The Sparks ended the 2016 season with the traveling championship across women's professional basketball. But the Minnesota Lynx started the season that way and held it for more games to win Team of the Year.
The state of play in women's professional basketball is the Sparks and the Minnesota Lynx. Here, Candace Parker (3) for the Sparks is surrounded by Sylvia Fowles (34) and Maya Moore (23) of the Lynx (SusanLesch/Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International licence).
There is absolutely no question that the two best teams in the WNBA are the Sparks and the Minnesota Lynx. Which was Team of the Year for the traveling championship across women's pro basketball in 2016?
We're giving it to the Lynx, though the Sparks were better head-to-head, and the Sparks held the title at the end of the season. The Lynx, Sparks and the Atlanta Dream were the only teams to win the championship twice.
Viewing overall records in games for the traveling championship, the Lynx come out well ahead with their 16-3 performance, compared with 10-3 for the Sparks. The Dream was 4-4, failing in both of its efforts to defend the championship.
The Lynx began the season with the title, a gift for winning the league championship in 2015, and proceeded to hold it for 13 games. The last of those was a 72-69 win against the Sparks in Los Angeles on June 21.
But the Sparks won when the same two teams met in Minnesota on June 24, claiming a 94-76 victory. The Sparks went on to make eight straight defenses.
As it happened, the Lynx regained the championship twice. The second time was during the playoffs, when they snagged it from the Phoenix Mercury in a three-game series.
It came down, then, to the WNBA Finals, Lynx vs. Sparks. And the Sparks won in five games, claiming not just the WNBA championship, but the women's pro basketball traveling championship.
The Sparks will hold the 2016 WNBA championship forever. But the traveling championship goes on the line with the start of the 2017 season.