By Ashlee Rezin
Wearing Brittney Griner’s jersey, Chicago Sky’s Candace Parker rallies the crowd and encourages applause during the 4th period of the WNBA All-Star basketball game Sunday afternoon at Wintrust Arena.
Emerging from the locker room at halftime, all 22 All-Stars had changed.
Instead of their individual jerseys, they had on Brittney Griner’s. Breanna Stewart’s team wore black and A’ja Wilson’s orange.
They stood across the length of the court, in front of Griner’s wife, Cherelle, who sat courtside next to the scorers’ table, and paused solemnly for a moment as the public-address announcer said: “We are BG.”
They immediately returned to play but kept Griner’s jersey on for the rest of the game. Griner, who remains wrongfully detained in Russia on drug-smuggling charges, was an honorary All-Star and the focal point of All-Star Weekend.
“That was our way of … hopefully at some point, she sees a picture, letting her know that she is always on our minds and our hearts,” 13-time All-Star Sue Bird said. “But it was also a way to have other people see her name.”
The All-Star starters descended from the concourse level past rows of fans as they were announced before the game. Candace Parker’s name was met with a particularly loud response from the nearly 9,572 in attendance.
Commissioner of the WNBA, Cathy Engelbert, awards Las Vegas Aces’ Kelsey Plum the MVP trophy after the WNBA All-Star basketball game Sunday afternoon at Wintrust Arena.
Aces guard Kelsey Plum was named MVP after scoring 30 points, tying Maya Moore’s All-Star Game record. Sun forward Jonquel Jones came close, finishing with 29 points, 13 rebounds and five assists. Becky Hammon got her first All-Star game win as a coach, leading Team Wilson to a 134-112 win over James Wade and Team Stewart.
All-Star Games are not known for their defense, but halfway through the second quarter, Parker attempted to change that notion.
“I know what you like to do,” Parker said to Kahleah Copper as she tightly defended her teammate.
The exchange between two of the Sky’s four All-Stars had fans in the front row engaged, but as the play unfolded, it was eight-time All-Star Sylvia Fowles who captured the building’s attention. After getting the ball in the open court, Fowles drove toward the basket with all her defenders left behind, leaped to the rim and dunked.
Fowles finished with seven points, nine rebounds, six assists, three steals and one block.
Minnesota Lynx’s Sylvia Fowles dunks the ball during the 2nd period of the WNBA All-Star basketball game Sunday afternoon at Wintrust Arena.
“I heard the momentum of the crowd,” Fowles said. “I probably saw a couple of faces on the other team, and I was like, just go for it.”
“Now her nickname is Sylvia ‘Tom Brady’ Fowles because now she’s going to come back for another year,” Parker said. “You can’t dunk and not come back.”
Fowles said she’s committed to retiring at the end of the season.
Bird, who also will retire at the end of the season, and Fowles were interviewed on the court before the game and received flowers and a signed game ball from their teammates after the first quarter. When they were subbed out in the fourth with under two minutes to play, they walked off to a standing ovation.
Parker finished with 15 points, eight rebounds, three assists and one block in what could be her last All-Star Game. She said at the beginning of the season she has the mindset that this will be her final season.
But she’s not ready to commit to that yet.
“It’s going to be the offseason when I know,” Parker said. “When I go to lift my leg over that Peleton and it doesn’t go up, I don’t want to get on it, that’s it.”
As Sylvia Fowles, left, and Kahleah Copper watch, Chicago Sky’s Candace Parker dribbles the ball while Emma Meesseman plays defense during the 2nd period of the WNBA All-Star basketball game Sunday afternoon at Wintrust Arena.
Chicago Sky’s Kahleah Copper shoots the ball during the 4th period of the WNBA All-Star basketball game Sunday afternoon at Wintrust Arena.
Chicago Sky’s Courtney Vandersloot dribbles the ball up court during the 2nd period of the WNBA All-Star basketball game Sunday afternoon at Wintrust Arena.
Chicago Sky’s Candace Parker laughs after flopping during the 4th period of the WNBA All-Star basketball game Sunday afternoon at Wintrust Arena.
Chicago Sky’s head coach James Wade talks plays and strategizes during a timeout in the 3rd period of the WNBA All-Star basketball game Sunday afternoon at Wintrust Arena.