Seimone Augustus reflects on Lynx career: ‘They will always have a piece of my heart’

Seimone Augustus has been working on her speech.

It’s hard. So many memories, so many wins, so many friendships.

Augustus was a star for the Minnesota Lynx for 14 seasons. She played 370 games here, scored 5,881 points in a Lynx uniform, helped hoist four WNBA championship trophies. Before the Lynx host Los Angeles at Target Center Sunday evening Augustus’ No. 33 jersey will be retired.

How do you fit that career into one speech?

With care, some love, maybe some tears. “Any time a celebration happens there will be tears of joy,” Augustus said by phone. After 14 years with the Lynx, Augustus left for Los Angeles to play her final season for the Sparks, a move that surprised many. After finishing as a player she has become an Sparks assistant coach. She was talking from Indianapolis, where the Sparks played the Fever Friday night.

“You have all these fond memories of the good times,” Augustus said. “And even of the bad times that created the better times. I don’t know how it’s going to go Sunday. I’ll embrace the moment, let the emotions come.”

Augustus was the first-overall pick in the 2006 draft out of Louisiana State — where she played with future Lynx center Sylvia Fowles. She was the 2006 rookie of the year. For the first few seasons of her career she scored a lot but didn’t win enough. That changed in 2011, when the group of Augustus, Rebekkah Brunson — a current Lynx assistant who will have her jersey retired July 3 — Lindsay Whalen and Maya Moore coalesced into the beginnings of a dynasty.

Starting in 2011 the Lynx won four WNBA titles in seven seasons. Augustus was the MVP of the 2011 finals, a sweep of Atlanta. That, plus the fact it was the first and the joy of winning after five years of struggle make that title Augustus’ favorite. Under coach Cheryl Reeve, Augustus scored less, defended more, became one of the team’s best passers.

“Seimone was the most unselfish superstar the WNBA has seen,” Whalen said. “We don’t win that many titles if Seimone doesn’t welcome us all in when we got to Minnesota. She sacrificed stats and scoring titles for team success.”

A lot of success.

“The first few years of my career I didn’t know it would be a dynasty,” Augustus said. “I was just hoping we’d go on at least one run. Then coach Reeve arrived, the players came, and then the next eight to ten years? Every year was different. Every championship was different.”

Because it was so unexpected, the first was sweet. But Augustus said she remembered the slogans the team adopted for its final three title runs. “This is what we do” in 2013. “Whose house? Our house” in 2015 and ’17.

Interestingly, when asked about her strongest memories, many were about her teammates and friends. Janel McCarville’s behind-the-back pass to Brunson on the break in the clinching win over Atlanta in the 2013 finals. Being reunited with Fowles mid-way through the 2015 season. Moore’s buzzer-beating three from the top of the key that put the Lynx up 2-1 in the 2015 finals, a shot Augustus compares — as many others do — to Michael Jordan’s buzzer-beater against Utah in Game 6 of the 1996 NBA finals. The noise at Williams Arena during the 2017 finals.

“We were the essence of a sisterhood,” Augustus said of the core four who were a part of all four WNBA titles. “When we came together we didn’t need to have conversations about what we wanted to do, or how we were going to do it. We knew who we were, how we’d compete.”

Augustus still marvels at the intensity of Brunson’s rebounding in practice, how Moore would compete against the men’s practice team, the way Whalen commanded the team. And the leadership she brought, too.

“It all just came together,” Augustus said. “Whatever someone else lacked, someone else had. We just meshed well together. We wanted to win for each other.”

Still, Augustus’ ability to handle the ball, create and hit a shot remain something Reeve will never forget. “I will remember countless times the ball being in her hands, of her crating a shot that was so fun to watch,” Reeve said. “I had never coached a player like that. I haven’t had one since, and may never again in my coaching career.”

The last two titles were won with Fowles at center. Fowles said her strongest memories of Augustus are less about basketball and more on the relationship off the court. Augustus’ sense of humor, her love of a good prank. But the basketball?

“Think about it, ‘Mone is the Minnesota Lynx,” Fowles said. “When you think about Minnesota you think about Seimone Augustus, and her just putting in the work, through the good, the bad and the ugly.”

An then, the fans. Upon arriving in 2006 the first person Augustus met was a Lynx fan. “She was so enthused and excited I was going to be a part of the team,” Augustus said. “That was always the case. There was so much enthusiasm for women’s basketball, and that was exciting for me. To have fans who honored and respected us? It was amazing to be a part of that for 14 years.”

Ultimately, Augustus and the Lynx went their separate ways. At the time it was clear the two sides weren’t on the same page and perhaps some feelings were bruised.

“Things happen for a reason,” she said. “Did I envision it happening that way? No. Would I rather have stayed in Minnesota and finished my career? Yes. But I found myself in a better place, mentally and physically and I was able to finish my career the right way.”

But don’t assume an estrangement. The Lynx are retiring Augustus’ jersey.

“I think both of us wished it hadn’t gone that way,” Reeve said. “Any time something doesn’t work out, you both have a role in it. If we could rewind it and do it again, hopefully, I could do better. But that doesn’t make her career any less special. And we’ll celebrate the hell out of Seimone [on Sunday].”

Augustus, too, has nothing but good things to say.

“They will always have a piece of my heart,” she said. “Cheryl was the captain who pulled the best out of every one of us. There will always be gratitude for what she helped us accomplish. “Those iconic moments, I can’t express the joy. I can’t give you one emotion that would sum it all up.”

What is Augustus most proud of?

“That I was able to fulfill a dream,” she said. “And inspire the next generation of Lynx players.”

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