Thousands of people gathered Tuesday in downtown Minneapolis to cheer for the WNBA champion Minnesota Lynx, as players and coaches rode in open cars down Nicolett Mall and then hosted a celebration at the Target Center.
The team swept the Atlanta Dream last Friday in the best-of-five series to capture its first WNBA championship — the first championship for a Minnesota professional sports team since the Twins won the World Series in 1991.
An estimated 15,000 people lined up along the route and about 5,000 fans were on hand inside the arena to cheer and hear from the players.
Lynx fans like Jan Nelson from Minneapolis have been waiting for this moment for nearly 13 years. Nelson stood along the parade route wearing a green Lynx t-shirt.
"I'm a huge Lynx fan, a woman's basketball fan. And I even went to Atlanta to watch them win down there," Nelson said. "I have to be here today to let this team know that we continue to support them and cheer them on and we're very proud of them."
Many of the thousands in attendance had probably not paid that much attention to the Lynx before they started winning. But all the bandwagon jumping didn't seem to bother long time Lynx fan Tracy Scott of Maple Lake. She said she liked seeing interest in the Lynx grow as they collected more wins.
"All of a sudden the guys at work aren't talking about the Twins and the Vikings," Scott said. "They're talking about the Lynx and that was fantastic."
The crowd went wild as team players rode down the Mall in the back of pick-up trucks and in convertibles. They saved their biggest cheers for Seimone Augustus and Lindsay Whalen, who were riding together. Augustus, the Most Valuable Player of the WNBA Finals, held the WNBA championship trophy.
The parade ended at the Target Center where a smaller, but still boisterous crowd greeted the players, coaches and other team officials. Gov. Mark Dayton declared Tuesday Lynx Day in Minnesota. Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak is out of the country, but delivered a video taped address proclaiming October Minnesota Lynx Month in the city.
The players thanked fans for their support and enthusiasm. Rookie of the Year Maya Moore summed up the feelings of many of her teammates.
"It's just unbelievable to see how you guys love us so much and just love the game and down front and everybody we mentioned before," Moore said. "This is our year. And I just feel so good — for me to have come in right at the right time with such a great group of people. It just keeps getting more fun everyday."