When Kahleah Copper opened the box and gazed upon her first WNBA championship ring before the Sky’s 95-90 victory against the Indiana Fever on Tuesday at Wintrust Arena, her face said it all.
With a wide stare and her hand covering a childlike smile, Copper skipped around center court, then met Candace Parker to share their admiration for their new hardware.
Sky coach/general manager James Wade’s imprint is all over the Sky’s ring.
Wade was involved throughout the ring-design process, going back and forth with team executives with his suggestions. Wade knows Chicago is a proud sports town, so city landmarks had to be included. Family is the foundation of his team, so he also wanted to see personal team messages engraved.
Chicago’s first WNBA championship ring, created by William Levine Fine Jewels, is emblematic of the Sky’s journey to the title and the city in which it was won. The ring’s face is engraved with the Willis Tower in 10 full-cut diamonds. The sides feature other city landmarks, players’ names and the second half of the team’s huddle chant: “4-5-6, family.”
Diamond DeShields, Stefanie Dolson and other members of the championship team who were not present for the ceremony will get their rings and enjoy a celebratory moment when they are in town to play the Sky. For DeShields that will be on May 31 when the Phoenix Mercury are in town for a rematch of the 2021 WNBA Finals.
The ceremony began with WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert taking a moment to acknowledge the mass shooting by an 18-year-old gunman at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
Wade fought back tears before the game, describing the challenge of embracing this celebratory moment as the country mourned yet another mass shooting. He said his team always has absorbed his emotions as their own before explaining he would attempt to mask how he was truly feeling.
As rings were handed out, first to Sky principal owner Michael Alter, then to the coaching staff and finally to the players, cheers from fans grew louder. The sound of 7,721 fans chanting “Sloot” in unison might have been mistaken for boos by any newcomer. Parker walked to center court with her daughter, Lailaa, and her son, Airr.
After Copper accepted her ring, the team met beneath their banner, which featured the names of every member of the 2021 team. In the center it reads “2021 WNBA World Champions, Chicago Sky.”
After the banner was raised, the team had to refocus on the game.
“[Shifting our focus] is the tricky part,” Vandersloot said. “A few of us have never done that. It’s going to be difficult to enjoy the moment and turn the page to the game and an Indiana team that’s probably trying to ruin the night.”
That didn’t happen. Parker led the Sky with 16 points, seven assists, six rebounds, three blocks and three steals. Five other Sky players scored in double figures, and the bench outscored the Fever’s 32-23.
The ceremony also was proof that the team has taken a firm place on the city’s sports landscape. When Engelbert hopped in a cab from O’Hare Airport early in the day, she was pleased when the driver asked, “Is there a Sky game today?”
In the Sky’s 16-year existence, the franchise has fought to establish relevancy. The championship and the celebration are validation of those efforts.