Are the Lynx the most successful pro franchise in MN history?

I am told that a member of the MPR News audience called the newsroom today to scold the organization for not indicating that the Minnesota Lynx are the most successful professional franchise in Minnesota sports history.

At least until this time next year, there’s a good reason for that: they’re not.

That distinction goes to the Minneapolis Lakers who own the distinction on a bit of a technicality.

Like the Lynx, the Lakers are the proud owners of four basketball championships in the biggest basketball league — the National Basketball Association for the Lakers and, of course, the Womens National Basketball Association for the Lynx.

The Lakers won four out of five championships in the NBA from 1950 to 1954.

Becoming the NBA of today, however, required a merger between the Basketball Association of America (BAA) and the National Basketball League (NBL).

In its last season before becoming the NBA, the BAA crowned the Lakers as champions.

In the merger, the NBA adopted the records of the previous BAA as the official statistics of the NBA. That’s an important distinction, too, because the Lakers played in the NBL before joining the BAA and won a championship in 1947-48, but for the purposes of NBA history, that’s not included as an NBA championship.

Next year, the Lynx will likely win the their fifth championship, at least staking a claim to share the distinction as the most successful professional sports franchise in Minnesota history with the Lakers, and someone will call the newsroom to ask, “what about 1947-48?”

That’s a debate for then.

Here’s a claim for now that’s more defensible:

Lindsay Whalen is the greatest athlete in the history of Minnesota sports.

  • Zachary

    Yes. Yes they are.
    Yes. Yes she is.
    That was easy.

  • Gary F

    Hire Whalen to get every top recruit to play for the Gophers and every kid wearing a Whalen jersey.

    • Ralphy

      I’d like to see Reeves coaching the Gophers women in the winter and the Lynx in the summer.
      Whalen would be a great addition to the Gophers program.

  • Nicholas Kraemer

    The Lynx are the best. They have won the championship 22% of the time since joining the league. No other pro team in Minnesota comes close.

    • Corret me if I’m wrong, but isn’t there only one other team that’s even won a championship here?

      • Nicholas Kraemer

        Current teams, other than the Lynx, I would think only the Twins. Past teams, like you said, would include the Lakers. If professional teams can mean any team where the athletes are paid to play then you could add in St Paul Saints. If you include past pro teams I suppose you could include Minnesota United and the Minneapolis Millers. But in my opinion, the Lynx are the best team Minnesota has ever had because of how often they won over the life of the franchise.

        • BJ

          Minnesota United (as the Minnesota Stars) in 2011, and the Minnesota Thunder won one in 1999

      • 212944

        This always gets me in trouble …

        The ’69 Vikings were, in fact, the last NFL champion prior to the NFL-AFL merger. When they played the Chiefs in Super Bowl IV, it was a meeting of the NFL and the AFL champions.

        In ’70, the AFL merged into the NFL and with the exception of the Colts, Browns and Steelers, the old NFL became the NFC (of the NFL) and those three (Colts, Browns, Steelers) joined the old AFL to be the AFC (of the NFL).

        So, at the time, the ’69 Vikings were the NFL champions.

        And despite what ESPN claims, the NFL did not start in 1978 or 1970. It has a very rich history predating the Super Bowl and predating the Vikings. (Actually, there is a good argument for “modern NFL” to have started in 1959, with a free substitution and a move away from one platoon football … but that is for another day).

    • QuietBlue

      At the time of their fourth NBA championship, the Lakers had won it 75% of the time. 62.5% if the BAA years were included and it was counted as their fifth. Of course, the WNBA has been around longer today than the NBA and BAA had been during the Minneapolis Lakers’ championship run.

      It’s definitely a subjective status depending on the criteria. I’d agree that the Lynx are the best, especially if looking at the past fifty years.

  • Mike Worcester

    //Lindsay Whalen is the greatest athlete in the history of Minnesota sports.

    Can we also say she is one of the most, if not the most, inspirational athletes in the history of Minnesota sports?

    Inspirational to whom one might ask?

    Inspirational to countless young female athletes who strive to follow her example.
    Inspirational to fans who watch her grit, determination, and integrity in the pursuit of success.
    Inspirational to many women who were denied the opportunity to play high school and college sports due to pathetic gender norms, which make her:
    Inspirational to my 81-year old mother who does not miss a game (unless it gets moved to a cable channel that their system does not carry, and wow does that get her worked up).

    Just a thought 🙂

    • Barton

      it’s a bad thought. it is, in my opinion a sexist thought. You couldn’t make her just an athlete to stand on the strength and skill she has shown. You had to make it about what an “inspiration” she is to other women – and to only women.

      She is more than an inspiration to only women. She is an ATHLETE without codification due to gender.

      • Mike Worcester

        For decades, women in this state and nation were denied the opportunity to participate in athletics at pretty much every level. I could introduce you to a few but would recommend you read Daughters of the Game by Dorothy McIntyre and Marian Bemis Johnson, which goes into great detail about how utterly sexist attitudes — true sexist attitudes — helped to end those opportunities until the enactment of Title IX.

        Ms. Whalen is an inspiration to women because of the long history of sexism faced in the athletic world. This certainly does not mean she cannot be one to all people, regardless of gender. But it would also be hard to deny that she can and does hold a special place for women; I’ve met more than a few who feel that way.

        I find it difficult to fathom that believing that concept makes me sexist.

  • Barton

    How about this one: the Lynx of the most successful existing MN franchise of the modern era. Does that cover all the nuances?

  • Dan

    “the greatest athlete in the history of Minnesota sports.”

    Hm. Well, there’s home-grown talent, collegiate stars, and professional stars. Not sure if Minnesota Olympians / amateurs would be “Minnesota sports”, I suppose not.

    Hard to think of a player who played High School, collegiate and professional sports all in Minnesota, all at such a high level. Mauer, considering baseball players of a certain level don’t typically play in college, would be up there, AL MVP and all. Alas, the injuries. I think there’s a good case for Whalen. A very Minnesotan hyper-provincial category though 🙂

    • Put them all together and I think Whalen easily is on top.

      I don’t even think Mauer is a HOF candidate, let alone best player in MN history.

    • ec99

      “Hard to think of a player who played High School, collegiate and professional sports all in Minnesota”

      I’d nominate Dave Winfield: St Paul Central, U of M, Twins. Drafted in three sports. Hall of Famer.

  • Jack Ungerleider

    Thanks, Bob. That’s the problem with history and sports. Since franchises move, and in the old days combined it makes these kind of discussions complicated.

    I’m willing to accept the Lindsey Whalen contention since I’m not up on individual Minnesota athletes.

  • MReap

    At least the Lynx are still in Minnesota.