INDIANAPOLIS – “Bling” was in high supply for a historic night to honor a maiden champion.
Of course there were the wooden boxes with the glass fronts that contained the main jewelry to be given out at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Friday evening. Those rings were still backstage as Jim Powell opened up his cardboard box he received upon entering the arena few minutes before at around 6:30 P.M.
“We’ve waited a long time,” said Powell, who took a replica ring of the one the basketball team in front of him was about to receive and put it on his own finger for a quick photo-op. “After 13 years, we did it.”
Saying “We” accurately pointed to the spirit of the first ever Indiana Fever championship rings and banner ceremony. Season ticket holders for the team received the replica which Powell had with many of them proudly displaying them as the Fever took the home court for the first time in 2013.
It was seven months ago the team won the championship in Bankers Life Fieldhouse with a win over Minnesota in Game Four of the WNBA Finals. They did so in front of a packed house of fans-a number of whom watched the team since their inception in 2000.
The moment came after a number of strong Fever teams either ran into problems in the playoffs or were derailed by injuries. In 2009 the Fever were a game away from a championship but watched as the Mercury won the final two games of a best-of-five series to snag the championship.
A successful end to the 13-year journey was not only celebrated when it happened but the time before the start of the 2013 season. Such a celebration had its culmination on Friday in front of a crowd of over 10,000 fans.
“People don’t understand how hard it is to win a championship. It’s really, really difficult, really, really challenging, especially when you’re in a league that’s the best in the world,” said Fever head coach Lin Dunn. “I want our players to enjoy every moment related to this event.”
For about 15 minutes, they did just that. Each member of the franchise was introduced on a red carpet and under a spotlight as they walked up to receiver their rings from WNBA Commissioner Laurel Richie. Eriana Larkins flexed her muscles to the crowd while Katie Douglas waved her hands and circled around amidst the cheers.
Tamika Catchings walked up the carpet and had a long hug with Richie before taking her ring and heading over to her teammates near the Fever bench.
Two minutes later, the team watched their first banner in team history get raised to the rafters with the fans cheering in appreciation.
“Looking forward to this,” said Tamika Catchings of the event. “Being back home in front of our crowd, just kinda piggie-backing off of last year and that momentum we had at the end of the season.”
Yet they still had to carry over that to their home opener against the Dream, which followed 11 minutes after the banner was raised. The Fever already had a win over San Antonio to open the season a week earlier and hoped a home victory would get them on their way towards a repeat title.
“I’m sure it’s going to be emotion, I’m sure it’s going to be exciting but at the same time you’ve really got to put that in the back of your mind,” said Douglas of Friday night.
That would prove to be tough to do as the team dropped their home opener to the Dream 86-77. It is only one loss in a long season still ahead, but what happened before figures to last for a little longer.
“They tried so hard and the girls finally came through,” said season ticket holder Theresa Wade. “They just played awesome games.”
Which got them-and some fans-some extra bling that figures to last a lifetime.