As the playoffs are upon us, it’s only right to explore WNBA champions by year to see which teams have taken home the Finals honors previously. Today we’ll also reveal the Finals MVP for each year. Of note, the Seattle Storm, the Houston Comets, and the Minnesota Lynx have each won four WNBA Championship titles – the most in the league’s history. Let’s get after it!
Here’s a handy chart to see which teams won each season, beginning in 1997 and running through last year’s chip: 2022.
|2022||Las Vegas Aces||Connecticut Sun||Chelsea Gray|
|2021||Chicago Sky||Phoenix Mercury||Kahleah Copper|
|2020||Seattle Storm||Las Vegas Aces||Breanna Stewart|
|2019||Washington Mystics||Connecticut Sun||Emma Meesseman|
|2018||Seattle Storm||Washington Mystics||Breanna Stewart|
|2017||Minnesota Lynx||Los Angeles Sparks||Sylvia Fowles|
|2016||Los Angeles Sparks||Minnesota Lynx||Candace Parker|
|2015||Minnesota Lynx||Indiana Fever||Sylvia Fowles|
|2014||Phoenix Mercury||Chicago Sky||Diana Taurasi|
|2013||Minnesota Lynx||Atlanta Dream||Maya Moore|
|2012||Indiana Fever||Minnesota Lynx||Tamika Catchings|
|2011||Minnesota Lynx||Atlanta Dream||Seimone Augustus|
|2010||Seattle Storm||Atlanta Dream||Lauren Jackson|
|2009||Phoenix Mercury||Indiana Fever||Diana Taurasi|
|2008||Detroit Shock||San Antonio Silver Stars||Katie Smith|
|2007||Phoenix Mercury||Detroit Shock||Cappie Pondexter|
|2006||Detroit Shock||Sacramento Monarchs||Deanna Nolan|
|2005||Sacramento Monarchs||Connecticut Sun||Yolanda Griffith|
|2004||Seattle Storm||Connecticut Sun||Betty Lennox|
|2003||Detroit Shock||Los Angeles Sparks||Ruth Riley|
|2002||Los Angeles Sparks||New York Liberty||Lisa Leslie|
|2001||Los Angeles Sparks||Charlotte Sting||Lisa Leslie|
|2000||Houston Comets||New York Liberty||Cynthia Cooper|
|1999||Houston Comets||New York Liberty||Cynthia Cooper|
|1998||Houston Comets||Phoenix Mercury||Cynthia Cooper|
|1997||Houston Comets||New York Liberty||Cynthia Cooper|
Because everyone likes to debate the greatest of all time, we’ll share a few standout Champion teams you’ve got to know. Below we take you on a quick history trip from the league’s very first champs in 1997 through to the hottest new team in 2023. As for the Aces this year, let’s let them cook…
1997 The Comets: In the very first WNBA playoffs, the Comets emerged victorious after defeating the Liberty (the other top seed out of the top four that got to participate in the playoffs). Cynthia Cooper became the first WNBA Finals MVP after scoring 25 points and notching 4 assists in the sudden-death championship game. Houston went on to win the league’s first four championships led by the Big Three: Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes (who also currently commentates for Athletes Unlimited!), and Tina Thompson. The squad was even recognized by Nike this year with a commemorative collection of footwear dressed in honor of their historic four-straight WNBA Championships.
2001 The Sparks: After falling to Houston in back-to-back playoffs, the Los Angeles Sparks finally ended the Comets’ reign and went on to win back-to-back titles of their own led by MVP Lisa Leslie. In 2001, Lisa Leslie took home her first career finals MVP after averaging 24 points, recording her sixth double-double in seven playoff games, and driving her team to defeating the Charlotte Sting in the finals. In 2002, Lisa cemented her place as one of the greatest WNBA players ever when she claimed a second WNBA Finals MVP. Fifteen years after the franchise’s first title, the Sparks, this time led by Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike, defeated the Lynx for the team’s third title. Take a look at the ‘instant classic’ team’s playoff run here:
2011 The Lynx: From 2011 to 2017, the Minnesota Lynx won four championships – talk about leaving a legacy. The talented Seimone Augustus, Lindsay Whalen, Maya Moore, and Rebekkah Brunson drove the team to new heights. With Seimone Augustus delivering an all-time performance of 26 points and grabbing 8 rebounds in game two in 2011. Check out the oral history of how the team was formed and rose, here. Meanwhile the addition of Sylvia Fowles in 2015 took the Lynx over the top, and she earned herself the MVP award twice. Also did you know Seimone has a new hoops book out? Check out Hoop Muses. The highlights you have to watch to see the true caliber of this squad, of course, are Maya’s.
2020 The Storm: The Seattle Storm captured their fourth ring during the pandemic ‘bubble’ year. Guard Sue Bird won the last WNBA title of her career after a three-game sweep of the Las Vegas Aces. That made Sue the 10th player with four titles, with a record 16 years separating her first and fourth. Breanna Stewart delivered a 37-point game, and earned her second WNBA Finals MVP. Relive the final moments of the 92-59 final game:
2021 The Sky: In quite the thrilling upset, and for the first time in WNBA and franchise history, the Chicago Sky won their first WNBA Championship – notably entering the playoffs as just the number six seed. After recruiting All-Star veteran Candace Parker, the Sky found their rhythm just in time after an up and down season, defeating the Phoenix Mercury across four games (3-1). Kahleah Copper was named Finals MVP. Check out the celebratory team shorts, and watch Kah in action:
2022 The Aces: After a recent trip to the Finals, the Aces finally brought the W home, winning the finals three games to one over the Connecticut Sun to claim their first championship in franchise history. New head coach Becky Hammon was at the helm making her the first rookie head coach to win the WNBA Title. Chelsea Gray delivered a standout performance in game four with 20 points, and was awarded the MVP honor. “I think especially with a first-year head coach, our bond got even a little tighter and stronger. For the organization to understand what it takes to not just do it one year, but try to do it multiple years, that’s when you’re talking about a more legendary franchise. Hopefully, that’s what we can be.” said Chelsea, setting the tone for the following year. The team was welcomed to the White House: you can read Vice President Harris’ remarks here.
“The WNBA is more than a basketball league. You inspire our young people and people across our nation to dream with ambition. You are living the truth that women belong in every room and on every court. ”– Vice President Kamala Harris
Learn more about WNBA Finals history.
Right now, the Aces have the highest win percentage of all WNBA teams in history during the regular season, beating out the Houston Comets by a hair. However the team with the most total regular season wins is the Sparks, which has a bit to do with the franchise having been established for a long time (since the beginning). Here’s a look from Across the Timeline (as of 2023 end of regular season) at the all-time winningest teams:
Up next, learn more about the WNBA’s history!