Talk about playing your best ball on the biggest stage.
After averaging 9.6 points during the regular season, Odyssey Sims has averaged 17.8 points per game throughout the WNBA playoffs, including a 16-point performance for defending champion Los Angeles as the Sparks held off the Minnesota Lynx, 85-84, Sunday afternoon in the first game of the WNBA Finals.
“So far it’s been good,” Sims said. “I’m in the finals for the first time. I mean, I can’t complain. I’m loving everything on and off the court.”
This time last year, Sims watched as league MVP Nneka Ogwumike drained a jumper which gave the Sparks the WNBA title over Minnesota. Fast forward nearly four months later and Sims was being traded from the Dallas Wings to Los Angeles.
Sims was the No. 2 draft pick by the Tulsa Shock in 2014 and played three years for the Shock and then the Dallas Wings when the franchise relocated. She started all but 11 games she played in for the Wings as she averaged 15.6 points per game, including a team-high 14 points per contest last season.
Once Sims got to LA, she had plenty of talented teammates to learn from, including the likes of Ogwumike, Finals MVP and future Hall of Famer Candace Parker and 2017 WNBA Defensive MVP Alana Beard.
“I’ve learned a little bit of everything since I’ve been here,” Sims said. “My teammates do a good job of leading and teaching me about the game. Candace is a guru when it comes to film and pointing out certain things to me. She really knows the game forwards and backwards. All I do is soak it up like a sponge and intake all the information. It’s always good to learn from veteran players, especially since they were in this position last year.”
It took a little bit for Sims to find her place in a new system. But once she did, Sims took over. After scoring in double figures in one game out of her first 17 games, Sims has put up double digit points in 15 of the last 17 games. She’s started the last 18 contests.
Coming into her first season in LA and fourth season overall in the WNBA, Sims had played in two playoff games for the Shock. Both came in the 2015 season in the conference semifinals against Phoenix as she averaged 20 points, four boards and five assists per contest.
This year, Sims and the Sparks faced off against Phoenix in the semifinals. She put up 12, 21 and 22 points as Los Angeles defeated the Mercury and Sims’ Baylor teammate Brittney Griner.
“It’s always fun to play against former teammates and people you grew up with,” Sims said. “Me and BG we talk to each other on the court. It’s all love, nothing mean. I’m actually proud of her. She’s had a dominant year. I think that’s awesome for her.”
As the Sparks go up against the Lynx, Sims faces off against another familiar face in Alexis Jones. Jones was the 12th pick of this year’s WNBA draft after leading the Lady Bears to an Elite Eight finish. Their history goes beyond Baylor as they are the first Irving MacArthur graduates to reach the WNBA finals.
“Alexis is a great player,” Sims said. “She’s very talented. She’s still young and there’s room to learn. She’s on the right team with the right players.”
As both players are part of a finals rematch they watched from afar a year ago, they understand the history that’s up for grabs. If Los Angeles wins, the Sparks will be the first back-to-back champions since they won in 2001 and 2002. If LA or Minnesota wins, it will be the record-tying fourth title, matching the Houston Comets, who won the first four championships in WNBA history.
Once the Big 12 women’s basketball season gets underway, two members of those Comet clubs will make a stop in Waco — Tina Thompson who is the associate head coach at Texas and Sheryl Swoopes who is the director of player develoment at Texas Tech.
“The WNBA is just growing,” Sims said. “Where it started to where it is now, it’s come a long way. This year two very teams are going at it in the finals. I’m sure it won’t be the last time. I’m not going to say it will happen every year, but you never know.”