well, and actually feel and see what we’re working towards right here and see those moments of brilliance and greatness that have once again put us into a playoff position.”

As the team continues to feed off the home-court advantage Lynx fans create and rise up the standings, more fans are tuning in to watch. The team’s TV ratings on Bally Sports North this season have more than doubled what they were in 2022.

The Lynx’s successful push to air every non-nationally televised game on Bally Sports North last season was pivotal to unlocking meteoric growth in 2023.

“[When] we announced our huge Bally Sports North deal, we were so incredibly excited about it because it was trendsetting for the WNBA. There were very few teams that ever were able to say every home and every away game that weren’t nationally televised were going to be on [their regional sports network],” Knox explained, also crediting BSN’s standalone streaming platform and WNBA League Pass for unlocking more opportunities for fans to watch and connect with the team. “It was definitely trendsetting and a league best practice with what we did with Bally Sports. People know that that is that home for Lynx basketball, outside of our nationally televised games.”

Despite not yet running a pregame or postgame show, something Knox said the team has been in discussions about for the future, the Lynx are proud of the way they’ve worked with Bally Sports North to produce features that help fans further connect with players and coaches.

“I think you’ll see a number of shows that Bally Sports has been doing around our season, not directly tied before or after a game but many, many different times throughout the season highlighting various things, whether it was around our 25th season, ... Syl’s jersey retirement, ... Phee and how she’s playing now,” Knox said.

Knox added that legendary Lynx forward and current Assistant Coach Rebekkah Brunson — who works as a studio analyst on Minnesota Timberwolves pregame and postgame shows for BSN — has done a “wonderful job” pulling in her work with Bally Sports North to help tell stories around the team. Brunson also helps produce film room pieces with individual Lynx players that help fans learn more about the X’s and O’s of the game and what makes each player’s game uniquely impactful to the team.

“It’s a no-brainer, and especially as we kind of build that new era of Lynx basketball. I think it’s important for our fans,” Knox said. “They had such an incredible love and affinity for our dynasty players, so I think it’s important for us to take the time to put these stories out, both through television, through content, etc., for people to really fall in love with our new era players like Diamond, Dorka, and obviously Napheesa as well.”

And even though arguably the most beloved dynasty player, Fowles, is no longer playing for the Lynx, Knox says her presence is still very much felt inside Mayo Clinic Square, Target Center, and the team’s locker room.

Seattle Storm v Minnesota Lynx Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

“Everybody loves Syl. I think the greatest part of Syl is the way that she embodied all of our values and connection to community and connection to our fans,” Knox said. “The best gift that Syl probably left for us is her mentorship with Phee.

“Phee is definitely in the same vein of Syl with regards to her kindness, her authenticity, her wanting to give back, her engagement with our fans. Phee had the best mentor in the world in somebody who embodied our values. And now Phee has taken that on as the leader of our team, making sure that those values live on [and] build this next era of Lynx basketball.”

In addition Collier and the current Lynx players, an important part of spreading the influence of the team’s values beyond Target Center is through the organization’s corporate partners. Over the past season, the Lynx have brought on 14 new corporate partners.

  • Pentair
  • Tytus Grills
  • Post Consumer Brands
  • Stackwell
  • UnitedHealthcare
  • Microsoft
  • Minnesota Department of Health
  • Jack Daniels
  • CARE Counseling
  • Wicked Foods
  • M&Ms
  • DICK’S Sporting Goods
  • Stilly Spirits, LLC
  • Tom’s Watch Bar

“I think it’s such an incredibly exciting time to get involved with women’s sports and invest in women’s athletics,” Knox said with a big smile. “So many companies are wanting to invest in diversity, equity, and inclusion, and the activism work that we do. We have lived these values ever since the inception of our franchise, and used sport as a vehicle for change and to fight for all marginalized groups.

“People know that those are authentically our values and that we live and breathe those every day, that we’re going to be engaged with the community, we’re going to give back, we’re going to use our platform, we’re going to use our voices.”

The Lynx honored those values — and the legacy of the impact they’ve created as vocal leaders and change-makers in the community — with their Rebel Edition jerseys this season.

Brands want to join them in creating change and using sports as a vehicle to fight for marginalized groups.

“We’ve always stuck to our guns, it’s unapologetic. We’re always going to be who we are. We’re always going to have these values. We always have and we always will. And so I think that’s really important for us to align with brands that have those same values. That automatically brings them in and [makes them] more attracted to wanting to partner with the Lynx,” Knox explained.

“We’ve brought on a ton of new partners [for whom] it’s not just about slapping signage up. It’s about really emanating their values and how they’re showing up in the community, how they’re supporting women, how they’re buying into using Lynx basketball to help raise the next generation of enlightened girls and boys, and how important it is for society, for everybody to see what we’re doing and then have value alignment with our brand.”

A key part of that is to connect with Lynx fans, who are among the most loyal in sports.

“Our fans in the WNBA have a much higher fan loyalty percentage in terms of their commitment to buying products or supporting partners that support the WNBA and the Minnesota Lynx, specifically. So our fans are more likely to buy their products, engage with them, etc. than they are in all of the rest of professional sports, which says a lot,” she added.

“They see ‘Hey, you’re sponsoring our team, our values, our activism, our commitment to community. I’m going to go out and I’m going to make sure that I support that brand and I put my money where our mouths are.’ I think our fans truly do live that and breath that across the W and then specifically with the Minnesota Lynx.”

Dallas Wings v Minnesota Lynx Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

The environment that the Lynx have created at Target Center is at the core of that fan loyalty, and one Knox and her team are incredibly proud of.

“I think it starts with us being a welcoming place. When you come to our games, I always say we’re showing the world what’s possible in terms of how diverse our fan base is, and how welcome we are to everybody. And it’s such a beautiful thing,” Knox said, beaming with pride. “When you look around our games, our arena, how many diverse people we have and that this notion of being a part of a larger movement that we’re all in it together. ... we share the same values, and so they feel authentically a part of the Lynx family. ... they feel that connection, they feel the appreciation, and they feel pride in being a fan of the Minnesota Lynx.”

Between Collier’s career year, Miller and Juhász growing immeasurably from game-to-game, and veterans Kayla McBride and Jess Shepard playing at a high level, Lynx fans certainly have had plenty to cheer for. And they’ll have a chance to bridge together the dynasty years with this new era of Lynx basketball on Friday, August 4 when the team hosts Whay Day, celebrating legendary point guard Lindsay Whalen’s inductions into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame.

2015 WNBA Finals - Game Five Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images