A look back at Sky’s championship-season highlights

To mark the new year and the Sky’s hopes to repeat as champions, here are highlights from the 2021 season.

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Chicago Sky basketball team head coach James Wade celebrates their 2021 WNBA Championship during a rally at Millennium Park on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Matt Marton) ORG XMIT: ILMM114

Matt Marton, AP Photos

The Chicago Sky made history in 2021, winning the franchise’s first-ever WNBA title. On the court and off, significant moments led to the Sky’s Game 4 victory against the Phoenix Mercury in October and the championship parade that followed.  

To mark the new year and the Sky’s hopes to repeat as champions, here’s a look back at the highlights from the 2021 season: 

Signing Candace Parker (Feb. 1)

Parker was the most significant free-agent acquisition in Sky history and immediately established them as a title contender. She was a previous WNBA champion, a league MVP and a five-time All-Star. 

Azura Stevens signs one-year contract extension (Feb. 17)

The Sky had little in their future solidified beyond the 2021 season. Stevens’ contract extension took the pressure off as she worked back to full strength in 2021 after having knee surgery last fall. Stevens solidified herself as a starter in coach/general manager James Wade’s system by the end of the year. 

Sky select Shyla Heal eighth overall in the 2021 WNBA Draft (April 15)

Entering the 2021 WNBA Draft, it was no secret that Wade was looking to add a backup point guard. Wade was impressed with Heal’s professional experience at just 19 years old. Less than two months after drafting her, Wade traded Heal to the Dallas Wings for Dana Evans. 

Parker suffers ankle sprain before the second game of the season (May 19)

Parker made her regular-season Sky debut May 15 against the Washington Mystics, totaling 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Four days later, she was sidelined with an ankle injury the team first described as a minor sprain. The Sky went on a seven-game losing streak without Parker. Allie Quigley was out for five of those seven losses with a hamstring injury.

Lexie Brown signs a rest-of-season contract with the Sky (June 15) 

The combination of Olympic obligations and early injuries left Wade with a short-handed roster for most of the first half. Brown played a critical role during the first two months, eventually turning a hardship contract into a rest-of-season contract. Her versatility as a two-way guard who can play point or on the wing was a critical asset. 

Sky set a franchise record with seven consecutive wins (June 26)

Despite the seven-game skid, the Sky never lost confidence. They proved that by winning seven straight in June with a healthy roster. Quigley scored in double figures in every game of the winning streak. Wade would earn coach of the month honors for the June run. The Sky led the league in scoring, field goals made, steals and assists during the month.

Three Sky players named All-Stars

(June 30)

Before the 2021 season, Kahleah Copper had the goal of becoming an All-Star. In July, she played in her first All-Star Game alongside Parker and Vandersloot. Quigley competed in the three-point contest and won her third career three-point title. The Sky’s depth was showcased in the All-Star voting process with seven players among the league’s top 36 vote-getters — the most in the WNBA. 

Parker becomes the first woman on the cover of NBA2K (July 15)

The WNBA’s 25th Anniversary special edition NBA 2K22 game wasn’t released until Sept. 10, but the news of Parker’s historic cover was announced before the All-Star game in Las Vegas. Players, coaches and executives responded to the news with extreme pride. WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said, “It’s a signal that the WNBA is here to stay, and the next 25 years are going to be really interesting.”

Stefanie Dolson wins gold with USA’s 3-on-3 basketball team (July 28)

Team USA lost only one game en route to their gold medal, the first in the sport’s history, beating the Russian Olympic Committee 18-15 in the gold-medal game. 

Wade announces changes to the Sky’s starting five (Aug. 21) 

The Sky split their first two games following the Olympic break, which prompted a shake-up to the starting lineup. In the team’s third game of the second half, Wade moved Quigley and Stevens into the starting rotation. Quigley added an instant jolt on offense, and Stevens’ interior defense was critical to the Sky’s success, especially in the playoffs. 

“Candace Parker Day” (Sept. 15) 

Mayor Lori Lightfoot signed a proclamation on Sept. 15 stating that the following day would be ‘‘Candace Parker Day.’’ The news was announced alongside Parker’s friends and family in Chicago. 

Sixth-seeded Sky win two single-elimination games en route to the semifinals (Sept. 23, 26)

The Sky closed out the regular season with a 98-87 victory against the last-place Indiana Fever. They carried that momentum along with a fresh attitude into the postseason, where they beat the Wings at home and Minnesota Lynx on the road, setting up a semifinals series against the top-seeded Connecticut Sun. 

Courtney Vandersloot makes WNBA history (Sept. 28)

Vandersloot joined Sheryl Swoopes with the second playoff triple-double in league history. She had 12 points, 18 assists and 10 rebounds against the Sun in Game 1 of the best-of-five semifinals series. 

Sky advance to the WNBA Finals for the second time in franchise history (Oct. 6)

The Sky became the first No. 6 seed to reach the Finals under the league’s new playoff format after beating the No. 1 Sun 79-69 in Game 4. 

Sky win first WNBA title and celebrate with a parade and rally (Oct. 17, 19) 

The Sky came back from a seven-point deficit with four minutes left in Game 4 of the WNBA Finals to win their first title in front of a sold-out Wintrust Arena. Quigley led the team in scoring with 26 points. Vandersloot was one rebound away from her second playoff triple-double, Parker had a double-double and Copper won Finals MVP after leading her team in scoring throughout their championship run. Two days after their championship win, the Sky were honored with a parade down Michigan Avenue and a rally at Pritzker Pavilion.

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