Sky celebrate title with ring, banner ceremony, then beat Fever

Candace Parker led the way with 16 points, six rebounds, seven assists, three blocks and three steals.

SHARE Sky celebrate title with ring, banner ceremony, then beat Fever
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Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

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 Sky’s Azura Stevens shows off her WNBA championship ring.

The Sky’s Azura Stevens shows off her WNBA championship ring.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

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.

Kahleah Copper looks at her ring as the Chicago Sky players and coaches celebrate their 2021 WNBA championship with a ring and banner ceremony before taking on the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena, Tuesday evening, May 24, 2022.

Kahleah Copper looks at her ring as the Chicago Sky players and coaches celebrate their 2021 WNBA championship with a ring and banner ceremony before taking on the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena, Tuesday evening, May 24, 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Courtney Vandersloot walks out to accept her ring as the Chicago Sky players and coaches celebrate their 2021 WNBA championship with a ring and banner ceremony before taking on the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena, Tuesday evening, May 24, 2022.

Courtney Vandersloot walks out to accept her ring as the Chicago Sky players and coaches celebrate their 2021 WNBA championship with a ring and banner ceremony before taking on the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena, Tuesday evening, May 24, 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Candace Parker accepts her ring with her children, 13-year-old Lailaa Nicole and Airr Larry Petrakov Parker, as the Chicago Sky players and coaches celebrate their 2021 WNBA championship with a ring and banner ceremony before taking on the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena, Tuesday evening, May 24, 2022.

Candace Parker accepts her ring with her children, 13-year-old Lailaa Nicole and Airr Larry Petrakov Parker, as the Chicago Sky players and coaches celebrate their 2021 WNBA championship with a ring and banner ceremony before taking on the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena, Tuesday evening, May 24, 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Allie Quigley walks out to accept her ring as the Chicago Sky players and coaches celebrate their 2021 WNBA championship with a ring and banner ceremony before taking on the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena, Tuesday evening, May 24, 2022.

Allie Quigley walks out to accept her ring as the Chicago Sky players and coaches celebrate their 2021 WNBA championship with a ring and banner ceremony before taking on the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena, Tuesday evening, May 24, 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

The Chicago Sky players and coaches celebrate their 2021 WNBA championship with a ring and banner ceremony before taking on the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena, Tuesday evening, May 24, 2022.

The Chicago Sky players and coaches celebrate their 2021 WNBA championship with a ring and banner ceremony before taking on the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena, Tuesday evening, May 24, 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Candace Parker celebrates after scoring during the fourth quarter of the Chicago Sky game against the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena, Tuesday evening, May 24, 2022.

Candace Parker celebrates after scoring during the fourth quarter of the Chicago Sky game against the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena, Tuesday evening, May 24, 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Candace Parker and head coach James Wade watch a free throw during the fourth quarter of the Chicago Sky game against the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena, Tuesday evening, May 24, 2022.

Candace Parker and head coach James Wade watch a free throw during the fourth quarter of the Chicago Sky game against the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena, Tuesday evening, May 24, 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Dana Evans dribbles the ball during the third period of the Chicago Sky game against the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena, Tuesday evening, May 24, 2022.

Dana Evans dribbles the ball during the third period of the Chicago Sky game against the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena, Tuesday evening, May 24, 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Rebekah Gardner dribbles the ball upcourt during the third period of the Sky’s game against the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena onMay 24, 2022.

Rebekah Gardner dribbles the ball up court during the third quarter of the Chicago Sky game against the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena, Tuesday evening, May 24, 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Kahleah Copper celebrates with Emma Meesseman during the fourth quarter of the Chicago Sky game against the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena, Tuesday evening, May 24, 2022.

Kahleah Copper celebrates with Emma Meesseman during the fourth quarter of the Chicago Sky game against the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena, Tuesday evening, May 24, 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Azurá Stevens shoots the ball during the third period of the Chicago Sky game against the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena, Tuesday evening, May 24, 2022.

Azurá Stevens shoots the ball during the third period of the Chicago Sky game against the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena, Tuesday evening, May 24, 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Allie Quigley passes the ball during the fourth quarter of the Chicago Sky game against the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena, Tuesday evening, May 24, 2022.

Allie Quigley passes the ball during the fourth quarter of the Chicago Sky game against the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena, Tuesday evening, May 24, 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Kahleah Copper shoots the ball during the third period of the Chicago Sky game against the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena, Tuesday evening, May 24, 2022.

Kahleah Copper shoots the ball during the third period of the Chicago Sky game against the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena, Tuesday evening, May 24, 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Courtney Vandersloot dribbles the ball up court during the third period of the Chicago Sky game against the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena, Tuesday evening, May 24, 2022.

Courtney Vandersloot dribbles the ball up court during the third period of the Chicago Sky game against the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena, Tuesday evening, May 24, 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Candace Parker shoots the ball during the fourth period of the Chicago Sky game against the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena, Tuesday evening, May 24, 2022.

Candace Parker shoots the ball during the fourth period of the Chicago Sky game against the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena, Tuesday evening, May 24, 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Allie Quigley shoots the ball during the second period of the Chicago Sky game against the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena, Tuesday evening, May 24, 2022.

Allie Quigley shoots the ball during the second period of the Chicago Sky game against the Indiana Fever at Wintrust Arena, Tuesday evening, May 24, 2022.

Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

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