Courtney Vandersloot never envisioned the confetti rainstorm that follows a WNBA championship run until 2014.
The dream never crossed her mind as a young kid growing up in Kent, Washington, or as a rising star at Gonzaga. Vandersloot was too busy consumed by the goal of making it on a WNBA roster until she found herself in the Finals with the Sky matched up against Diana Taurasi and a loaded Phoenix Mercury team.
“We were out of our league,” Vandersloot said, laughing. “It’s almost like we shouldn’t have been there, but it was that taste that you needed. From that moment on, nothing else mattered except winning a championship.”
Seven years after establishing that goal, Vandersloot stood at center court enveloped in emotion, staring up at the words “2021 WNBA Champs: Chicago Sky” alongside the teammates who helped make it happen.
On Tuesday night, as the banner goes up and the rings are doled out, the Sky will celebrate not the singular championship moment but every moment that led up to that historic Game 4 victory.
The Sky’s championship ceremony, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at Wintrust Arena, will be a celebration of Candace Parker’s return home, Allie Quigley’s Game 4 heroics, Kahleah Copper’s WNBA Finals MVP performance and the entire team and organization that brought Chicago its first WNBA title.
Sky coach/GM James Wade remained tight-lipped about the ceremony.
“We’re going to get rings,” Wade said. “That’s all I know.”
Wade said he would’ve been happy getting his ring in the mail, but he’s excited for the fans to share in the moment with the team. Ultimately, Wade wants to put last season in the rearview mirror and focus on his team’s growth.
The Sky have improved since their season-opening loss to the Los Angeles Sparks in which they committed 25 turnovers. In the second half of their 82-73 victory against the Washington Mystics, Wade’s team played like it could contend for another title in -September.
Since returning to the WNBA grind, Wade has preached the importance of progress. The way he built the 2022 Sky roster supports that plan.
The Sky have 11 dependable players, including talented reserves who are comfortable with their roles and highly productive. Parker, who was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people on Monday, describes a level of sacrifice among her teammates that makes the Sky so formidable.
The Sky’s bench outscored the Mystics’ 29-11, and the team had 23 assists on 82 points. Wade’s squad leads the league in assist percentage.
To make the night a complete success, however, the Sky must cap it off with a victory against the Indiana Fever (2-6).
Watching the Sky (3-2) play in 2022 feels different for the team’s original fans, who wrote letters to Jerry Reinsdorf trying to sway him to invest in a WNBA team and were there when Michael Alter and Margaret Stender announced the birth of the organization.
Those fans, who have remained loyal since the inaugural 5-29 season through the departures of franchise players Sylvia Fowles and Elena Delle Donne to last fall’s Finals victory, will be watching with a sense of relief and accomplishment.
The ceremony will be a moment to bask in the glory of a long-awaited championship. And every time they return to Wintrust Arena, they’ll see “2021 WNBA Champions” hanging from the rafters.