Sports

Fans revel in Sky’s first championship: ‘They’re at the helm of Chicago prominence’


Milton Jackson, decked out in Chicago Bears gear, sipped on his beer Sunday afternoon between cheers he started for the WNBA’s Chicago Sky with the other men sitting at his table in the corner of Fatpour Tap Works, a bar located a half-block from Wintrust Arena on the Near South Side, where the Sky were playing for the championship title.

“This is generating a great deal of energy… and they need to be recognized for what they’re doing,” Jackson said as he intently watched the final three minutes of Game 4 of the Sky’s championship series against the Phoenix Mercury.

As the Sky clawed back from a 14-point deficit in the second half, the cheers inside the bar got louder.

“Let’s f——g go!” a man yelled when Kahleah Copper hit a layup to pull within three points of the Mercury.

One would’ve thought the Sky had won when Candace Parker hit a game-tying three with less than two minutes that sent the bar into a total frenzy, with strangers high-fiving one another. That excitement remained until the final buzzer.

“Oh my God, they did it,” a patron said after the Sky clinched their first title, winning 80-74.

Fatpour Tap Works erupted in cheers when the Sky won their first WNBA Finals title.
Madeline Kenney/Sun-Times

“This is as equally as big as the Bulls, the Blackhawks, the Bears, White Sox, and maybe, I guess, the Cubs,” said Jackson, who had been to only one Sky game before but plans to go more next year.

The Sky are the first Chicago sports team to win a title at home since the Blackhawks in 2015. They’re the first team to bring the city a championship since the Cubs in 2016.

“They’re at the helm of Chicago prominence,” Jackson said.

Former President Barack Obama was among the notable people who praised the Sky on social media.

“I couldn’t be prouder of this team — they worked hard for this moment, and have made our city proud,” Obama tweeted.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot, a season-ticket holder, tweeted that details about a rally for the champs were “coming soon.” She congratulated the team, saying the title was a “first but not the last” for the Sky.

And Gov. J.B. Pritzker tweeted: “Our hometown @chicagosky are world champions! You played with grit and determination and we’re so proud that you’ve brought a championship back to Chicago!”

Other prominent Chicagoans at the game include the Bulls’ Patrick Williams, the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. and Chance the Rapper, who raised the WNBA Finals trophy like Simba in “The Lion King.”

Fans — mainly ones donning purple and orange — trickled out of Wintrust Arena after the game. Roars from the sell-out crowd could be heard every time the door opened.

“They did it! What else needs to be said?” one woman in a Stefanie Dolson shirt yelled as she ran to her ride to the airport.

Once the trophy ceremony was over, Sky fans flooded the sidewalks around the arena. Some waved rally towels and banged noise makers while others simply screamed with excitement.

John Gorham and his 13-year-old daughter, Cassidy, were still buzzing with adrenaline more than 30 minutes after time expired.

“It was crazy, electric, unbelievable. The place went crazy,” Gorham said. “We didn’t sit in our seats for the last half hour.”

John Gorham and his 13-year-old daughter,  Cassidy, plan to celebrate the Chicago Sky’s championship win by going out to dinner.

John Gorham and his 13-year-old daughter, Cassidy, plan to celebrate the Chicago Sky’s championship win by going out to dinner.
Madeline Kenney/Sun-Times

Gorham said the two often go to sporting events around the city, but this was the father-daughter duo’s first Sky game.

“We just found a new favorite team in Chicago,” Gorham said his daughter told him after the game. “We’ll be back. We’ll be getting season tickets after this one game.”

Cassidy said it was “inspirational” to witness Sky players compete and win at the highest level.

“It’s really nice,” she said. “They’re another role model for other girls and stuff.”

Davon Woodard, 25, said Sunday’s game changed his outlook on women’s sports.

“I’m not going to lie, it was my first female sporting event in general, and it was a good game,” said Woodard, who lives on the South Side. “I’m definitely a fan of the WNBA now, I’m gonna watch, I’m gonna tune in, especially since we’ve got a good team.”

Debbie Rios and Pedro Gutierrez were among a few fans who left the Bears-Packers game at Soldier Field early to go to the Sky game. They said they went to Game 3 on Friday and enjoyed the atmosphere so much that they “had to replicate it” Sunday.

“It was so much fun. Chicago all the way,” Gutierrez said.

Pedro Gutierrez and Debbie Rios left the Chicago Bears game at Soldier Field early to attend Game 4 of the WNBA Finals at nearby Wintrust Arena.

Pedro Gutierrez and Debbie Rios left the Chicago Bears game at Soldier Field early to attend Game 4 of the WNBA Finals at nearby Wintrust Arena.
Madeline Kenney/Sun-Times



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