Monday, August 20, 2012

All-Time Team 

The BCs were looking forward to yesterday’s Mystics game against the visiting Chicago Sky, because, at half-time, the Mystics would be honoring the five players who’d been voted by fans onto Washington’s “All-Time Team” -- Nikki McCray, Murriel Page, Chamique Holdsclaw, Vicky Bullett, and Crystal Langhorne. For Founding Fans like us, that’s a stellar group, all deserving of this honor for what they have meant, or, in Lang’s case, still mean, to the fans and the franchise. Indeed, in casting our on-line ballots, the BCs voted (early and often) for each of those five players. Quite frankly, though, we wish the “All-Time Team” had been a little bit larger, as Alana Beard surely should have been on it. We voted for AB on many of our ballots, and also wrote in another of our favorites, Helen Luz. (Mostly because we were hoping for the chance to yell “Luuuuuuzzz!” one last time.) Unfortunately, though, the team was limited to five.

Except for Lang, no one on the All-Time Team has played for the Mystics since the end of the 2005 season, Murriel’s last summer in Washington. That’s a long time ago, and for us, it meant that the celebration of the All-Time Team was primarily about remembering and honoring the Mystics’ past (which was fine with us). Mique, Nikki, Murriel, and Vicky bring a smile to our faces. There was so much excitement and fun – as well as plenty of disappointment and heartache – in those early years. But with time, we mostly remember the good, and especially those unforgettable seasons when Fred was dancin' in a Phone Booth packed with screaming fans. (Instead of dancing all alone like he did yesterday.)

A couple of particular memories of the early days stand out, of course. The Mystics’ very first home game on June 19, 1998 against the then-Utah Starzz, when Nikki McCray and Murriel Page and their teammates notched the new franchise’s first win ever – in a completely sold out arena. The Phone Booth was packed – and rockin’ – right up to the last rows of the 400 Level!  To this day, the BCs believe that the absolute astonishment of playing in front of that crowd was the difference-maker in the Mystics' winning that game. The Starzz were simply unprepared for what they saw in the stands that day in 1998. Twenty-thousand-plus cheering, screaming, excited fans. Goose bumps.

And then, of course, there was August 17, 2002, when Mique, Murriel and Vicky helped lead the team to the Eastern Conference finals (the only time the Mystics have ever advanced that far) with a thrilling road win over the Sting. We doubt that any of the hundreds of Mystics fans who made the trip to Charlotte for that game will ever forget what it was like to experience that victory in person.

The All-Time Team brings back other fond memories as well. We remember the excitement when the WNBA announced in early 1998 that former ABL star Nikki McCray had been assigned to the brand new Washington franchise. We remember when Murriel Page was the first college player drafted by the team that spring (third overall). We remember when the Mystics used their number one overall pick in the 1999 draft to select Chamique Holdslclaw. And we remember when Vicky Bullett, in the twilight of her outstanding career, was acquired by trade in 2000 from the Charlotte Sting. Those were the days – what a cliché, but still true.

And so, to celebrate and honor those memories and four of the remarkable women who helped create them, we dug out our original blue Mystics T-shirts yesterday and made our way to the Phone Booth.

Unfortunately, before the ceremony, we had to endure a lackluster first half of basketball during which neither team managed to score 30 points. But finally, half-time arrived, the lights dimmed, and the ceremony began.

What transpired then was unexpectedly anti-climactic. Here it was, the Mystics' 15th Anniversary celebration, and not a not a word was spoken. No celebratory remarks from anyone associated with the team, and no opportunity to hear from any of the five honorees. Odd.

Sheila Johnson walked out first to mid court, unsmiling. She was greeted with a smattering of polite applause (and a few audible boos). But mostly, there was an odd and eerie silence --- wasn’t this supposed to be a celebration? Then each member of the All-Time Team walked out -- to loud cheers – and received flowers from Sheila and a large picture of herself in action. When all five had been so honored, they waved to the crowd, and then walked off. That was it. Definitely odd, and a little disappointing.

After the ceremony, at least the current Mystics managed to send the honorees home with a win. Unfortunately, in the second half, the honorees (and the fans) were treated to another less than stellar 20 minutes of basketball, which saw both teams struggle to reach 62 points at the end of regulation. It almost seemed that neither the Mystics nor the Sky really wanted to win this game. But the Mystics (who had blown a 9-point fourth quarter lead) finally managed to pull out the win in the extra period, 75-71, improving their record to 5-16. It was a win. But hardly memorable.

Our memories of yesterday will be of Nikki, Murriel, Chamique, Vicky, and Lang. Five very special Mystics. This was their day. And that’s what we’ll remember.

Photo Credit: DC BasketCases


At 12:43 PM, Anonymous Sue/Durham NC said...

Nice write-up. I'm glad you mentioned that Alana deserved the honor. I do not understand AT ALL how she could not be top 5. I would not have voted for Nikki McCray, but the other four are completely legit.

On live access, the camera had to stay pointed at the floor in order to not show all the empty seats. It was THE most pitiful celebration ever.

At 5:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

After the game there was a season ticket holder event at Penn Social near the Center. All the All-Time Mystics were there, and eventually most of the current squad and coaches. So we did get to hear from our favorites, get autographs, pictures etc... That was definitely much better than that so-called "celebration" at the half.

There were several players who could and should be All Time Mystics, like AB and Nakia and Coco. And Chasity Melvin, who was at the game and the event afterwards. Christy Scott introduced each All-Timer and had them say a few words-and Chamique was the most talkative of all! So happy to see that!! (A fun game, name an All Ex-Mystics team and you'd have a quite a line up!)

Nikki, Vicky and Murriel are all coaching in college so maybe we'll get to see more female coaches eventually. (Yes, it a peeve of mine that men have twice the number of coaching opportunities than women do because they coach men and women.)

So seeing some favorites combined with a victory, it was the most fun we've had related to the Mystics in quite a while.

Glad to see you back briefly Basketcases - miss you guys.
Founding Fan - SR

At 2:39 AM, Anonymous nsw43 said...

Yes, the game was pretty meh yesterday, but I think you sell it a little short. There were, after all, two three-point shots at the end of regulation and OT to win the game. The one Matee dropped was really difficult too.

And something about having the old players there helped lighten the mood. It wasn't like the old days when the Phone Booth was packed, but it was a decent crowd and they made a lot of noise when the Mystics did something - anything - good.

My favorite memories from back when were: 1) in 2002 meeting the team at the airport after they beat Charlotte to make it to the finals against New York (the players looked so shocked that fans had come out to greet them), and 2) seeing them win the first game of the series against New York in front of about 18,000 screaming fans. It was so much fun. We went to New York for the next game, and that wasn't much fun though.

Anyway, it was an enjoyable day of Mystics basketball yesterday, and we haven't had many of those lately.

At 9:25 AM, Blogger dcsportsfan said...

The game wasn't pretty, but when a bucket was needed, it was made. Let's all keep hoping that there still are some major changes at the top after this season is over.

At 9:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Am glad I wasn't the only one that thought the event was weird. I used to be a regular but the last 5 or so years have shared the BCs frustration and stopped going even though I love the team. And not having them speak was stupid. Those 5 playesr represent the best marketing the team could do for itself--should have let them talk. Did get to chat with Nikki and Mique which was awesome but unless things really change I dont see myself back at a game anytime soon.

At 11:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I were the management, I would be on the phone to see if Mary Nell Meadows (just fired unfairly by Atlanta) would be willing to take over here IMMEDIATELY.

At 7:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please please please let there be a coaching change. Just read that they got let Natasha Lacy go .... can't we make a coaching change as well?

Thanks, BC, for writing about the all-time team....I thought the celebration was flat too but maybe Sheila didn't want to take the chance of getting more boos if she spoke. Thanks for the memories....I remember some games where the ref'ing was so bad, the cameras would switch to Fred dancing just to get the crowd smiling again....good times!
Founding Fan Linda


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