The excitement built quickly as everyone gathered to watch Seattle players Sami Whitcomb, Jewell Loyd, WNBA Most Improved Player Natasha Howard, Alysha Clark, and WNBA MVP Breanna Stewart take turns to raise the flag.
Also joining in the fun was a very excited Mayor Jenny Durkan and two members of the Storm team ownership, Dawn Trudeau and Ginny Gilder.
For Whitcomb it was a dream come true to become a member of the Seattle franchise and to help them reach the WNBA Finals. The University of Washington grad was more than excited to help raise the flag even willing to deal with her fear of heights to do it.
“Will you stand over there so I can look at you that way?” was the first thing Whitcomb said as she found ways to overcome her fear.
After settling on staring at the wall instead of over the city Whitcomb talked about how special this moment is for her.
“I mean, it’s been a long time for me since I’ve been at UW obviously, I’ve been overseas,” said Whitcomb. “You sort of dream about this, about coming back to what feels like my hometown and getting to play with this team. I watched this team in the championship in 2010 and it’s thrilling, it’s hard to believe sometimes, it’s amazing but it’s also everything I’ve ever dreamed about and hoped for so it’s great.”
She was willing to get past her fears to do something for her team and the city.
“This is amazing. To get to raise the flag for this city and for this team is such a special experience,” said Whitcomb. “So I’m thrilled to be up here even though the heights are a little bit scary.”
With a nervous laugh Whitcomb seemed to be able to enjoy all the fun and was anxious to get to game time.
“Obviously we know it’s going to be a tough series again. Just looking forward to getting it started,” said Whitcomb. “Really excited for the fans again for the crowd I know they’re going to come out and rock it for us. I’m just anxious to get going. I just want it to start.”
Having some fun with her teammates and their trepidation of heights Stewart made sure they knew what was ahead this morning.
“It was funny,” said Stewart. “I think yesterday when Kim (Kimberly Veale, Storm PR) sent us an email with details and stuff, and I was like ‘oh, yey, no we’re not just going to it where public viewing is we’re going like up, up these ladders.’ I just wanted to make sure they were aware what was going on. While we were downstairs I made them sit on the glass benches. I’m just trying to help them get over their fear of heights.”
Having fun while sharing the joy of the first championship run for the players on top of the city they also know how special the fans and Seattle are to what they have accomplished.
“I mean, not a lot of people start their morning by coming to the Space Needle,” said Loyd. “On top of the Space Needle, raising the flag so that was awesome,” said Loyd. “It’s something special. It’s bigger than basketball. This is for the city, this is awesome, all of Seattle can see this flag and know.”
It wasn’t Loyd’s first visit to the top of the Needle but it was the first time to raise the flag for her team.
“It’s awesome. (Sue and I) have been up here before but nothing for the Seattle Storm and raising the flag,” said Loyd. “So that’s something that you don’t forget. Being up here with your teammates and having a chance of winning a championship and knowing that this is something that everyone’s going to see.”
They know that this is just the start of the day for them. The game looming ahead and they can’t wait to get in front of their fans and start things moving.
“We’re excited for sure and you know how we love KeyArena, its electric,” said Loyd. “So we want that same feel going into the start. We have the best fans I think by far in the WNBA so we’re excited to get back in there and get into the swing of things.”
Stewart, who won the WNBA MVP trophy this season and stipulated at the beginning of the year she was tired of losing wants to reward the fans and the city with a trophy.
“To bring a championship back to Seattle obviously it’s going to be something that’s very well deserved for the city,” said Stewart. “I think we’re all excited and looking forward to having the opportunity to do that. Just because it’s such a sports city and the way they’ve had our back especially during the rebuild and now once we’re back and now it’s just something we hope is a consistent basis from year to year.”
Stewart has also been to a flag raising before like last year’s WNBA All-Star flag before they played in Seattle but as with Loyd this one’s different.
“Feelings when I was raising the flag was just kind of excitement,” said Stewart. “Obviously game time is a ways away right now but being able to bring that, put that up so everyone in the city will see it. Just puts everyone on notice and there’s no reason they’re not at the game tonight.”
It’s all done, the flag raising, the practices, the five-game-series win and the mayor’s bet with the DC mayor (keep an eye out for that) and now it’s time to play.
The first game of the WNBA Finals begins against the Washington Mystics at 6 p.m. tonight, Friday, September 7 at the KeyArena.
The second game is scheduled for 1230 p. m. on Sunday, September 9 at the Key with game three back in DC on Wednesday, September 12.