Love You, D.C.

·9 min read

It’s never easy saying goodbye.

Especially for someone who wears her heart on her sleeve.

So, you know what, D.C.? This is what I’m gonna do here: I’m gonna hit pause for a little bit on the actual goodbye part of this thing — the sad part — and instead start off with a story.

Flash back to the summer of 2018. I’m playing in Dallas for the Wings. Not getting any run. Have no idea why. Then I head in one day for practice and it’s like, “Coach wants to see you in his office.”

I didn’t think anything of it.

Two minutes later, I find out I got traded.

Didn’t see it coming. At all. It shocked me at first. Basically all I could say in response was … “Where?”

“To Washington. The Mystics.”

And then it was like — and I remember this exactly, to this day….

[Big smile from Aerial.] “Well, okaaaaaaay now!” It was like….

I can work with this.

Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images
Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Mystics and everything about that franchise — the team’s fans, its owners, its coaches and leadership — I knew what they were all about. In some ways it was like winning the lottery.

Plus, I kid you not, a week or so earlier, I’d been warming up before a game against the Mystics, and Elena was behind me at courtside talking with LaChina Robinson. In my head I distinctly remember being like, “Now thaaaaaat would be a cool person to play with. Elena can do it all! I wonder what that’d be like?”

Then, all of a sudden, boom — it’s reality.

So that shock I’d felt at first? In an instant, it turned to excitement.

I was like a kid trying to be early for her first day at a new school or something.Aerial Powers

This was right before the Olympics, and we were about to go on an extended break, so I had to act fast.

“Can I get out there today? Like right now? I don’t want to wait.”

I booked a late-night flight to go meet the Mystics before their game in Connecticut, and then, after I got to the hotel, I set my alarm crazy early so I could get down to breakfast in time for all the girls to arrive. I was like a kid trying to be early for her first day at a new school or something. At one point I looked over and Elena and Kristi were getting coffee together, and it was like, O.K., go time. Let’s do this. Deep breath. O.K., AP, let’s go!

I’m pretty sure I talked way too fast when I was introducing myself, but I was just super, super excited. I’m not sure if they were ready for all that, especially so early in the morning. To their credit, though, they were both just so lovely and kind. They smiled and nodded, and just kind of let me do my thing.

What can I say? I was hyped. I’ll cop to that.

Nick Wass/AP Photo
Nick Wass/AP Photo

Once we got back to D.C, things got even better.

Right from the start, fans started recognizing me at the grocery store near my apartment.

“Yo, AP!!! What’s up? Welcome to town, AP!”

I’d be eating at a restaurant and I’d hear people like, “Hey, I think that’s AP!!!!”

Then, at game time, I had people cheering for me during warmups.

Warmups! Like waaaaay before the game was even set to start.

People made it personal, too. It wasn’t just random cheering in D.C. You guys cared enough to learn about us as people.

Two examples. First, as an esports fan, I definitely want to give a special shout out to my guy in the front row who had an Apex/AP T-shirt designed to wear to our games. That made me so happy. And then I’ll never forget the woman who had seen me say during an interview (an interview!) that I needed to run baseline to baseline and get to the corner so the defense has to cover more ground, and then … proceed to scream that advice out to me during games. Like….

“Get to that corner, girl. AP! AP! Get to that corner!”

That actually became our thing.

After I heard it the first time, I enlisted her help. Like, “Yo, if I don’t make the corner, get on me. From now on, that’s your job.”

And that woman, God love her … she did her job.

It wasn’t just random cheering in D.C. You guys cared enough to learn about us as people.Aerial Powers

I’m gonna miss stuff like that. Those fans in D.C., they’ve seen me ball out. And they’ve also seen me go through some tough stretches, and get hurt, and come back — and they never wavered in their support, no matter what happened.

And the same actually goes for the entire organization — from the ownership on down. I cannot say enough good things about Ted Leonsis and Monumental Sports. Everything the franchise does is first class, and they go out of their way to make sure the Mystics are treated just as well as the men’s team. It’s like, The Wizards have a team chef? Well the Mystics are going to have one too! Or, Would it be cool for the women’s team to have their own arena? Yes? Well then let’s build them one! (When that place opened up, it was so dope in there that the men’s team started showing up — putting up some shots, hitting the weight room.)

I just always felt special playing for the Mystics organization and those fans, and that made it all the more meaningful to me when we won it all.

Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images
Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

As long as I live, I’ll never forget how amazing that championship moment was for our fans.

If I close my eyes right now, I can still see the crowd rising to their feet, yelling and screaming, stomping and jumping up and down as that game clock ticked down. It still gives me chills how excited everyone was to be a part of history that night.

And when that buzzer sounded? When the confetti fell? I mean….

Pure joy right there, that was pure joy.

I remember I jumped up on the scorer’s table and just started shouting out at the top of my lungs.

“We did it! We did it! World champions!!! We did it.”

And you better believe all the fans anywhere near me were screaming back the exact same thing. Because it really was about the we.

That was something we all did.

Together.

That championship was about all of us.

Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images
Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images

Ahhhh, I got too many people to thank!! I definitely want to thank Coach T and his entire staff for really showing me what a championship culture looks and feels like. I became better at seeing the floor during my time with the Mystics, and a better defender, for sure. But just as important, those coaches taught me what it’s like to be selfless and totally buy into a culture aimed solely at winning titles.

I want to show some extra special love to my guy Sefu Bernard, who spent countless hours before and after practices helping me recover from my injury and making sure my shot was on point. The amount of time and attention Sefu showed me is something that I’ll never forget, and he’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever worked with.

To my girls, my teammates: We’re sisters forever. And I have so much respect and love for you all. I definitely want to give props to both Elena and Kristi in particular, because those two, man … those two right there are absolute legends in my book.

Elena, everyone knows how special she is on the court. But she’s an even better person — just so thoughtful and calm and inclusive. She has this presence about her that makes you want to be a better person, if that makes sense.

And Kristi … she was always the quiet one who was full of wisdom, so that when she did speak up, you knew it was going to matter. And talk about a dream come true for me — guess who the featured guest was at the very first basketball camp I ever went to as a little girl? Kristi Toliver. Unreal. And then, a decade or so later, I get to play with her on a team that wins it all?

The more I think about it, so much about my time in D.C. really does almost seem like something out of a movie.

It’s not easy saying goodbye.

Rob Carr/Getty Images
Rob Carr/Getty Images

But make no mistake about it: I’m convinced that things are going to be special in Minnesota, too. And I can’t wait to get going with the Lynx.

Coach Reeve is a legend. Her record speaks for itself. She’s just a truly talented and skillful coach. But what was really cool was that in talking with her, I felt comfortable immediately. Everything about how Coach Reeve thinks, and how she carries herself, aligns perfectly with my approach. She’s all about working hard and constantly doing whatever it takes to get better. That fits me to a T.

And this team she’s put together … I mean how can I not be excited?

Adding Kayla and Natalie along with me? To what the Lynx already had? To Sylvia and Napheesa and Crystal and Damiris?

Like, who do you guard?

No, really … I’m asking? Who you gonna key on?

Everyone is so versatile and dynamic. We’re gonna be a problem for teams when they suit up against us, that’s for sure.

Everything about how Coach Reeve thinks, and how she carries herself, aligns perfectly with my approach.Aerial Powers

I’m not gonna lie, though, that first trip over to D.C. for a game? It’s gonna be tough not to get emotional seeing all those fans again. Seeing my people. Family, really.

Because that love, that mutual respect and admiration … that didn’t go away on my end when I signed with the Lynx. And based on all the Twitter and IG well-wishes that I still get from Mystics fans on the daily, I have a feeling that their love for me isn’t gonna disappear either.

So when I come back to D.C. for games, be sure to give me a wave, or yell out, “Yo, AP, get to that corner!!!” once or twice for old time’s sake.

And I promise to do all I can to keep making you guys proud.

Love you, D.C.