WNBA Native all-star Shoni Schimmel participated in Native American Heritage Night on Friday, July 1, during the New York Liberty vs. Phoenix Mercury game at the Talking Stick Resort Arena in downtown Phoenix. This night gave thousands of fans the opportunity to support Schimmel and her family and allowed spectators to experience a night of Native-inspired events.
The night’s festivities kicked off with the singing of the national anthem, and some lucky fans were given the opportunity to hold a flag on the court near the players. As events got underway, some Native youth and employees from around the Valley participated in the fan tunnel, welcoming the Mercury players onto the basketball court.
During the halftime show, Native athletes who played a key role in Indian Country were honored on the court. Also during halftime, a local dance group performed a Hawaiian-style dance for the thousands in attendance.
After the Mercury suffered a 99-88 loss to the Liberty, fans weren’t as disappointed as you’d think. Despite not being able to watch Schimmel bring “rezball” to the Mercury courts, fans still chanted “Shoni” and held their homemade signs proudly as they waited for Schimmel’s post-game Q&A session with fans. Schimmel expressed thanks to her fans who welcomed her back to the court.
“Being traded from Atlanta to New York, you have to find a [balance] in it all because you’re coming to a different team, to a new environment and just trying to find your spot,” Schimmel said before the fan Q&A session. “It’s all a learning experience, and I’m still young. I’m three years into the league. So for me, I’m just trying to get different experiences in my life. That’s what life is all about: going out there and conquering your own, but continuing to be the same [person] that I am and be thankful for all these people, because it truly is amazing. I am so thankful for you guys.”