clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Emma Meesseman was the player who represented the Mystics’ rebuild from chumps to champs. That’s why it’s still so hard to see her go.

I never thought that the Belgian forward would have been the face of the rebuild in 2013. But she embodied the Mystics in more ways than I thought, now that nine years have passed. And I’ll admit it. It’s so damn hard to see that she’s not with us anymore.

2019 WNBA Finals - Game Five
As they say, all things must come to an end.
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

UPDATE on Feb. 19. 2021 - The move is now official. Meesseman is with the Chicago Sky. Mystics General Manager and Head Coach Mike Thibault said the following:

Thank you Emma for all you gave of yourself in helping the Mystics learn to play the right way and earn our first championship. You left an imprint that will always be appreciated by your teammates, coaches, and fans.

Meesseman also posted this on Instagram:

I came to the Washington Mystics in 2013 as a kid, thinking I would not even make it through training camp. In 2022 I am leaving as a person who learned so much from every single teammate, coaches, fans, the organisation. I learned how to be a better player, to be myself, to have confidence, to speak up on and off court and so much more. I am eternally grateful to Coach T for giving me this chance. Thank you to every person who is part of the @washmystics teammates, coaches, fans, organization, volunteers... everyone.

Now @chicagosky, here I come!

The original post is below.

I hope you enjoyed Emma Meesseman Week, which has been a celebration of her time in D.C. in 2013. In this final part, I’ll go over some final thoughts on why she means so much for Mystics fans. Even me.

Wow, It’s been an entire week (actually a little more than that) since the beginning of Emma Meesseman Week. Most of the feedback has been positive. After all, this week was timed for her return to the DMV last week when the Belgium women’s national basketball team played two of their three World Cup Qualifying matches at the Entertainment and Sports Arena. They have since won their final qualifying match vs. Russia in the Dominican Republic yesterday, so they will go to the World Cup for the second consecutive time.

If Meesseman were still on the Mystics, I would have broken down the game against Russia and continued to feel conflicted about Belgium’s place in the women’s game worldwide. But Meesseman’s not on the team anymore, so it’s irrelevant to 99.9 percent of you reading this. And I feel empty.

To be honest, I think I would have felt that way regardless of whether she signs with the Chicago Sky or just stayed with UMMC Ekaterinburg.

And on the note of feedback, I have received some criticism this week as well. I’ve generally received them in these four categories:

  1. Why celebrate a player who is no longer on the Mystics?
  2. Why give love to a player who doesn’t love D.C. back?
  3. Haven’t you written about her enough already?
  4. Isn’t it a bad time because of NBA Trade Deadline Week?

And here’s my “one size fits all” answer to all these points and just for the general public: Meesseman deserves this send-off week because she is the player who best represents Washington’s rebuild from a team that was consistently among the WNBA’s worst to the best in 2019. I’ll address these four specific quibbles directly to those who have asked me directly in the comments.

Emma Meesseman is the player who represents the Mystics’ rebuild better than anyone else!

Washington Mystics Media Day
Let’s be honest. No one expected Meesseman to still be standing among this group of three, right?
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

When someone asks me “Who is the player that represents the Mystics’ journey to becoming the 2019 WNBA Champions?” I easily answer that it’s Meesseman. To me, it’s an open and shut case. And here’s why:

  • She was part of the first rookie class in D.C. during Mike Thibault’s tenure: There were four rookies when Meesseman was a rookie. Besides her, Washington’s first round pick was Tayler Hill. They had point guard Nadirah McKenith who was their other second round pick. And Tierra Ruffin-Pratt was an undrafted rookie. Of all four players, Meesseman was the only player from that class to make the opening day roster, spend the 2013-16 rebuilding years in a Mystics uniform, AND play on Washington’s championship team in 2019. Along the way, she became a starter and a WNBA All-Star in 2015.
  • Elena Delle Donne was a “finisher” for the rebuild, NOT a player who dealt with with the growing pains — It’s convenient to say that Delle Donne came to Washington in 2017 to “save the team.” From hindsight, the Mystics won three consecutive shadow WNBA Eastern Conference Championships from 2017-19 (because they advanced farther than any other Eastern Conference team in those years). But Delle Donne didn’t come to a Washington team that came off a franchise-worst 5-29 season in 2012. She didn’t play for the Mystics in 2013 for a team that was still desperately hungry for a franchise player then (after a poor draft lottery outcome) and for several years after that. This isn’t to say that Delle Donne’s contributions weren’t welcome. They were and then A LOT MORE. It’s just that Meesseman came to Washington during those leaner years, shined above her peers on the 2013 rookie class, including Hill, and was still a major part of their best season in franchise history.
  • Meesseman was the missing piece of their 2019 championship team — To stay along the line of Delle Donne being a “franchise savior,” it’s important to point out that she alone would not have carried the Mystics to a title. Despite a strong performance by Delle Donne in 2018, the Mystics were swept in the Finals that season. That was also the first season Meesseman skipped due to Belgium’s first-ever appearance in the World Cup. At any rate, It was Meesseman, who plays the same position as Delle Donne, who carried them to the finish line the following year when they won the championship, even if Delle Donne was the regular season MVP. I’ll let Mike Prada, our founder and first site manager, explain why in more technical terms than I ever could.
  • We fall in love with the high performing players who have been with both the highs and lows than others, especially after a championship — My biggest flaw in covering the Mystics is that I have always done so as a fan than as a “hard news” guy. A “hard news” guy would have probably went with the narrative that EDD was the singular “savior” of the Mystics and that Meesseman is “just backup quality,” though since she came off the bench in 2019. I refuse and will ALWAYS refuse to think that she is backup quality on any WNBA team. Again, most Mystics fans did see that Emma and her talent showed she was a major, though not the only reason why Washington still remained relevant in their early rebuilding years.
  • Belgian WBB fans on social media: Belgium is a linguistically-divided country on whether someone speaks Nederlands (Dutch) of/ou Français (French) as their first language, something I’m quite aware of. But some things still unite nearly all Belgians, like which country makes the best beers, waffles, fries (ALL BELGIANS ARE SUPER DEFENSIVE ABOUT THOSE THREE THINGS!) and their best athletes. Meesseman, like a Duvel, Westmalle or Chimay beer; a Brusselse Wafel/Gaufre de Bruxelles; or a soccer star like Romelu Lukaku (her twin brother from another mother), is someone who unites both sides of this language divide. And Belgians have admittedly have nudged me toward their side as well over the years. I don’t blame them for making me “sip The Belgian Kool Aid,” however. At the end of the day, Emma did that herself with her game, both for Belgium and the USA in the WNBA! And she deserves credit for that.
  • I developed friendships with Belgians because of Emma. I have met up with some of our Belgian women’s basketball friends in the last few years, including Stéphanie Lahaye, the founder of Swish Swish as well as Florian Madarasz, their dedicated Mystics writer. Both live in Henegouwen, or Hainuat, one of Belgium’s southern provinces. I probably wouldn’t Have befriended them if Emma never became a star here in D.C.
  • It’s hard to see anyone who goes through the journey with you leave! I will also admit that I saw Meesseman’s departure in her prime coming for several years, since as early as 2017 when the Belgian Cats won the bronze medal in Women’s EuroBasket that year. But that doesn’t mean that it makes things any easier. I wouldn’t have cared that much if she was cut in training camp back in 2013 or 2014. But Emma stuck with us, more-or-less through 2020 and past their championship season. She was an All-Star! She was a Finals MVP!! (I’m not supposed to show it, but it’s still hard to see her go!)

Will we have more Mystics weeks on BF?

WNBA Finals Portraits
You can expect the folks in the left and middle to have their own weeks in due time!
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Absolutely, while I’m around at this post at least. When a player or notable coach leaves, you can expect a week-long celebration like what we had this past week for Meesseman!

I can’t make absolute guarantees because I can’t 100 percent predict the future. But General Manager/Head Coach Mike Thibault deserves his own week if and when he decides to hang it up.

The same goes for Elena Delle Donne, the 2019 WNBA MVP, even though I wrote about her in a rather adversarial context in this specific piece. That wasn’t the intent here. But rather, it’s just that Emma represented the rebuild. She was the player who was an unheralded late draft pick that turned into a WNBA Finals MVP!

For context, EDD was … one of the pre-ordained “Big Three of 2013!” I STILL DO WHATEVER I CAN TO REFUSE TO USE THAT OTHER TERM!

Final, Final thoughts!

Again, I never thought in a million years that Emma Meesseman would have been the player in the Mystics’ 2013 rookie class who become the most notable member within their team, the WNBA and worldwide.

It was a pleasure to see her grow as a player here in the DMV as well as to see the Belgian Cats turn from a European afterthought to a world championship contender in the span of a few months.

Our site’s content (as well as some of my content on Swish Appeal) about Meesseman will always be an example to any up-and-coming basketball player — or anyone in life — dat alles mogelijk is, que tout est possible, or THAT EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE.

Emma, you are a living testament to that. Not just to Belgians who look to make their mark in basketball. But to anyone looking to get ahead in life.

Bedankt voor alles Emma. Jij bent de identiteit van de Washington Mystics! Merci pour tout Emma. Tu es l’identité des Washington Mystics !

Thank you for everything Emma. You’re the Mystics’ identity! Especially over this past decade!

2019 WNBA Finals - Game Five
Jij blijft altijd onze MVP Emma! Tu seras toujours notre MVP Emma ! You’ll always be our MVP Emma!
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images