And managing partner Sheila Johnson indicated there would be plenty of additional opportunities to bask in the championship afterglow, including a parade in the spring when players are back together in the District after fulfilling overseas obligations.
The majority of the roster is headed to countries such as China, Russia and Australia, where they are compensated substantially more than in the WNBA, in what’s become common practice across the league.
“Today is the start of celebrations,” Johnson told the crowd. “And we get to kick it off on our home court in the new ESA and Ward 8. It has to start here because this is the community we love that has been there for us since our first game this season.
“We will share the celebration across the city in the coming days.”
Among those in addition to Delle Donne who received the most applause were Emma Meesseman and Natasha Cloud, players with contrasting personalities who were invaluable to Mike Thibault’s reboot that began when he took over as coach and general manager in December 2012.
Meesseman was selected WNBA Finals MVP after scoring 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting during an 89-78 win against the Connecticut Sun in the decisive Game 5.
She also punctuated a fourth-quarter run with consecutive baskets that all but assured Washington of making history despite two starters, Delle Donne and Ariel Atkins, playing through extreme back discomfort.
“I just want to say thank you for making me feel at home,” Meesseman, a native of Belgium, said in her typically understated delivery. “This is my second home, and you fans, my team, my coach made me feel like this, so I’m so happy that I could share this, and really, like, this is the most special moment of my life.”
Cloud, in her fiery way, urged on the crowd as she stepped to the microphone following remarks from Toliver, who stepped to the microphone with beer in hand.
Cloud ensured her place in Mystics lore by guaranteeing a championship in Game 5 after Washington had lost Game 4 at Mohegan Sun Arena.
“When we moved in to Ward 8 here at the ESA, we understood that this was going to be a true home-court advantage for us,” she said, “and it exceeded all expectations, and that’s because of you guys. For teams that have to come in here and scared to play here, to come into a tough environment, it was phenomenal.”
Thibault, who gradually assembled the roster that set franchise and league offensive records this season, celebrated his first WNBA title in four trips. “I’m the luckiest guy in America today,” he said. “Because I get to coach these guys every day, and they come to work for you, and they come to work for the organization, but I’ve got to tell you, what they’ve done best is they’ve come to work for each other.”
The celebration began on the court late Thursday night, with players and Thibault raising the WNBA Finals trophy on the floor of the building in Southeast D.C. they inaugurated this season, then spilled over into the locker room with dressing stalls covered in plastic to protect from spraying sparkling wine.
Players wore ski goggles as they doused one another in bubbly between sipping, or in the case of Toliver, chugging directly from bottles, soaking in an achievement a year in the making since the Mystics were swept in the 2018 WNBA Finals with Delle Donne playing through a deep knee bruise.
The second round of revelry lasted well into the wee hours Friday morning at a private event at the Wharf, with players and the coaching staff receiving an extended ovation as they entered the premises together.
There was little rest to be had before the team reconvened Friday afternoon, but the positive vibes continued to reverberate.
“Please excuse this performance,” Delle Donne said. “I’m going on 30 minutes of sleep. We’re champs, y’all!”