On June 18, 2017, the Phoenix Mercury’s Diana Taurasi became the WNBA all-time leading scorer.. (Photo courtesy Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)
Phoenix 1st city in 20 years to make NBA, WNBA Finals in same season
For as popular as professional sports are in the United States, there really hasn’t been too much historical parity at the top of the major leagues. That is why it is so easy to identify the premier franchises across most sports. The New York Yankees dominated baseball for nearly a century. The Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics own almost half the NBA championships. The New England Patriots are tied for the most Super Bowl titles in NFL history, and they won all of them since the year 2000.
It is hard enough to make a championship appearance in a major sport, but a few lucky cities have been able to experience amplified success by witnessing multiple local franchises make a title run in the same year. A few recent examples that come to mind include the Lakers and Dodgers winning titles in 2020. In that same year, the Tampa Bay Rays fell to the Dodgers, while the Tampa Bay Lightning and Tampa Bay Buccaneers won titles.
READ ALSO: 3 Phoenix Mercury stars will play for Team USA in Olympics
Nevertheless, it isn’t a common occurrence. In fact, during the WNBA’s 25-year history, it has only happened four times, and three of them occurred during the early days when teams were limited and there was only one series to determine the champion. Things have certainly changed since then, and for the first time in 20 years, two same-city franchises have made the NBA and WNBA Finals in the same season.
Phoenix Mercury make 5th WNBA Finals
These incredible championship runs come in two vastly different forms for these two franchises. On one hand, you have the Phoenix Mercury, who are among the most elite WNBA franchises in league history. The Mercury have won three WNBA titles and currently feature two of the greatest players of all time. First, you have Diana Taurasi, who was just recently voted by fans as the G.O.A.T. She is the all-time leading scorer in WNBA history and has won multiple MVP awards. Then, you have Britney Griner, who is one of the most intimidating presences in WNBA history and arguably the greatest defender of all-time. So, despite entering the playoffs as five-seed and needing to win two play-in games and a hard-fought series against the Las Vegas Aces, the Mercury have made the WNBA Finals for the fifth time, taking on Candace Parker and the Chicago Sky. What makes this accomplishment even more remarkable is that the Mercury had four players (Taurasi, Griner, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Kia Nurse) play in this summer’s Olympics, which took place during the regular season.
The Mercury take on the Las Vegas Aces Wednesday at Footprint Center in Game 2 of the WNBA finals. Get tickets here.
Phoenix Suns make first NBA Finals in 28 years
The flip side of this rare achievement is the Phoenix Suns. The Suns were a surprise contender this past season after the addition of future first-ballot Hall-of-Famer Chris Paul in the offseason. Unlike the Mercury, the Suns have not had much sustained success over the years. In fact, 2021 marked just the third time the franchise made the NBA Finals. Their first appearance came in 1976 before waiting another 17 years to make another championship run on the back of 1993 MVP Charles Barkley. Unfortunately, it would be another 28 years before Phoenix fans would see their NBA team make another run at a ring, and they came up short yet again.
While the Mercury have WNBA Finals pedigree, the Suns are still looking to notch their first NBA title. Nevertheless, it is quite an accomplishment to lift a city the way that these two pro sports franchises have done in 2021.
Also, the other two cities to accomplish this feat are New York and Los Angeles. In 1999, the New York Liberty and New York Knicks both made the Finals. And the Los Angeles Sparks joined the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals twice (2001, 2002) during the Shaquille O’Neal and Lisa Leslie days.