The thermometer finally hit 100 degrees on May 31 in the Valley of the Sun, which had to come as a shock to locals who normally feel that kind of heat weeks earlier.
It also brought the return of Phoenix Mercury basketball in the city, featuring the three-time WNBA champion in front of more than 14,000 fans at Talking Stick Resort Arena on a night Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks had a home game just down the street from Talking Stick Resort Arena.
America’s fifth-most populated city isn’t known for its sports teams’ success. The only other major pro championship belongs to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001.
The Mercury have three league titles, and have only finished below .500 in nine of 22 seasons of existence.
The team also has a fan base, the X-Factor, that has remained steadfast and loyal through the years. And although she’s injured at present, there is guard Diana Taurasi, widely regarded as the greatest women’s basketball player of all time, in her 15th season.
Under head coach Sandy Brondello, the Mercury have made the playoffs in all five of her seasons at the helm, and Friday night’s opening lineup video montage made it clear — the Mercury play every season to win a championship, and anything less isn’t acceptable to the team.
That’s the kind of attitude not seen much in Phoenix sports, and the city should feel fortunate to have the Mercury year after year,. It’s a winning tradition, combined with a fun fan experience and players who enjoy community involvement.
On Friday, Phoenix rallied from 12 points down in the second quarter and, despite losing the lead late in the fourth, pulled together to beat the Las Vegas Aces — the team tabbed as the favorite to win the WNBA championship this season — 86-84 . Clearly the Mercury knew all about the Aces’ status as favorites, and the two teams went at it with no less than late-season intensity in only Game 2.
Mercury center Brittney Griner was issued a technical foul when she wouldn’t take the Aces’ Tamera Young chirping at her for a hard screen. Young was also given a tech.
The Mercury took the lead early in the fourth quarter and didn’t lose it, the huge crowd coming to life in support of the home team.
Home openers tend to draw big crowds, but this one was large enough that tickets were sold in the upper deck.
Earlier in the day, the NBA’s Suns held predraft workouts for prospects at the arena. And star guard Devin Booker attended Friday night’s Mercury game, something he’s done in the past with his team in the midst of its offseason.
The 2019 summer of Phoenix sports will include the D-backs, a CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal soccer match in nearby Glendale, and, without fail, the Mercury.