The WNBA’s inaugural season was in 1997 and it didn’t take long for one of the league’s winningest franchises to begin making history.
The Phoenix Mercury shined in their first season, leading the Western Conference with 16 wins and becoming one of the four initial teams to make the playoffs. While they were ultimately defeated by the New York Liberty in the Semifinals, they proved early on that this was not a team to be taken lightly.
Although the league expanded to more teams and included two extra games the following season, the Mercury were once again in the hunt for a championship. Phoenix entered the playoffs as the third seed with a 19-11 record as they tipped-off against the Cleveland Rockers in the Semifinals.
The playoff format was extended to a best-of-three series after a winner-take-all format during the inaugural season. This played in the Mercury’s favor as they defeated in the Rockers in Game 3 to clinch their first-ever WNBA Finals appearance.
Mercury legend Jennifer Gillom made her name known amongst the X-Factor for her late game heroics in Game 1 of the 1998 WNBA Finals against the Houston Comets.
Going against League MVP Cynthia Cooper as well as First-Team All-WNBA selections in Sheryl Swoopers and Tina Thompson was quite an intimidating task, but Gillom and the rest of the Mercury were up for the challenge.
Gillom stepped up defensively and blocked Kim Perrot’s shot near in the final minute to give the Mercury a chance to steal Game 1. This set up her own go-ahead bucket, knocking down a shot in the lane with 8.9 seconds remaining as the Mercury ultimately went on to defeat the Comets 54-51.
This was just the Comets fourth loss all season, with half of them coming against the Mercury. While the Comets may have had the better record during the regular season, the Mercury had pulled off the upset and were in position to bring home their first championship.
In partnership with the Mercury’s exclusive broadcast partner, FOX Sports Arizona, witness Gillom’s double-double as the Game 1 victory will be re-aired on June 26 at 5 p.m. PT.