In the spring of 1999, the cover of Sports Illustrated for Women asked, “Is She the Next Michael Jordan?”
The she was Seimone Augustus, a 15-year-old from Baton Rouge, LA who played with a “smooth Louisiana swagger.”
While only in 8th grade Sports Illustrated proposed the question of whether Augustus was the next Michael Jordan. At Capitol High Seimone Augustus averaged:
— Jas (@JasTayler) May 16, 2021
However, Augustus did not become women’s hoops’ Jordan. Instead, she became the WNBA’s Allen Iverson.
Money Mone, like AI, is a cultural icon whose influence has exceeded the stats she accumulated on the hardwood.
Before Augustus arrived in the WNBA in 2006, the majority of players were presented by the league and its media partners as within the boundaries of traditional femininity. They were wives, mothers, sisters and daughters who just happened to play basketball.
Augustus, in contrast, was simply a baller. With her dreads, headband and baggy shorts, Augustus brought a new aesthetic to the WNBA — one that did not apologize for skill or swag.
Those crazy handles. That killer crossover. The silky jumper.
As she retires after an illustrious 15-year WNBA career, her influence is evident across the current and coming generations of WNBA stars, who have adopted and adapted her combination of casual confidence and cool as they light up the league.
Of course, a lot of substance came with Mone’s signature style. Here are some of the highlights from her 15 years in the W, 14 with the Minnesota Lynx and one with the Los Angeles Sparks (where she now will serve as an assistant coach).
A instant, electric phenom
After winning the Naismith Award, Wooden Award and Wade Trophy as she led LSU to a third-straight Final Four during her senior season, Augustus was the No. 1 pick in the 2006 WNBA Draft, selected by the Minnesota Lynx.
Her game did not suffer as she moved from the bayous of Louisiana to the lakes of Minnesota, as she turned in one of the best rookie seasons, if not the best, rookie season in WNBA history.
Starting all 34 games for the Lynx, Augustus finished second in the league in scoring at 21.9 points per game. Along the way, she notched six games of 30 or more points. She also set season-long franchise marks for scoring, with a then-Lynx record 744 total points and 284 field goals made. She not only was named Rookie of the Year, but also earned an All-Star nod and All-WNBA honors. She then followed up her historic debut season with a more impressive sophomore effort, scoring a career-high 22.6 points per game on improved efficiency.
It is not a stretch to suggest that Augustus’ arrival may have saved the WNBA in Minnesota.
Of the eight expansion teams that were established from 1998 to 2000, half of them relocated or folded. As rumors long have swirled about the relocation of the Timberwolves, the Lynx’s NBA brother, that the Lynx (launched in 1999) live on, when teams in places like Miami and Portland died, is a credit to the impact of an all-time talent in Augustus.
From injury-related trials to title time
In 2009, an ACL injury, suffered six games into the season, stalled Augustus’ early career ascendance. The following season, her comeback was stymied by an additional surgery to remove fibroid tumors, limiting her to 25 games.
This injury-induced interruption of her career, however, gave Minnesota time to construct a high-caliber roster around her. For all Augustus’ individual successes, the Lynx struggled, failing secure a winning record or playoff berth during her first five seasons.
In 2011, things changed. After Cheryl Reeve, Lindsay Whalen and Rebekkah Brunson joined the Lynx in 2010, Maya Moore arrived in 2011. The foundation of what would become the Lynx dynasty was in place.
The Lynx finished the 2011 regular season with a league-best 27-7 record. They then sprinted through the playoffs, compiling a 7-1 record as they won their first WNBA title.
Augustus, appropriately, won Finals MVP.
For the entire 2011 playoffs, she averaged 22 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists and nearly a steal per game, which was good for a player efficiency rating (PER) of 27.0. Her most spectacular single game was Game 2 of the Finals, when she dropped 36 points on 78.6% shooting. She also added eight rebounds and three assists as the Lynx claimed the 101-95 win over the Atlanta Dream.
Augustus and the Lynx would add three more titles over the next six seasons, capturing the 2013, 2015 and 2017 championships as they become the gold standard for organizational excellence in the WNBA.
A final act in LA
For many, it is bittersweet that Augustus ended her career wearing purple and gold instead of blue and gray. However, her final season with the Los Angeles Sparks highlighted Augustus’ invaluable intangibles.
Even as age and injury management limited her to just over 15 minutes per game during the 2020 season, Augustus was an integral member of the Sparks, with her infectious smile and spirited sense of humor serving as a needed salve as they survived the unprecedented wubble season.
It is this emotional intelligence that will make Augustus an excellent addition to the Sparks’ coaching staff, while also ensuring that her influence on the present and future generations of WNBA players continues.
Augustus’ long list of career accomplishments also will have a lasting place in the WNBA record book:
4 WNBA championships (2011, 2013, 2015, 2017)
2011 Finals MVP
2006 Rookie of the Year
6x All-WNBA (2006-07, 2011-14)
8x All-Star (2006-07, 2011, 2013-15, 2017-18)
4th all-time in field goals (2,455)
10th all-time in points (6,005)
20th all-time in minutes played (11,250)
Mone! Thank u for the blood, sweat & tears you’ve given to the game, inspiring millions of girls to play & never give up on the journey. Thank u for enlightening me in the most humble way & sharing ur gift. You changed the game @seimoneaugustus we salute & celebrate ur greatness! pic.twitter.com/Rg7jtw0Ff1
— LaChina Robinson (@LaChinaRobinson) May 16, 2021