Seimone Augustus made it through 40 minutes of her 48-minute press conference this week without tearing up.
Then, the future hall of famer was asked about Minnesota. While Augustus retired as a member of the Sparks last week, and now serves on Los Angeles’ coaching staff, it’s clear this state is where her heart remains.
“Minnesota knows that they have a piece of my heart. They always will. The fans…” the former Lynx star said as she got choked up.
“I gave them everything, in 14 years, that I could give, and I felt that in return. The fans were always amazing,” she said. “I know my decision to leave, how it impacted some people, but for the people that know and for the people that respect and love what I’ve done, it’s been amazing to share those moments and those memories with them.”
She has so many of those. Augustus recounted numerous Lynx game winners. She fondly described the 2011 season — the franchise’s first WNBA championship.
“I just remember after the first day of practice, we busted the practice guys’ (butts), and we was like ‘Oh yeah, it’s on,’” Augustus said. “We clicked immediately.”
That team enjoyed the process — from the daps, to making up cheers and nicknames — to making extra passes and defensive rotations and picking one another up.
“It meant something to us,” Augustus said.
Particularly her. When Augustus was drafted No. 1 overall in 2006, she joined a Lynx team that, frankly, wasn’t any good. Augustus remembers playing teams like Detroit, who would hardly warm up ahead of playing the lowly Lynx, and still win by 20.
“I remember I said, ‘Well let me give them a couple buckets on the way out,’ ” Augustus said.
So when Minnesota finally made the playoffs in 2011, Augustus was emotional.
“I just remember Cheryl passing out the playoff scout books, and I (dang) near cried,” Augustus said. “I just had the book in my hand and I was like ‘Yes, made the playoffs. Finally.’ ”
The Lynx did more than that, going on to win the first title in franchise history.
“Our identity was formed in that year, and that’s what set the tone for the next seven or eight years when we went on that run,” Augustus said. “That team will always be, in my opinion, the greatest team in Lynx history.”
Augustus won four WNBA championships in Minnesota — including when she was named Finals MVP in 2011 — won three Olympic gold medals, was first-team All-WNBA, named a top-20 player in WNBA history and more. Augustus not only reached the top, but entrenched herself there.
The history is what made it surprising when Augustus left for Los Angeles in free agency before last season. She played the 2020 season for the Sparks in the bubble, and was planning on competing again in 2021.
Training camp this spring was great. The team was competing. But her spirit was questioning what Augustus was even doing anymore.
“For whatever reason, my body and my mind started to have this fight,” she said. “My body was saying it couldn’t go anymore with the aches, the pains. The discomfort that I was experiencing was a little bit too much to bear. And, normally, that’s the whole beauty of being an athlete. We’re able to have our minds command our body and do some amazing things. … For once, my mind was not able to tell my body what to do.”
Then the 37-year-old started thinking about younger players trying to find their place in the WNBA and were fighting for roster spots with the Sparks, such as Minnesota product Nia Coffey and fellow teammate Bria Holmes.
“It really starts to tug on your heartstrings about where you’re at with the game,” Augustus said. “Both of these players are trying to fulfill their dreams, and I’m like, if I can’t play and be my full-hearted self … maybe I should step away.”
Augustus called her parents to discuss the idea of retiring, and their response, essentially, was “finally.”
As Augustus’ mom told her, “it’s time for you to get some rest.”
Augustus will stay in the game as a Sparks assistant coach, a calling that came to her in recent years. She was at a birthday party for a friend’s son, and a child was struggling to pogo stick. Augustus taught the child, who was quickly bouncing all around.
“My friend walked up to me and was, ‘When are you going to stop playing and start coaching?’ ” Augustus said. ““You were able to tell him how to do it, and he listened. You know how rare that is? … I really think you need to tap into that gift.”
Perhaps it’s fitting that Augustus will never have played a game in Target Center in anything other than a Lynx jersey. Augustus will return to Minneapolis with Los Angeles on June 12. Her message to Lynx fans: “Bring the tissues.”
“I can’t wait to get back to the Target Center to allow them, and allow myself, to have one big cry fest, so bring your tissues. We’re all going to get it in, let it out and release, and then we’ll be able to move forward and compete,” Augustus said. “Ultimately, the experience, just great people, a melting pot of people that I had an opportunity to enjoy and share great memories was what Minnesota was for me. Like, my home.”