In her sixth season in the W, Lexie is making a huge impact for the Los Angeles Sparks.
The paths of young WNBA players has been a hot topic of conversation recently, mainly as it relates to the difficulty in making rosters. It’s so complicated for WNBA teams to develop young talent, and even more challenging for that talent to have a long, stable career in the league. However, amidst this turbulent, uncertain sea, Lexie Brown has shown the way to battle its mighty current, proving what is possible for young players.
After playing collegiate basketball for Duke, Brown was drafted ninth overall in 2018 by the Connecticut Sun. These days, a first-round pick isn’t necessarily guaranteed to make a roster, but Lexie played the entirety of her rookie season with the Sun. Prior to the 2019 season, she was traded to the Minnesota Lynx in a deal that sent Natisha Hiedeman to Connecticut. She improved greatly in her second season, averaging 7.6 points per game (PPG) off the bench as opposed to 1.7 PPG in her rookie season.
After the WNBA bubble in 2020, Lexie did not return to the Lynx for the 2021 season. She was signed by the Chicago Sky in 2021, but because of roster restrictions she was waived and resigned a few times before finally spending the remainder of the season with the Sky. The team went on to win the WNBA championship, solidifying Brown as a champion. Though her role on the Sky was smaller, due to the amount of talent on the roster, Lexie was still able to play minutes here and there throughout that championship run.
One thing that really impacted Brown’s progression as a player was participating in the Athletes Unlimited (AU) basketball program during the WNBA offseason in 2022 and 2023. AU launched its basketball program in 2022, and many players have benefitted from the extra playing time, especially in a relatively low stakes environment—there are no coaches, front offices, or owners.
Brown was able to make significant improvements to her game due to the increased playing time AU afforded her, while still being able to stay in the United States for marketing opportunities. Her play in AU is one of the biggest reasons she made the Sparks roster in 2022, and her increased role in their system.
“Last year, AU was about me getting a contract. Like, that’s what I was in Las Vegas for. Not saying I’m not super locked in this year, but last year I had a different type of motivation and focus,” Brown said on the Pull Up with Myles and Owen podcast. “Everyone [at AU]is just playing for the love of the game and to have fun and just to win…Everybody comes here with a different motivation and different experiences, and you’re just able to play for those reasons without anybody judging you, anybody holding anything against you.”
During the 2022 season, the Sparks were still in a period of transition—the post-Candace Parker era, if you will. It took them a few years (and a coaching change) to really find out who they were. The 2022 season was rough for the team, who ended up 11th in the standings with a 13-23 record. Despite a rough season team-wise, Brown had the opportunity to develop even further, with career highs in minutes played, games started, field goal percentage, and three-point percentage.
Now, it’s all paying off for Brown, who has been setting the WNBA ablaze just weeks into the 2023 season. She’s back with the LA Sparks, a team that now seems to have more of a sense of identity than they have in years, with a brand new coaching staff led by Curt Miller. Whether it’s her development on the court, the stability that comes with playing with the same team for multiple seasons, the coaching, or just her own star power, Lexie Brown is saying, I’m here to stay in the WNBA.
The Sparks are sixth in the league with a 4-4 record—two of those losses coming against the defending champion Las Vegas Aces, and one after blowing a 21-point first-half lead to the Seattle Storm. Lexie is averaging a career-high 14.4 PPG already, along with 2.8 assists per game.
🎥: Post game presser with Lexie Brown. I got a chance to ask her what her mindset was heading into the game after shooting well from the field. pic.twitter.com/HInEs1zNAQ
— Imanni Wright (@ImanniWright) May 26, 2023
Brown is proving to be a key role player for this Sparks team, showing herself to be an indispensable shooter and defensive threat. With the game of basketball evolving year by year, the most useful players are the ones with a full arsenal of skills—you can’t just be really good at one thing anymore. If you’re a brilliant defender, great, but can you shoot? If you can shoot the three, well that’s awesome, but if you’re not getting back on defense immediately after, you won’t last long in the WNBA. With only 144 roster spots (usually less) in this league, players often need to prove they can do it all—Brown is showing she can.
Lexie’s ability to shoot the three this season has been especially august. In eight games played so far she is shooting a career-high 42.6 percent from three—her highest being 60 percent in the Sparks season opener against the Phoenix Mercury and then again in their loss to Seattle on June 6. It seems like every time she’s taken the floor, she’s showcased an impressive performance, whether shaking off Kelsey Plum to get the three, or sinking the clutch shot, or showing up when her team is missing their star players.
She’s also getting recognition from the veteran Sparks players, like Nneka Ogwumike, who said that Lexie is in the process of going from good to great in the WNBA.
— John W. Davis (@johnwdavis) June 4, 2023
That was proven on June 2, when the Sparks played the Mercury again, and Brown had a career game on many fronts, helping the team get an overtime win against Phoenix. She put up 26 points, three rebounds, one steal, and shot 3-of-7 from three. Not only that, but it was Brown who scored the basket to send the game to OT and allowed the Sparks to win the game. She said afterward that she had been practicing that little spin move for a while, and it was nice to be able to use it in a game, especially when it counted.
Lexie Brown was in a league of her own 👏
Dropping a career-high 26 PTS in the Sparks victory over the Mercury, @Lexiebrown had herself a night shooting 68.8% from the field and banking in some clutch triples along the way 🎯#MoreThanGame pic.twitter.com/wZppo6i9CM
— WNBA (@WNBA) June 3, 2023
Sparks fans can expect this allllll season long from Brown. She is not only ready to deliver those game winning shots and baskets, but she is becoming an elite defender, proven by her three steals against the Aces on May 25, a team with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year on their roster. She has the respect of her teammates and knows she is an integral player to this Sparks team, a team happily accepting their role as underdogs and enjoying proving people wrong this season. The Sparks finally seem to have a sense of identity after years of in-between—they are a group of really talented players who may have been overlooked in the past, but they will not let you forget them this season.
Lexie’s journey also plays a greater role in the overall WNBA discourse this season. It took her until her sixth season to become—in her own words—“a key member of a team,” a title she absolutely deserves on this Sparks team. She spent those previous five seasons on various teams, in various systems, with various roles, which can make improving year to year virtually impossible. Yet, despite the ups and downs of life in the WNBA for a young player, Brown worked. She has carved herself a spot in this league, on a team where she is truly impactful. She continues to be an example for other young players in the WNBA that all good things take time, and building a career in this WNBA is possible, despite the trials and tribulations presented by the league’s limited roster space.
It’s only the beginning of the 2023 season, but already Lexie Brown is on the path to success—not only for herself, but the LA Sparks as well. Don’t count her out, and enjoy her sharpshooting for years to come.
Stats as of 6/12/23 and courtesy of ESPN and WNBA Stats.