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Seattle Storm: "Absolutely Nothing to Play for Other Than Pride"

As a WNBA fan who has just completed his first (near) full season watching Storm basketball at Key Arena, last night’s overtime loss against the Mercury will stand out as one of the most memorable because it demonstrated something about their character.

The reason is simple: there was absolutely no reason for anyone to believe that the Seattle Storm would compete in last night’s game. That the Storm made it to overtime almost boggles the mind.

The game itself was meaningless, expectations were low, and they limped into the game with four players injured and two replacement players aboard just to field a full rotation.

Taking a loss and looking ahead to the playoffs would have been a perfectly respectable outcome given the circumstances. A blow out might have been justifiable.

Yet it never seemed to occur to the Storm that they were supposed to lose.

It’s as though there is nothing about playing in Key Arena that even begins to imply that they might lose a game, despite home losses this year that serve as objective disconfirming evidence.

And I love that.

But before you dismiss this as fluff, consider that not every team responds to this type of situation in the way the Storm did. Many teams – not only in the WNBA, but also in professional sports more broadly – would just mail it in. I will let you use your imagination to think of concrete examples of that occurring, but I think you get the point.

Really, gutsy performances like that – competing for the sake of it or having fun – is what I love about sports. It’s part of what I love about watching people compete and competing myself. It’s a trait that I admire in people – the willingness to set a goal and pursue it even if there seem to be insurmountable barriers ahead.

And honestly, I normally detest the notion of a "moral victory" because so often it’s used to connote finding the silver lining of a hurricane rather than actually speaking to the illumination of a team’s character. But the fact that the Storm even pushed that game to overtime last night says a ton about the Storm’s character.

It was enough to make me put off meeting a friend to finish watching the game. Enough for me to spend time writing about a game I promised myself not to write about. Of course that may be more indicative of a basketball obsession turned pathological more than anything else, but that’s neither here nor there.

That game was the epitome of what people might call a "moral victory".

Not just because it shows that the Storm can play with playoff intensity or that a consistently struggling bench has the capacity to play ball against the league’s best. The game showed that the Storm have heart. That they’re more mentally tough that I had previously given them credit for. And that losing is not an option they care to explore, even when it’s the justifiable path of least resistance.

Win or lose, I can watch a team like that every single day of the week.

Brief Statistical Update:

In contrast to the limping Storm who had to play their guts out to even keep pace, the Mercury played about five minutes of disciplined basketball to pull this out.

The Mercury's best period was arguably the overtime period when they shot 71% from the field, had a game low turnover percentage of 11% committing only one turnover, and controlled the boards. After going 0-6 from the three point line in the fourth quarter and shooting no more than 5 per quarter during the game, guard Diana Taurasi shot the only one in the overtime period. And suddenly, it looked like they were starting to play defense.

Transition Points:

I made the grave mistake of discussing my basketball fantasy of Storm forward Lauren Jackson playing with the Mercury with Storm fans. I was appropriately shamed. Forgive me Storm fans for I know not what I do.

After watching Phoenix forward DeWanna Bonner up close
, I'm more firmly on the Bonner for Sixth Woman bandwagon. I don't think there's anything wrong with that, in fact, because it's an award earned relative to a larger pool of players, it should be the *more* prestigious award.

Again, I'm relatively new to the WNBA. But has there ever been a better *regular season* experience in Key Arena? The combination of five overtime games and the amazing parity around the league means that almost every single game at Key Arena this summer was exciting. I am making that claim without any sort of first hand evidence...so please do educate me.