There’s a serious Michael Jackson theme going on at KeyArena, honoring the King of Pop who passed on Thursday at the age of 50. The Storm players requested a number of his songs for pre-game warmups, taking the court to “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” and it’s frequent chatter among fans and team staff.
“I want my kids to know who he was,” said Storm guard Sue Bird, who added her favorite song is “Stranger in Moscow.” “I think I listened to that song 24/7 while playing Moscow. It’s the only song about Russia.”
Coincidentally, former Storm guard Betty Lennox returns for just the second time since leaving as an unprotected player in 2005. She was picked up via free agency by Los Angeles in April and the celebrity she said she most wanted to meet was Michael Jackson.
The Sparks sang an impromptu tribute mix of the star’s songs on the bus to practice when they learned of the news Thursday. And individually read more confirmation after the late session at the Storm’s training facility.
“I have his red jacket and everything, it’s just a sad day,” Lennox said. “It’s going to be a lot of sad days to come because Michael Jackson has touched a lot of people’s hearts. I’m very emotional about that. I watched it on T.V. and [was] really crying like it was my blood brother. It’s really devastating, it really is – heartbreaker to see someone of his caliber go down like that. He’s worldwide.”
Lennox, who did a few moves from “Thriller” for the print media, said her emotions for Jackson could impact her tonight. She’ll also be affected by the KeyArena crowd, which has historically been hostile to the Sparks, but drew Lennox to tears with its outpouring last season in her return with Atlanta.
The Sparks are without C Lisa Leslie (knee) and Candace Parker (pregnancy). But the team still boasts Olympians DeLisha Milton Jones and Tina Thompson among others. Storm coach Brian Agler said the team is focusing on who’s available and not who’s missing. And he expects LA to crowd PF Lauren Jackson as normal.
Sparks coach Michael Cooper also said little would change tonight.
“I like the way we’re playing as of the last two games,” said Cooper, whose team defeated Sacramento in its last outing. “We’re playing harder. The change has been made as far as our attitude.
“We’ve still got some motion in our offense, we just don’t have that legitimate back-to-the basket center. Tina can definitely score the type of points that Lisa can get. It’s just a matter of getting her on the perimeter more.”
With that, here’s your starting lineups:
F Marie Ferdinand-Harris
F Tina Thompson
C DeLisha Milton-Jones
G Betty Lennox
G Kristi Harrower
STORMF Swin Cash
F Lauren Jackson
C Camille Little
G Sue Bird
G Tanisha Wright
Tonight’s officials are Michael Price, Amy Bonner, and Jeffery Smith.