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The Victor And The Vanquished

In winning a championship after establishing themselves as the class of the league within their first few games, the Minnesota Lynx' triumph as 2011 WNBA champions seems obvious as already written in a piece entitled "Eschewing Eschaton" at SB Nation's Canis Hoopus.

"If you love basketball, you know these stories; you know these players.  They don't need to be dressed up in any way, shape or form." 

Although I would certainly agree that the team's talent was glaring for some time - and might have written something to that effect once or twice - it's also obvious that it eluded a number of WNBA analysts or fans alike even as the team began to hit a dominant stride mid-season. And really, "eluded" is probably generous - people were literally making up reasons that this team would lose.

That's not at all to say winning the championship was inevitable - or even seemingly as certain as the Seattle Storm's title last season relative to the competition - but it's also fair to say that as a 27-7 team, the Lynx were probably the most "under-heralded" champion in league history, at least in terms of the treatment of the team from whatever national media coverage it got and how it was regarded in comparison to how the Storm were regarded last season.

It is certainly true that we should take time to enjoy the team on its own terms for exactly what they did rather than blurring the accomplishments of this unit with historical context, but the treatment of the Lynx seems to be yet another example of women's basketball lacking "a sense of it's own mythology", as Jeff Goldberg wrote in Bird at the Buzzer or as Queenie alluded to in her piece about Kym Hampton and "the lost generations of women's basketball".

The 2011 Lynx were something special and are just as worthy of inclusion in the conversation about their standing among the league's greatest teams as the Storm were last year, albeit for different reasons. While victory might not have been inevitable, it does seem a certainty that they'll get their due, whether heading into next season or as they embark upon a title defense next postseason.

Equally interesting is the unfolding legacy of the Atlanta Dream, which is perhaps more easily recognized for a variety of reasons: here stands an expansion team that has found its way to the WNBA Finals in two of its four years of existence after being (perhaps legitimately) counted out in both.

Last season, most counted them out because of a poor regular season finish and a fourth seed in the playoffs. The basketball scenario was different this year, but even Dream fans - like Kris Willis of SB Nation - had reason to doubt how far this team could go.

I covered this team from day one this season which I will talk about a little more later. Internally I probably wrote them off three different times this season. All of the injuries, players leaving to play for their national teams, the 3-9 start, I am not sure I have ever seen a basketball team overcome as much adversity as this group did. In Game 3 of the WNBA Finals, it looked like all of that weight finally crashed on them.

Moreso than any team in the league - or in pro sports over the past two years? - the Dream have beaten the odds so often that it might be wiser to doubt the odds moving forward than Angel McCoughtry, Marynell Meadors, and Co. Although this team's flaws over the past two seasons may stand out most to some this season, the heart and resilience they've shown over two years' time is second to none and the coaching staff - which people have questioned at times - deserves credit for that.

I wanted this year's WNBA Finals to go five games because it figured to be as competitive and entertaining a matchup (on paper) as we've seen in recent memory; as a fan of the game and not necessarily either franchise in particular, it's easy to feel cheated by the "fickle basketball gods", in a different way than James might as a Dream fan.

If in fact you're a passionate basketball fan interested in basketball legacies and the proper preservation of some of the details that wash away with the passage of time, both victor and vanquished gave us plenty to reflect on during this long WNBA off-season.