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A Champion Rises, A Fan Reflects — from skeptic to believer

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The Minnesota Lynx defeated the Indiana Fever 69-52 in a decisive Game 5 Wednesday night for their third WNBA Title in five years. Sylvia Fowles, who had 20 points and 11 rebounds, was named Finals MVP. But for me, yesterday was time for me to reflect on how I truly underestimated the WNBA.

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I began the 2015 WNBA season regrettably with a belief I think many people have. The Women's National Basketball Association is weak, the girls are slow, and unless you want to see an onslaught of layups, you don't watch. I even played basketball growing up and never saw the WNBA as anything more than a punch line.

Boy, was I wrong.

This revelation started to come to me around July, when I began covering games for Swish Appeal. I watched WNBA teams from all over the country and was reminded of the facets of women's basketball that make it unique, and arguably superior to the men's game: dynamic fundamentals, team discipline and tremendous effort.

Suddenly women I had watched play in NCAA Women's Tournament when I was a high school basketball player, were sprinkled back into my life.

Players like Candice Wiggins and Nneka Ogwumike were easy to spot, I had cheered for them at Stanford like all Cardinal teams, plus I still followed them on Twitter and Instagram as if they were my cooler older sisters, whose glamorous lives I found enviable.

But Ivory Latta, who had been washed from my memory, was back in my life again, only now wearing the patriotic colors of the Washington Mystics not the iconic blue of North Carolina. She was still as much of a nuisance on defense as I remember her at UNC.

There were new players I did not know from their collegiate lives I got to learn about too. Serbian Ana Dabovic of the Sparks is one of the scrappiest, toughest players I've ever seen. She can come off the bench and ignite her team, diving on the floor for loose balls, taking hard fouls and pumping her chest.

And then there was Candace Parker.

Like most, I was introduced to Candace at Tennessee, as a powerhouse for Pat Summitt and the Lady Vols, one of the best players in the country. Years later, Parker was still ballin' at an out-of-control level; she was seasoned and smarter but nonetheless dominant.

I watched Candace a lot this season because I, too, live in Los Angeles, and her Sparks were just down the street. Every game I watched she did something spectacular, that made you say, "Wow, how on Earth did she do that?!"

As my fandom for the WNBA reached unprecedented levels, the playoffs started. Just my luck! Now I would get to watch the best teams compete in the most dire situations at the highest levels. And these playoffs did not disappoint.

Five different series came down to the last game, players like league MVP Elena Delle Donne and the New York Liberty's Tina Charles elevated their teams, and last night, after the confetti has fallen, the Minnesota Lynx are the champions of the WNBA.

It was a winner-take-all Game 5 between the Lynx and Indiana Fever. In Game 3, Maya Moore knocked down a game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer to give her team the edge, causing Golden State Warriors guard and fellow champion Klay Thompson to tweet, "Maya Moore cold blooded" and Prince himself post, "MAYA MOORE... that's all."

However, Wednesday night, it was more than just Maya. Sylvia Fowles was positively dominant in the low post, imposed her will under the basket and owned the game. Rebekkah Brunson unloaded offensively for the Lynx with 10 points, her highest total in the series, and perennial champion Seimone Augustus had 16.

The 19 turnovers for the Fever did not help their cause, neither did the fact that they scored only 12 points combined in the second and third quarters. It was all Minnesota tonight as they were rightfully crowned the champions of the WNBA.

Looking back at my old ways, when I scoffed at the prospect of watching a WNBA game or even replied "why?" at the suggestion, I'm embarrassed at my neglect. The WNBA is jam packed with talent.

These women can ball. And now I feel so thankful to have not only had the opportunity to realize that this season, but to help put the league on the esteemed pedestal where it belongs.

I can't wait for the 2016 season... is it June yet?