With a career characterized by a strong work ethic, Lindsay Whalen enters the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame
UNCASVILLE, Conn., September 9 – Her high school gym is named after her; her college and pro jerseys are retired, and she stood on the gold-winning platform four times in international competitions. But Saturday, Lindsay Whalen will stand on the biggest and greatest stage yet as she will be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., as the first Minnesota Golden Gopher women’s basketball player and seventh Gopher overall to be in the Hall.
Whalen, the point guard from Hutchinson, Minn., will be presented Saturday night by HOFers Dawn Staley (2013) and Charles Barkley (2006).
During Friday’s press conference at Mohegan Sun Casino, Whalen and other 2022 inductees spoke to the press. Hoopfeed asked her why she chose Staley and Barkley.
“Charles was my favorite player growing up,” she admitted. “I got his number and texted him, and he got back to me about a day later. Dawn and I, being point guards, have taken similar paths where she was (both) playing and coaching. I’ve always looked up to her….I really admire her, and I ask her for advice a lot.”
Not unlike most Hall of Famers, Whalen’s story began humbling, not realizing at the time that they were planting seeds to eventually bring them to Springfield, the birthplace of basketball.
“Growing up watching the NBA and watching college basketball,” explained Whalen, “you think about it a little bit. I was a big sports fan. I studied different players and different sports all across the country and especially in the state of Minnesota.
Learning from them and seeing what they did, and then doing it in my work ethic was something that I did, and I think it was really, really big for me.”
Whalen is one of four women going into this year’s Hall, joining Swin Cash, Marianne Stanley, and Teresa Shank-Grentz. The other members of the Class of 2022 include Manu Ginobili, Tim Hardaway, Bob Huggins, George Karl, NBA referee Hugh Evans, Bob Huggins, Del Harris, Larry Costello, Radivoj Korac, and three early African American pioneers: Wyatt “Sonny” Boswell, Inman Jackson and Albert “Runt” Pullins.
Longtime women’s sportswriter M.A. Voepel will also be honored with the hall’s Curt Gowdy Award for Print Media.
“I think there are young girls and women right now that are sitting there seeing us, and that can become a realistic goal and dream for them if they work hard,” surmised Whalen, “and (if) they do those things, I think just seeing it, and you can really visualize it.”
Lindsay Whalen’s Hall of Fame Speech
Sept. 10, Springfield Symphony Hall
I’d first like to thank Jerry Colangelo and the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame for this incredible honor. As well as congratulate my fellow 2022 inductees. It’s been a pleasure to get to know all of you – your families, and your love for the game and the love for the people around you. It’s been truly an honor.
Thank you to Dawn and Charles for standing – well I thought you would be standing but you’re sitting. I watched previous shows before and everybody was standing. Thank you for sitting here with me today.
It’s a full circle moment for me, including some of my past and present idols. Charles, you were my first favorite basketball player growing up. I was going to be 6-2, 6-3 [applause] – thank you. A power forward with a great turnaround jumper and a rebounding machine. That was until I stopped growing at 5-foot 8. Plans changed a little bit. But thank you for being an inspiration to a young girl from Hutchinson, Minnesota. Thank you so much. [Applause]
Dawn, with both of us being point guards, I’m honored that you’re here with me today. I’m going to do my very best to continue to follow in your footsteps from playing point guard in the WNBA to going right to head coach. Congratulations on all of your success at South Carolina. You are truly an inspiration for all of us, thank you so much. [Applause]
I’m the oldest of five children, Katie, Casey, Annie and Thomas. My parents Neil and Kathy raised us to be respectful and kind people. All five of us continue to try and make our parents proud – on most days. [Laughter]
My dad Neil is my first coach, so yes, I played hockey first. Minnesota cold, all that. He first coached me when I was on the ‘squirt B’ hockey team. One of the first days of practice I forgot my elbow pads. Kind of important in hockey. So I was not able to practice that day and when we got home, he sat me down and walked me through the list of everything I needed to be able to be in practice the next day – be in the truck ready to go five minutes before we were to leave. He told me this was my responsibility and if I wasn’t prepared then I couldn’t practice and therefore I couldn’t play in the games. So needlessly to say, I made my list and I packed my bag and I was ready five minutes early in the truck from that point on. And to this day I have not missed or been late to a practice, workout or a game of any kind. So thank you Dad for the supporting message. [Applause]
My mom Kathy was the one who made sure we got to and from all of our practices, games and camps. I remember one camp in particular that my Mom took me to. First basketball camp outside of Hutchinson, without any of my friends or teammates. It was all the way in the Twin Cities, about an hour away. As we got closer, the more anxious I became and when we arrived to the gym I was in tears – I didn’t want to get out of the car. My Mom reassured me that I would be fine, I would meet some new friends and had the opportunity to play basketball so all would be okay. I still resisted and I stayed in the car, but this did not fly. We paid for camp. So I was going to camp. [Laughter]
However I did notice that we had passed a Burger King. So the negotiations started. [Laughter]
It started with a number one, we settled on a Whopper Jr. So if I went to camp, I got a Whopper Jr. with cheese on the way home. [Laughter]
So now we’re all hungry. Chuck, I know this might conflict with Subway. [Applause/Laughter]
The Whopper Jrs hit a little bit different that week of camp. I ended up having a great time at camp, ended up making new friends as well. All was right. So thank you Burger King. And thank you Mom. Love you. [Laughter/Applause]
My husband Ben and I have lived in two states, and three different countries during this 15 year basketball journey we have been on. He has made so many sacrifices that have allowed me to chase my dreams. We have had some awesome times in Europe, traveling and seeing new parts of the world. Meeting new people – we were able to make some new family members on all of those teams. As well as the WNBA teams we were a part of. I know it was not always ideal to pick up and move across the world for six, seven months or even live long distance as you started your professional insurance career. By the way, if anyone in attendance or watching worldwide needs home, auto, life, property insurance [Laughter/Applause] – I’ve got a guy.
[Turns to Dawn Staley/Charles Barkley] You guys have good insurance? You feel good? You solid? [Laughter/Applause] I know you guys have a few houses and different things so if you need it, Ben’s over there. [Laughter]
I cherish those moments together and know I would not be standing here without your love and support throughout the years. Thank you, and I love you. [Applause]
The 2012 Olympics in London changed the way I looked and felt about championships and medals. We won the gold medal and for that I thought my life would be completely different because I made it. I won a gold medal, I arrived. All of that. Well that was not the case. Same bills were due, I was sore from playing. I was hungry, tired. Insurance bills were due. We had a plane to catch to get back to the WNBA a few days later. So nothing really had changed after I had won a gold medal. So for me, everything had changed. It was in that moment, on the flight back home, that my lens for striving for a destination was forever changed and my appreciation grew for the journey grew. And more importantly the people that were such a big part of that journey. With that, I want to thank all of my teammates, coaches. Coach Borton, I know you are here. Coach T, I know you are here. Geno – where you at coach? There you are. Coach Reeve, who flew in this morning from USA Basketball camp. Best of luck in the World Cup, World Championships with USA Basketball. To my agent Boris Leschinsky, PR execs, equipment managers, travel planners and colleagues, owners, GMs and fans for your wonderful support throughout this journey. Which leads me to the Hall of Fame.
And of course, last but not least, my loving family. As the great Jim Petersen always says, never wish a day away, you don’t know how many we have. Cherish the days and those around you. I know my team is watching back home in Minneapolis. We have practice next week, alright, so I’ll see you next week. Be safe, and go Gophers. Thank you. [Applause]