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Hoops Happening: Natasha Howard’s Game 3 preparation included bringing ‘goggles for the champagne’

Plus, why Howard’s back-to-back championships are a tale of two seasons, highlights from the Seattle Storm’s victory parade and rally, links and more. This is today in women’s basketball for Monday, Sept. 17, 2018!

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Natasha Howard, the 2018 WNBA Most Improved Player, scored 29 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in the Seattle Storm’s WNBA Finals Game 3 victory, for the championship.
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

A chilly and damp day didn’t keep fans and dignitaries from coming out on Sunday to celebrate the Seattle Storm’s 2018 WNBA Championship. And, just as they’d done all season, the Seattle Storm delivered.

Basketball legend Sue Bird sent her teammates and the KeyArena rally crowd into a frenzy by announcing that it is her plan to play another season. Although that was the biggest news of the afternoon from Bird, it may not be the juiciest tidbit, as the three-time WNBA champion also revealed how she knew the Seattle Storm would win Game 3:

I’ll tell you a little secret. I knew we were going to win when my group chat went off about three to four hours before our Game 3 in Washington. I opened it up and it’s Natasha Howard. She says, ‘Don’t worry guys, I got the goggles for the champagne.’ And it was a wrap.

Natasha Howard, the 2018 WNBA Most Improved Player, apparently contributes to her team in important off-the-court ways as well.

And in a move that cements just how important the Storm franchise is to the Emerald City, and how great the Storm’s accomplishments are for any professional sports team, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced during the rally that part of the street outside of KeyArena will be renamed Seattle Storm Way. According to Percy Allen with The Seattle Times, “Durkan also hinted at building a statue for Bird after the Hall-of-Fame-bound point guard retires.”

Reporter Joe Veyera captured some of the best moments from the parade portion of the celebration, in photos.

Parade quotes

  • Breanna Stewart (on helping Sue Bird win another championship): “Sue Bird is a G.O.A.T. first of all. She does everything for me on and off the court. What you guys have seen and what you guys have not seen. I wanted to win a championship with her. And we did that and I hope we will do it again.”
  • Breanna Stewart (on bringing a trophy to Seattle): “It’s amazing to be able to share success with a city like this. I’ve done it at UConn and we’ve always been embraced in the state of Connecticut. But now to do it here in Seattle, such a sports city, it’s amazing.”
  • Shawn Kemp (former Sonics star, on the city’s support for the Storm): “If the Sonics had done what they did and win their third title with a sweep, this city would be on fire. These ladies deserve their respect. I don’t think they had a great gesture from city the second time they won a championship. It was kind of a nasty and rainy day. But this time it was a much better turnout. Watching what they did from a distance, I wanted to come out and support these ladies.”

A tale of two championships for Natasha Howard

Before last week’s Game 3 win over the Washington Mystics — and sweep of the WNBA Finals series — the Seattle Storm last won a championship in 2010. But for forward Natasha Howard, the WNBA Championship is her second in consecutive years.

Howard won it all with the Minnesota Lynx in 2017.

While Howard revels in being a repeat champion, the second WNBA Championship must taste sweeter, for several reasons. In Minnesota, Howard’s role was confined to just under 12 minutes per game, and she averaged 4.3 points and 2.4 rebounds for the 2017 regular season. In the decisive Game 5 of the 2017 WNBA Finals against the Los Angeles Sparks, Howard played 1 minute, scored 0 points and committed 1 turnover in the Lynx’s 85-76 championship victory.

Fast-forward to 2018.

With the Seattle Storm, Howard played 25.6 minutes per game in the regular season, averaging 13.2 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and 1.2 steals per game. Her turnaround in regular-season production was so remarkable that it earned her the Most Improved Player award for the 2018 WNBA season.

These improvements and accomplishments aside, what Howard did in Game 3 of the 2018 WNBA Finals was truly special — worthy, perhaps, of being regarded as the highlight of her four-year career. In the Storm’s 98-82 commanding victory over the Washington Mystics, Howard scored 29 points, grabbed 14 rebounds, dished 3 assists and blocked 2 shots.

Howard was a difference-maker in the championship-winning game, just as she’d been a difference-maker for the Storm all season. And her presence on a Storm team filled with superstar shooters (Bird, Jewell Loyd and Stewart) proves stars can align — not only to co-exist peacefully but to thrive in a campaign of winning.

Drink up, link lush!

  • The Seattle Storm’s 2018 WNBA Championship was eight years in the making. Here’s a great deep dive about the rebuilding process that culminated in the franchise’s third title.
  • Mechelle Voepel reflects on the electric 2018 WNBA season and the Seattle Storm’s victorious finish.
  • Sue Bird and Jewell Loyd stated that the Seattle Storm would have no interest in visiting the White House were the team to be invited.
  • ICYMI: The Minnesota Lynx were snubbed by the White House in 2017. For the record, no female sports team has been invited to the White House during Donald Trump’s time in office.
  • Kyrie Irving is a Sue Bird fan, but he is not alone. Many basketball players admire the basketball legend and Matt Ellentuck explains why.
  • LeBron James’ production company has landed a deal with NBC for a television show called Hoops, about a female coach of a college men’s basketball team. Now it becomes clear why he chose the Los Angeles Lakers and Tinsel Town.

Shine brighter. * flicker flicker *