The best All-Star Game in major sports this year belonged to the WNBA. The top athletes in women’s basketball put their skills on display. The East led by Shoni “Showtime” Schimmel won 125-124 over the West in the first WNBA All-Star Game to go to overtime. Schimmel made history the moment she stepped on the court and had written more when she stepped off.
Schimmel, a rookie who doesn’t even start for her own team, caught fire in the second half and finished with a WNBA All-Star record 29 points. She was the third-leading vote getter coming in behind the Minnesota Lynx’s Maya Moore and the Chicago Sky’s Elena Delle Donne. “The hoop kept getting bigger and bigger, I just went out there and laid it all on the line,” Schimmel stated. She is the first Native American selected to be an All-Star.
My favorite to win Rookie of the Year had her swag and was in full attack. Hitting big shot after big shot in the fourth quarter and overtime, including the play of the game, a behind-the-head flip over 6-foot-8 Brittney Griner to give the East a 110-99 advantage with 2:57 to play in the fourth. “Its all for the fans, they gave me this opportunity, I had to go out there and repay them my respects,” Schimmel said. The No. 8 overall draft pick out of Louisville in the 2014 draft has the top-selling jersey in the WNBA. She has a strong Native American following and had 17 family members in attendance.
Schimmel, who grew up on a reservation in the tiny northeast Oregon town of Mission, was just part of the show. Tamika Catchings, who tied Tina Thompson for a record ninth All-Star appearance, made a layup with 6.9 seconds to go to give the East the lead. She then knocked the ball away from Skylar Diggins on the defensive end to seal the victory. “Two great teams, a lot of great players out here, we came out we all want to have fun at the end of the day you want to win too,” Catchings stated. Catchings has scored 100 points in her WNBA All-Star career, the second most behind Lisa Leslie with 102. Diggins, the WNBA’s No. 2 scorer, had six of the West’s last eight points in regulation, iced by a layup off a turnover with 26.3 seconds to go to tie it at 112. Diggins finished with 27 points and seven assists.
Get your pen and paper out. Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike, Chiney of the East and Nneka for the West, were the first siblings to play in the same WNBA All-Star Game. Only one pair of siblings ever took part in the same NBA All-Star Game – Tom and Dick Van Arsdale who were All-Stars in the 1969-70 and 1970-71 seasons.
Britney Griner dunked the ball with 2:15 left in the first half, taking a pass from Candace Parker and springing from the baseline. Lisa Leslie, who was in the building, was the first to dunk in a WNBA All-Star Game nine years ago. Miami, Florida native Sylvia Fowles did it in the 2009 game. But nobody in league history has dunked as often as Griner. The 6-foot-8 center has four dunks and counting in her two WNBA seasons. The rest of the league has six in its entire history. Griner has two this season, the most recent Tuesday night.
The East’s winning head coach, Atlanta Dream’s Michael Cooper, became the first head coach to win the All-Star Game for both the Western and Eastern Conference.
The former Los Angeles Sparks coach guided the West to victory in 2002 and 2003. It was the most combined points in a WNBA All-Star Game. The league is in good hands with Schimmel and the younger generation proving it. WNBA president Laurel Richie said before the game that six teams finished in the black last season, up from four the previous year. She also mentioned the Golden State Warriors have strong interest in an expansion team.