CHICAGO – They’ve played 16 seasons in the Women’s National Basketball Association, but none had the impact as the last one they played in 2021 in a number of ways.

Winning a championship is the obvious reason why the team finally broke through to capture their first title with a memorable run through the playoffs.

At just 16-16 in the regular season, the Sky won two “Win-or-Go-Home” games, defeated the WNBA’s best team in the regular season, Connecticut, in the Eastern Conference Finals before a triumph over Phoenix in the WNBA Finals.

A Game 4 win over the Mercury in front of a sellout at Wintrust Arena provided Chicago with their first major professional sports championship since the Cubs won the 2016 World Series. It was also the city’s third title that was clinched at home in the previous 25 years (Bulls 1996, 1997, Blackhawks 2015).

Since then, the team has been celebrated by the fans who have been there since the beginning of the 2006 season but also a new group of people who are taking an interest in the team thanks to that championship run.

New and old fans of the Sky will get to cheer on the team for the first time on Friday when they open the 2022 WNBA regular season against the Sparks at 7 PM. They’ll do so with a healthy amount of anticipation as they look to become the league’s first repeat champion since Los Angeles in 2001 and 2002.

“A think a little overdue, but I might be a little bias,” said guard Courtney Vandersloot of the attention which the team has received since their championship. “It’s incredible to see the support we’ve gotten. The way the city showed up for us, especially in that championship run and continued right on into this season.”

Such support means a lot to Vandersloot, who has been with the franchise since 2011, and Allie Quigley, who has been there since 2013. They’ve seen some good days, like the team’s run to the WNBA Finals in 2014, along with two-straight years of missing the postseason in 2018 and 2019.

“It’s been huge,” said Quigley of the attention. “For me and Courtney and some of us who’ve been here for a long time – 10, 15 years – and for the owners too, just to see the progression of the fans and how many more showed up last year in the Finals, just to see the city rally around us.

“Sometimes that’s what it takes, it just takes winning. I think we’re hoping that winning last year is gonna help us have a lot more fans in the seats and just a lot more support. It meant a lot, especially just being from here, and seeing the whole city come out.”

That’s exactly what they’ve done since that transformative fall of 2021.