Posted On: 05/28/18 6:00 PM
It was a great day of basketball Sunday as the AAU State Championships were decided in Bloomington. At least that’s what I am told. I wasn’t there. Instead of watching other people’s kids, I was with my own, and the highlight of the day was seeing Maya Moore and the Minnesota Lynx get their championship rings in a spectacular pre-game ceremony. I love the Lynx. Who doesn’t? But what I really love about the games is the few hours I get to hang out with my teenage daughter doing something very cool together. This year I promised myself I wasn’t going to miss a game.
I vividly remember our first WNBA game. It was Maya’s rookie year, and we were fortunate to meet her afterwards. I’ll never forget the look on my daughter’s face when Maya shook her hand, asked her a couple of questions, and signed an autograph card with a Bible verse. It was a life-changing moment for her and for me. Here we are seven years later and I’m watching girl’s basketball pretty much every day of the week. Who knew?
Sunday afternoon, Justice Sikakane and his four-year-old daughter Liliana had their Maya Moore moment.
‘Daddy, do girls get to play basketball, too?’
Justice and his daughter were on their way to Target Field to watch a little baseball. She’s an aspiring model, whose face currently graces the side of Target diaper packaging. She’s smart and curious and asks a lot of questions. Justice was wearing a Timberwolves hat on Sunday and, as they walked down the street, Liliana wanted to know what the hat was all about. “After I explained who the Timberwolves are she asked me, ‘Daddy, do girls get to play basketball, too? Do they get to be on TV?'” he recalled. “I said, ‘Absolutely!'”
Justice seized the moment and decided they were going to ditch the Twins game in favor of the Lynx. “When she saw Maya Moore and Simone Augustus and all of these great players come out of the tunnel, she was dumbfounded,” Sikakane said. “She turned and looked at me and said, ‘Daddy, those are girls!’ I cannot explain to you what I was feeling at that moment. She was just immersed in the whole experience.”
The ceremony was spectacular. The crowd was huge. The atmosphere was terrific. I’m sure Liliana had no idea what was happening when Lindsay Whalen and Odyssey Sims had an angry exchange that included a bump and a shove and some technical fouls. All she saw was females like her doing something incredible. After the game, the father and daughter were on their way out of the Target Center when Liliana noticed something on the side of the building across the street – a larger-than-life, sepia-toned billboard of Maya. “‘Daddy, daddy, look!'” Justice recalled her saying. “‘When I grow up I can do that.'”
“It was an amazing experience I will never forget”
Justice stopped in front of the billboard to take a photo. Dozens of people did the same yesterday. The image is stunning and powerful, and whoever came up with the idea is brilliant. The juxtaposition of Maya and Liliana is perfect. “Unfortunately I couldn’t capture the whole thing because that poster is really, really wide,” Justice said. “It was an amazing experience I will never forget.”
As I looked at the photo on Monday morning, I wondered out loud how many of the girls we write about have had their special moment like that with the Lynx. How many have been influenced by the basketball greatness and the humanity of Whalen or ‘Big Syl’ or ‘The Machine’ over the past 20 years? How much has the girl’s high school game improved as a result?
Yes, the Lynx turned the ball over two dozen times on Sunday and lost a heart-breaker at the final buzzer. They played some incredibly sloppy basketball, and we all know that the end of the glory era is drawing near. But in the big picture, what really matters is what Liliana felt yesterday as she stood in front of that billboard. “Being a dad for me is about showing my daughter the world and the possibilities that can align with her passions. My job is to set up those opportunities and to be there with her when it matters,” Justice said. “Could that inspiration come from attending her first WNBA game and seeing Maya Moore play? That could be the defining moment for her.”