Oct. 1, 1997: WNBA officials announced that Washington and Detroit would be awarded expansion franchises, contingent on the cities securing 3,000 season ticket holders and negotiating local television and radio contracts by Nov. 10.
“Until we get [a name], I’m just going to call us the Washington Wannabes because we want to be a city with a WNBA franchise,” Washington Wizards president Susan O’Malley said.
D.C.'s ownership group exceeded expectations, securing 5,268 season ticket commitments.
Dec. 16, 1997: The Wannabes got a name: Mystics. Team officials announced the expansion franchise would wear a variation of the Wizards’ blue, black and bronze colors.
“The Washington Mystics is a powerful and positive name which keeps with the magical theme of the Wizards,” Wizards chairman Abe Pollin said.
Jan. 26, 1998: O’Malley, who had lobbied for months for forward Nikki McCray, a member of the gold medal-winning 1996 U.S. Olympic team, to be assigned to the Mystics, got her wish. The 26-year-old McCray became Washington’s first player after leaving the Columbus Quest of the rival American Basketball League, where she won MVP honors the previous year.
June 19, 1998: After losing their first three games on the road, the Mystics defeated the Utah Starzz, 85-76, in front of a WNBA record-crowd of 20,674 at MCI Center.
“I wanted to smile a whole lot — with this type of atmosphere, you want to do great things,” McCray said. “But you’ve got to keep your composure.”
Aug. 19, 1998: The Mystics lost to the Charlotte Sting, 105-69, in front of 18,552 fans at home and finished their inaugural season 3-27. Washington’s .100 winning percentage eclipsed the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers, who went 9-73 (.110), as the worst in professional basketball history.
“I know if you look at our record, it looked like it was a bad season,” forward Murriel Page told fans after the game. “But for individual players, it was a good learning experience. I’m not ready for the season to end.”
May 5, 1999: Washington’s reward for being so dreadful was the No. 1 pick in the 1999 draft, which it used to select Tennessee star Chamique Holdsclaw.
“A player like Chamique does not come along very often,” Mystics Coach Nancy Darsch said. “I think she is the complete package as a person and as a player. She’s just limitless in what she is going to be capable of doing.”
Aug. 9, 2000: McCray scored 20 points, Holdsclaw added 18, and the Mystics clinched their first playoff berth with a 60-48 win over Cleveland at MCI Center in the regular season finale. The New York Liberty would sweep Washington in the first round.
April 4, 2002: Marianne Stanley, who spent the previous two years as a WNBA assistant, was named the Mystics’ sixth head coach in five seasons.
Aug. 15, 2002: With her college coach, Pat Summitt, in the crowd, Holdsclaw scored 26 points and grabbed 13 rebounds to lead the Mystics to their first playoff win before 14,117 at MCI Center. Washington won at Charlotte two days later to earn its first postseason series win before losing to New York in the Eastern Conference finals.
Feb. 17, 2004: The Mystics hired former Washington Bullets point guard Michael Adams as their head coach after Stanley resigned in January following a 9-25 season. Adams led an eight-win improvement, but Washington lost to Connecticut in the conference semifinals, and Adams stepped down to become an assistant on Gary Williams’s staff at Maryland.
May 24, 2005: Leonsis, majority owner and chairman of Lincoln Holdings LLC, purchased the Mystics from Pollin for roughly $10 million. Black Entertainment Television co-founder Sheila Johnson was named team president and managing partner.
June 1, 2007: Richie Adubato resigned as coach hours before the Mystics fell to 0-5 with a home loss to Chicago. Assistant Wayne “Tree” Rollins took over head coaching duties on an interim basis.
May 7, 2010: Leonsis announced that the Mystics’ three oft-ridiculed “Attendance Champions” banners in the rafters of what was then called Verizon Center had been removed. “The only banners we should display revolve around winning a division or conference or league championship,” Leonsis wrote. “So to all of the folks who have emailed me your thoughts over the years about the attendance banners, as a heads up know they are no longer up in the rafters.”
Aug. 22, 2010: In Julie Plank’s second year as coach, former Maryland star Crystal Langhorne scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to help the Mystics clinch their first Eastern Conference regular season title. Washington was guaranteed home-court advantage through at least the first two rounds of the playoffs, but it was swept in the conference semifinals for the second consecutive year.
Dec. 17, 2012: After Trudi Lacey, who replaced Plank, guided Washington to the worst two-year stretch (11-57) in franchise history, the Mystics hired Mike Thibault as their 13th head coach and general manager. “I am extremely excited to be asked to lead the Washington Mystics into a new era that I believe will be extremely successful on and off the court,” Thibault, who spent the previous 10 seasons as coach of the Connecticut Sun, said in a statement.
April 15, 2013: Thibault selected 19-year-old Belgian Emma Meesseman, the FIBA Europe young player of the year in 2011, with one of the Mystics’ two second-round draft picks.
Sept. 19, 2013: Washington won its first playoff game since 2004 but went on to lose to Atlanta in the conference semifinals. Thibault was named WNBA coach of the year after leading the Mystics to a 12-win improvement.
Sept. 18, 2016: After three straight exits in the conference semifinals, the Mystics closed the year with an 87-78 loss to Connecticut to fall to 13-21. They missed the playoffs for the first time under Thibault, who suffered just the second losing season of his career.
Feb. 2, 2017: Washington sent the No. 2 pick in the 2017 draft as well as center Stefanie Dolson and guard Kahleah Copper to the Chicago Sky for 2015 WNBA MVP and 2016 U.S. Olympian Elena Delle Donne. The blockbuster deal immediately transformed the Mystics into title contenders.
“I think when you get this talented group, a coach, such a winning coach, the winningest coach in the WNBA, I think that’s a great combination and definitely makes us a contender,” Delle Donne said at her introductory news conference. “I’m going to work my absolute hardest. Obviously it’s a goal of mine to bring a championship to this incredible city, so I’d be lying if I said I have not thought of that and dreamt of that.”
Sept. 17, 2017: Washington went 18-16 in Delle Donne and Toliver’s first season, which ended with a 3-0 sweep by Minnesota in the semifinals.
June 1, 2019: With Leonsis and Wizards star Bradley Beal in attendance, the Mystics opened Entertainment and Sports Arena, their new, 4,200-seat home in Southeast, with a 96-75 win over Atlanta.
“It was a lot of fun,” Toliver said. “Everybody was energized. [The crowd was] into it, and it helps. When you’re out there playing, you feed off the crowd. And for us, we were able to maintain high energy for the majority of the game, and a lot of that was due to our fans.”
Sept. 8, 2019: Washington wrapped up its record-setting regular season with a 100-86 win over Chicago at home. Delle Donne became the first player in WNBA history to shoot at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the free throw line for a season. The newest member of the 50-40-90 club was named league MVP 11 days later. The hyper-efficient Mystics set a franchise record with 26 wins, earning the top seed and a double bye in the playoffs.
Oct. 10, 2019: Delle Donne, who was playing with three herniated disks in her back, had 21 points and nine rebounds to lead the Mystics to an 89-78 win over Connecticut in the deciding Game 5 of the WNBA Finals. Meesseman scored a team-high 22 points off the bench and was named Finals MVP.
“Never listen to the crowd, because people thought I was crazy,” Delle Donne said of those who doubted her vision of bringing a title to Washington. “Just belief in myself, belief in this city, belief in Coach’s dream and just trusting the process."
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