Chicago Sky head coach James Wade wanted fans who attended the team's championship rally Tuesday in Millennium Park to remember one thing for next year.
"Before I let you guys go, remember the seat that you're sitting in now because we're gonna make sure that you sit in the same one next year," Wade said.
The city of Chicago held a parade in honor of the Sky's first WNBA title after the team defeated the Phoenix Mercury 80-74 in a thrilling fourth quarter comeback Sunday at a sold-out Wintrust Arena. This was the first championship victory won at home by a Chicago team since the Blackhawks in 2015.
The Sky finished 8-8 in the regular season and won two single-game elimination rounds to get to the semifinals. They finished the postseason with an 8-2 record.
The Sky's direction changed in 2019 when Wade was signed as the team's head coach and general manager. He previously worked as a player development coach with the San Antonio Stars in 2012 and became the assistant coach of the Minnesota Lynx in 2017. Wade signed on after the Sky finished 13-21 in 2018. He won 2019 Coach of the Year after improving the team he inherited to a 20-14 record.
After losing early in the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, Wade knew he needed a secret weapon. He wanted to bring two-time MVP and Naperville native Candace Parker back to her hometown.
"It was amazing because she (Parker) came because of the players on our team," Wade said. "It just made me realize that we built something special, but not just the way we played, but we built something special with the people."
The Sky's front office signed Parker in February to complete the Sky's puzzle. She went on to win her second WNBA title in her career.
"I remember watching the Chicago Bulls parade and the Chicago Bulls rally on television and dreaming of being in that moment," Parker said, who scored 16 points, including a game-tying three-pointer during the championship game. "To do it with this special group in front of a city that showed up, we turned up at Wintrust. Everybody that showed up, thank you."
Kahleah Copper was named MVP after her stellar play in the WNBA Finals. She scored a game-high 22 points in Friday's Game 3 to help get her team to Game 4. Copper averaged 18.6 points on 54.5 % shooting, 7.7 rebounds and 2 assists during the 2021 postseason.
She was greeted with "MVP" chants before she addressed the crowd.
"I just want to say thank you to my teammates and my coaches," Copper said. "The coaching staff, you all were incredible this postseason.
"I think this group is very special because we're really a family here."
A Philadelphia native, Copper was drafted in the first round by the Washington Mystics in 2016. She gave a shoutout to Chicago for accepting her and teammate Stefanie Dolson when the pair were traded to the Sky as part of a package deal for Sky forward Elena Delle Donne in 2017.
Dolson also played a key role in the final moments of Game 4. She made a layup to give the Sky the lead and put up another two points for a 76-72 score, giving the Sky some breathing room in the last 45 seconds remaining.
The championship was also special for Sky veterans and married teammates Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot. Quigley just finished her ninth season with the organization and Vandersloot finished her 11th.
After losing the first three quarters to Phoenix, Quigley got things heated up in the fourth with a couple of three-pointers. Vandersloot — who's had record-breaking performances in the playoffs — finished with nine points and 15 assists. Her three key assists came from Parker's tying shot and Dolson's final points.
"That's what you work for," Vandersloot said after winning her first WNBA title. "That's why we're here."
Vandersloot scored the last four points in the game on a 7-foot two point shot followed by two free throws.
"The way we played this year, it just really represented who we are as people," Wade said. "Sometimes you get knocked down, but you keep getting up. Just like this great city does. So, you get knocked down seven, you just have to get up eight."
And in 365 days from now, don't forget to remember your seat.