One of the most revered organizations in sports, the Phoenix Mercury are known for their rich history containing glory, winning and rings. The three-time WNBA champions have been a part of some of the most iconic moments in league history while housing some of the greatest players of all-time, including the GOAT herself.
However, this was not always the case.
From 2000-2006, winning was in no way synonymous with the Phoenix Mercury. A franchise that showed great promise in the late 90s struggled to make the postseason year after year.
This was until 2007 when a three-headed all-star trio of Diana Taurasi, Penny Taylor and Cappie Pondexter changed the culture in Phoenix and turned the course of history. The Mercury finished the regular season with a franchise-record 23 wins to end the longest postseason drought in the league and clinch the number one seed in the Western Conference.
While the organization seemed to have turned the corner, the mission wouldn’t be complete without earning the crown and being the last team standing. The Mercury continued their hot regular season as they dominated their way through the first two rounds of the playoffs. They easily swept both the Seattle Storm and San Antonio Silver Stars as they advanced to the WNBA Finals with a perfect 4-0 record.
However, that winning streak halted in Game 1 as the Detroit Shock secured an eight-point victory, despite Pondexter and Taylor combining for 59 points. The Mercury weren’t down for long as the team bounced back behind 30 points from Taurasi, winning with ease 98-70 in Game 2. Although the series then moved to Phoenix, the Mercury just didn’t have what it took to win it at home as the Shock took a 2-1 series lead with an 88-83 victory.
After an incredible regular season, the Mercury found themselves on the brink of elimination in the best-of-five series as they would need to win back-to-back games to take home the title.
Game 4 of the WNBA Finals at Phoenix on Sept. 13, 2007:
After leading the first quarter, the Mercury began to fall apart over the next two. One of most high-powered offenses the league had ever seen was struggling from the field and needed one last push to keep the series alive.
Enter the late-game heroics of Pondexter.
The Mercury’s deficit grew to four with 1:55 to play, before Pondexter fed the ball to Kelly Miller for a three to bring Phoenix within one. Following a forced turnover, Pondexter drained a baseline jumper to give the Mercury the lead in the final minute.
The Shock weren’t done quite yet as Deanna Nolan responded with a midrange jumper of her own to regain the lead. But with 21 seconds to go, Pondexter answered right back and put the game away with another clutch shot as the Mercury forced a Game 5, winning 77-76.
“I’m a winner,” Pondexter said. “When the game’s on the line, I feel like I can win every time. I just love having the ball and making things happen. I just thank the Coach for just giving me the confidence to allow me to do that.”
After shooting just 38 percent for the game, Head Coach Paul Westhead relied on Pondexter down the stretch and the decision paid off mightily.
“It was all going through Cappie’s hands,” Westhead said. “We made that decision because we have great faith in her ability to take the ball hard to the basket and make something happen. She’s just a tireless player going to the rim. She’s just a tenacious player.”
While the game was tight, the Mercury ultimately came out victoriously as a winner-take-all Game 5 was set for three days later as the series returned to Detroit.
Game 5 of the WNBA Finals at Detriot on Sept. 16, 2007:
The Mercury had rallied in Game 4 and continued that same aggressive approach to open up Game 5.
Phoenix dominated the first quarter, opening up a double-digit lead early and never looked back. Despite a one-point difference in the second quarter, the Mercury won all three other quarters as they coasted their way to a 108-92 victory and their first-ever championship.
After a clutch performance in Game 4, Pondexter shined once again for the Mercury with 26 points, 10 assists, 4 rebounds and a steal on her way to being named the 2007 WNBA Finals MVP.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Pondexter said. “It’s something I’ve been waiting for, working hard for, and it’s finally here.”
Taylor led the team with 30 points while Taurasi did a little bit of everything with 17 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and a block in the series-clinching finale.
“We were due for a great game,” Taurasi said. “Everything we focused on all season kind of came into play.”
The resilience and perseverance it took to claim this title built a road map for the next two championship the Mercury would bring to Phoenix over the following seven seasons.
Want to re-live Pondexter’s Game 4 heroics as well as watch the Mercury win their first championship in Game 5? In Partnership with the Mercury’s exclusive broadcast partner, FOX Sports Arizona, both games leading to the celebration on the hardwood with be re-air. Replay the excitement of Game 4 on June 3 at 5 p.m. (re-runs on June 4 at 3 p.m. & June 6 at 1 p.m.) as well as Game 5 on June 6 at 3 p.m. (re-runs on June 7 at 4 p.m. & June 8 at 4 p.m.). Both exclusive on FOX Sports Arizona.