The Sparks played in a historical game on Sunday afternoon against New York Liberty. Together with the Phoenix Mercury, these three teams are the only remaining WNBA franchises from 1997, when the women’s league first launched.
Paying homage to the legendary inaugural game that Liberty vs. Sparks played on June 21, 1997, meant so much to the team, especially head coach Derek Fisher. He played for the Lakers when the Sparks became an iconic team in L.A. 25 years later; he feels fortunate to be the head coach.
Spark’s success throughout the years changed the history of the city. They won their first WNBA championship in 2001, defended their title in 2002, and remained the only active WNBA team to win a title back to back. “This is what officially made L.A. a sports town”, says Fisher.
The game was more memorable for Fisher because it was played after Juneteenth, a new federal holiday.
“I’m thinking about how blessed I am to be in this position as a head coach and general manager of a major pro sports team in the WNBA. People that look like me are still having a hard time with these opportunities.” He continues, “I think about the history of this country and the history of this league. I’m very, very thankful to be here, and I try to bring an attitude of gratefulness. I’m going to do as much as I can to grow this league and help the team.”
The combination of celebrations, Juneteenth, Fathers Day, and the inaugural game sparked a sold-out crowd full of energy and one of the most intense games of the season. Fisher says the WNBA game is a fun and family experience, and all teams are working to entertain and engage the fans.
According to Fisher, society must lose the conditioned mindset that women’s sports are inferior to other sports products.
“We have to change the mental conditioning that we’ve all been given. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong to watch other sports. We celebrate other sports more, we invest in them, and there are more sponsorship dollars. We just do more for men’s sports.”
Fisher feels we have to do better as a society and community to support these women athletes. He states the world is better when we look out for women. The five-time NBA champion says everyone was born by a woman, and at some point, a woman has helped everyone in their lives.
According to Fisher, changing the narrative of how women’s sports can impact young girls because they can see powerful women on T.V. The league’s talent in the WNBA will impact millions. The WNBA is working hard to continue to grow the game globally.
In the Sparks loss, Erica Wheeler was proud to play on Sunday afternoon. “For the league to be standing for 25 years and years to come, I’m proud to be a part of history, and this team, it means a lot. I’m thankful to be able to celebrate this 25th anniversary.
During the game, Sparks honored WNBA legend Tameka Dixon for her efforts toward the iconic WNBA franchise.
After the game, Nneka Ogwumike and Kristi Toliver were featured on an episode of #RootedInLA in front of the fans. The third episode was dedicated to the Sparks 2016 WNBA championship team. Ogwumike says in her lifetime, she hopes for the first WNBA million-dollar contract.