MINNEAPOLIS - Seimone Augustus might as well be a trifecta when it comes to the Minnesota Lynx, a living embodiment of the past, present and future of a franchise she has helped build from the ground up.
As a four-time WNBA champion, Augustus has seen it all since the Lynx drafted her with the WNBA's No. 1 overall pick in 2006. She has experienced the highest of highs, the lowest of lows, and everything in between, bearing witness to the rise and fall of one of the league's dynasties.
All the memories came rushing back on the court at Mayo Clinic Square earlier this week, as Augustus reminisced about the past decade, acknowledging that she is entering the twilight of her career.
As she begins what very well could be her final season - the Minnesota Lynx open the 2019 season against the Chicago Sky at 7 p.m. today at Target Center - Augustus stressed that she wouldn't change a thing about her journey. Not even the struggles that threatened to derail her career before it even got rolling.
Long before the Lynx became the WNBA's top team, winning championships in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017, they were the laughing stock of the league.
In the five seasons after Augustus arrived in the Twin Cities, the Lynx's record was a combined 63-107, never once finishing with a winning record. They would routinely get blown out, so often in fact, that they actually turned to a higher power for help.
"We would literally pray to not get beat by 20 points," Augustus said. "We would be in the locker room, like, 'Lord, please don't let us get beat by 20 points.' It done got that bad that we literally had to ask God for some help in a basketball game."
It was just as bad off the court. As if trudging through season after season of ineptitude wasn't enough, Augustus remembers players having to get on the phone and call season-ticket holders.
"We actually had to make some phone calls begging people to renew their season tickets," Augustus said. "They would (say) like, 'I'm not renewing no season tickets. What the hell is going on with the team?' "
Those moments were especially hard for Augustus because she had never experienced such losing. She was a superstar at Capitol High School in Baton Rouge, La., and continued her ascension in college, guiding Louisiana State to three straight Final Four appearances. Her only major disappointment to that point was failing to win an NCAA championship.
"It was hard to go from that, and get here and be the worst team in the league, barely winning any games," Augustus said. "Something I do take a lot of pride in, though, is even when we were the worst team in the league, we still competed our (rear ends) off. We still got beat because other teams had more talent. We just always made sure it was a scrappy game. All we needed was the right coach to help direct that energy in a positive way."
That happened in 2010 with the arrival of Cheryl Reeve. A two-time WNBA champion as an assistant coach with the now-defunct Detroit Shock, Reeve understood what it took to win at a high level, and brought a sense of accountability to the Lynx.
That started the seismic shift, which continued with acquisition of hometown hero Lindsay Whalen, and energetic veteran Rebekkah Brunson. Then came the addition of No. 1 overall draft pick Maya Moore the following offseason, and all of a sudden the Lynx were legitimate contenders.
"We started to see the pieces come together, and Maya was kind of the cherry on top of everything," Augustus said. "I firmly believe whether or not we had Maya that season, we would've been solid because we were ready to go. Obviously she took us to another level, and it was like, 'Oh, yeah. We are for real.' "
A hot start the following season put the rest of the league on notice, and the Lynx didn't slow down, finishing a league-best 27-7. That dramatic turnaround culminated with a magical playoff run as the Lynx lost just one game en route to their first WNBA championship.
"Before that season it felt like we would start off well and something would happen and all hell would break loose," Augustus said. "You could tell it was different that season. We weren't going to let anything stop us."
That continued for the rest of the decade as the Lynx won three more WNBA championships. They never became complacent, holding each other accountable every step of the way, while cultivating a competitive environment that paved the way for continued success.
"We would practice harder against each other than some teams would play against us in games," Augustus said. "It was like, 'If I can guard Maya Moore in practices, then I can guard Diana Taurasi in games.' "
That doesn't even take into account the insane amount of trash talk that served as the soundtrack to nearly every practice.
"It was everybody. You had Whalen talking trash. You had Brunson talking trash," Augustus remembered. "We would get on each other, and that prepared us for the games. We made it a lot easier for ourselves because of how hard we competed."
As hard as they pushed each other amid the unprecedented run of success, as a leader of the team, Augustus was most proud of the fact that nobody's ego grew too big along the way.
"I don't think people understand how hard it is to play with good players," Augustus said. "It's easy to run around as the best player on the court and score 30 points. It's hard to share the rock and share the spotlight and share all of that. Some players aren't willing to do that. We were lucky that we had the right group in place to be able to do what we were able to do."
Looking back on it now, Augustus still can't believe how fast it came and went.
As epic as the rise of the dynasty was over the past decade, the fall was equally as epic, and maybe even more shocking considering how quickly it happened.
It's hard to believe it was only two seasons ago that the Lynx were on top of the world, parading through Dinkytown with yet another trophy before hosting a rally at Williams Arena on the University of Minnesota campus.
Since then, Whalen has retired, Moore has decided to take the season off, and Brunson is nowhere to be found.
All that's left from that era is Augustus. And maybe that's exactly how it should be.
"You know (what) they say about how good things come to those who wait?" Augustus said. "Well, it was really hard to wait, and when we were actually in it, it was always like, 'Nah. I don't want to hear that.' Now I understand. I don't know if I would've appreciated all of the success as much without the struggles along the way."
So begins the final chapter for Augustus. While she will always have the memories from the past, she's focused on living in the present, and setting the franchise up for the future once she's gone.
"I just want to leave this place as good, if not better, than when I got here," Augustus said. "That's all I've ever wanted to do for this franchise."
It's safe to say she's done that.
CHICAGO AT LYNX
What: WNBA season opener
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Target Center, Minneapolis