The Heart of the Game

Kelsey Dickerson, a Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury employee, is a basketball junkie. Not only did she win a state championship while playing in high school, she has been an avid fan and supporter of the WNBA since its inception. Below, Dickerson writes an impassioned essay on what women's basketball and the Phoenix Mercury mean to her. - Ed.

By Kelsey Dickerson, Special to

Female athletes have made tremendous strides in the sports world. One of the greatest examples of this is demonstrated by the extremely talented athletes in the WNBA, namely the Phoenix Mercury.

Sadly, not many are open or willing to witness all that these women bring to the court.

There is a reason why those who experience their first Phoenix Mercury game come away amazed and, quite frankly, a little surprised. And, no, it's not simply the result of Brittney Griner's ability to elevate above the rim (which doesn't hurt).

It is because they now possess the same belief that so many other fans hold. It is a belief in the game that is no longer clouded by the stigma that it is women's basketball. Pure and simple, they witnessed one of the most unadulterated forms of the game played by world class athletes at the highest level of competition. The players of the Mercury have an absolute love for the game and devote their lives to it, with unparalleled skill, toughness and passion - qualities that are altogether hard to find in many professional athletes.

Every night, these competitors leave everything they have on the court and go back to the locker room bruised and fatigued, with thoughts of getting back to the gym bright and early the next morning to do it all over again. They each have a dedication to the sport that reverberates throughout the stands and transcends the true spirit of the game, connecting each and every person in the arena.

Being a fan of the game, it is easy to understand the enjoyment of watching the rivalry and be wrapped up in the thrill of the competition. Having your team hit those clutch free throws or make a defensive stop with a few seconds left is nothing short of exhilarating. However, when watching the Mercury, you feel as if you are a part of the game - not simply cheering from the stands.

These competitors are giving their all on the floor, not just for themselves, but for those in the stands who are just as dedicated to and believe in the game as much as they do. This feeling is unlike any other, with every individual within the arena engaged in a way that is beyond compare.

What takes place during those forty exhilarating minutes goes beyond a performance simply meant to entertain, exceeding what is physically taking place on the floor. It is truly inspiring. This cannot be taught in practice or be sold in a ticket package, but it is there in the arena and stays with us well after the final buzzer.

"Beyond the sweat, beyond the fouls, beyond the seemingly impossible shots " those who watch the Phoenix Mercury always leave US Airways Center connected by the most important part of the game, the heart.