Alyssa Thomas plays through pain to give Sun a lift in WNBA semifinals

Updated: September 21, 2019

UNCASVILLE, CONN. — It’s not a coincidence, or even a subtle hint, that every time Connecticut Sun forward Alyssa Thomas scores for her team at its home arena, the sound of an engine revving plays over the loudspeaker. She is the team’s literal and figurative engine — propelling it to every basket, rebound, steal and high-five. The sound is played so frequently throughout the night, one could be forgiven for temporarily thinking they’re in the parking lot at a biker bar.

She does everything the Sun need and more, and has played every critical minute of the team’s two wins over the Los Angeles Sparks in the WNBA semifinals. Had Connecticut not been holding a 23-point lead with just over 5½ minutes to play on Thursday night, she likely would have played every single minute, just as she did Tuesday in Game 1.

While Thomas is no stranger to extended minutes, and she isn’t alone on her team or in the league there, she is almost certainly the only player with labral tears in both of her shoulders. An injury she has been dealing with for well over a year, she missed 10 games last season and currently can barely lift her arms above her head due to the damage.

On a team that is consistently scrutinized for its lack of superstars, Thomas is one of a core group of young players (no one on the roster is over 30) who claim they don’t care about labels and joke about being called “role players.” Williams even laughed on Thursday and said her dad, who has been an animated and beloved fixture on the sideline throughout the series, was “the star, and we’re the role players.” At this point, it appears the players on the team are fine with whatever you want to call them, because they plan to keep winning regardless.

The Sun, much like Thomas, have taken a backseat in the headlines this season, due in part to Elena Delle Donne’s historic MVP season for the Washington Mystics, the rise of the Las Vegas Aces and injuries to many of the league’s most well-known players. In fact, the offseason trade request of former Sun forward Chiney Ogwumike might have been the most attention the team has received from the national media and fans this season. But Ogwumike, who is currently on the Sparks, now knows what her former teammates and Sun fans have known all along: This is a team built to win a championship.

While other players might not want to jeopardize their future, or risk playing with such a substantial injury, Thomas’ teammates never questioned what she would do as the Sun entered their biggest games in well over a decade. They knew she would be on the court, doing what she’s always doing.

“I think her arms would have to be falling off for her not to play,” Connecticut center Jonquel Jones said. “I don’t think we’ve ever doubted that she was going to be out there. She would have to be bedridden or something. I’m just happy that she’s on my team.”

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