LA Sparks Ignite Championship Beginnings


When does an event begin and end?

In baseball, it’s when the umpire shouts “play!” and when the defense records the final out.

In football, it’s when the referee tosses the coin and captains shake hands, and when the clock hits all zeroes.

But for the proud Sparks franchise, one can’t delimit the beginnings of their championship aspirations so easily. The work towards their fourth title hadn’t begun when the ball tipped in Los Angeles on a too-long awaited Friday night.

As all outstanding achievements do, that moment’s inception began with a previous failure.

Brewing a Dream

In Sparks Lead’s conversations with 2022 Sparks coach Derek Fisher, Fisher expressed himself only as a gentleman sincerely committed to his team’s success.

Derek Fisher Maintains Poise In Crucible Of Stress

For some reason, though, success on the court didn’t follow. Perhaps LA needed just a tweak, a reimagining in a rapidly-changing basketball world.

And did the front-office masterminds respond! After Connecticut fired coach Curt Miller, the Sparks recognized a unique opportunity. Add an experienced coach with proven skills to an already impressive roster?

Easiest call since bringing pro women’s basketball to Hollywood.

Thankfully, the Sparks’ efforts continued. Fisher’s dual effort as general manager didn’t result in the championship roster that Los Angeles demands. Strange, that, considering Chennedy Carter and Liz Cambage‘s repeated affirmation of their happiness with the team (and more on their departures in a moment).

Sometimes, though, the ingredients around the key entrées in a roster — in the Sparks’ case, Nneka Ogwumike and her media-star sister Chiney — need a brewer’s stir, even if the original players provided complete competence.

Although it was but one night, Friday’s triumph affirmed that the Sparks made the needed adjustments.

Sparks Sleuth Not Needed

Although Cambage left the team last season and LA released Carter, Sparks Lead could not confirm any cover-up job by the front office.

Sometimes, despite a perfect effort, success doesn’t follow— as the Sparks’ slain Lynx nemesis could confirm in 2016. Of course, that’s no reason to give up. A championship is always the expectation in Los Angeles.

New GM Karen Bryant has switched every success light to full-blast so far. LA’s first-round pick, Zia Cooke, dazzled against Phoenix in the opener with South Carolina coach Dawn Staley admiring Cooke’s efforts courtside. Cooke impressed not just with her 5-of-6 shooting, but also with the lightning pace that she helped set.

New acquisitions Dearica Hamby and Layshia Clarendon contributed superbly, playing an effective 20 and 15 minutes, respectively. (And come on, folks, Clarendon didn’t play last season??? Thank goodness that Bryant accepts the yearning in one’s heart for a second chance.)

Most refreshingly of all, Karlie Samuelson, the Cardinal regenerated more times than a phoenix, played Friday on a hardship contract. Although the victim of an, ahem, questionable foul drawn by Diana Taurasi, Samuelson shined in place of her superstar sister Katie Lou.

(And blessings for Katie Lou as she cheers on the sideline with a baby on the way.)

Add up 94 points for the Sparks and subtract a measly 71 for the Mercury, and LA left the Crypto arena with a startling 23-point victory.

In a 40-game campaign, though, the Sparks’ fire is still but a mite of smoke.

The End?

The most artistic imagining of humanity’s beginning and ending came from J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien imagined a marvelous Middle Earth existing in our sphere’s past and inscribed a fiery “The End” to conclude his numerous tales.

Thankfully for the Sparks, an evil demon isn’t about to interrupt the season!

There’s no guarantee that any one of America’s 12 best women’s basketball teams will claim the final crown. But should the Sparks claim the championship, as the franchise expects, it won’t be an ending.

Rather, just another beginning.

Friday night was indeed a great start: for the Sparks’ season. For the WNBA’s greatest year yet. And most heartwarming of all, for Brittney Griner, finally free from the grips of the Russian dictatorship.

The genuine genesis of this season’s successes, though, began as a spark in Miller’s eye.

Or was it ear? When ESPN tried to interview Miller in the fourth quarter, he responded that he could hardly hear as it was so loud in Los Angeles.

And no wonder. From a long-distant start for the world’s greatest sport to the tragic day when a ball is tipped for the last time, lies the soul of America’s proudest basketball city.

The past, history, the Finals, a beautiful mystery. But for now? LA is a magnificent 1-0.

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About Jeffrey Newholm

"Jammin Jeff" Newholm had been a basketball fanatic since his high school days, and remained a casual fan as a student in Whitewater. Wishing to check in as an active participant, he also completed a writing certificate program at UWM. He loves seeing Bucks games more than any other activity in hometown Milwaukee and especially screaming really really loudly to get someone to miss a free throw. Twitter: @JeffreyNewholm

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