Years Active: 1998-2009
Prestige Score: 119.7
Prestige Rank: 2/23
BreakdownThe Shock were the best team in the 2000s according to our system and were one of the best teams the WNBA has ever seen. Three championships and four WNBA Finals showings are incredible, particularly in only 12 seasons.
There were some dark years. Before winning its first title in 2003, Detroit put up a total of -13 points from 1998-2002. But after that, the team never finished a season with negative points again, four times posting more than 200 points, and that’s why the Shock are so high in the overall rankings.
With a better start, Detroit could have had a higher score than the Comets. But that didn’t happen, but second place is pretty good, too. Unfortunately, the Shock didn’t stay in Detroit beyond 2009, moving to Tulsa and quickly tanking to become the worst team in the history of the league, then relocating again to Dallas, rebranding as the Wings. But no matter what, the legend of the Detroit Shock will live on in WNBA history, and the team’s run from 2003-08 will always be one of the league’s best ever.
Detroit Shock TotalsWNBA Championships: 3 |300 points|
WNBA Finals Appearances: 4 |240 points|
Series Wins: 10 |30 points|
Playoffs Wins: 30 |450 points|
Playoffs Byes: 0 |0 points)|
Playoffs Appearances: 8 |110 points|
Regular Season Top Record: 2 |20 points|
Above .500 Regular Season: 6 |24 points|
All-WNBA Player on Roster: 8 |24 points|
MVP on Roster: 0 |0 points|
Coach of the Year: 1 |5 points|
Regular Season Worst Record: 2 |-20 points|
Below .500 Regular Season: 5 |-20 points|
Total points: |1,436|
Best Year: 2003The Shock started in 1998 and were terrible to start their existence, only making the postseason once in their first five seasons, but that changed in 2003.
After a close loss to begin the campaign, Detroit won eight in a row to make an early statement. A small slump followed, but the team had three winning streaks of four games or more between then and the end of the regular season. The Shock finished 25-9, the top record in the league.
In the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Detroit faced the No. 4 seed Cleveland Rockets. In Game 1, the Shock needed 26 points from Swin Cash to earn a narrow victory, 76-74, to take an opening lead. But Cleveland bounced back in Game 2, defending Detroit well and spreading double-digit scoring among four different players, enough for a 66-59 win and a tied series. But in the decisive game, Deanna Nolan posted 26 points and Cheryl Ford grabbed 15 rebounds as Detroit dealt with Cleveland, 77-63, to advance to the next round.
The No. 3 seed Connecticut Sun challenged Detroit in the Eastern Conference Finals but couldn’t manage the top seed in the Game 1 as four Shock players scored in double figures for a 73-63 triumph. Detroit completed the series in Game 2, 79-73, as Cash, Ford and Nolan combined for 54 points to send the team to its first-ever WNBA Finals.
In the last round, Detroit battled the Los Angeles Sparks, the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and the second-best team in the league in the regular season by one game. L.A., the two-time defending champs, took the first step to a three-peat in Game 1, 75-63, as Lisa Leslie went wild for 23 points on 10-of-18 shooting with 12 rebounds. With their backs against the wall, the Shock responded with a 62-61 victory in Game 2. Detroit nearly blew a 19-point lead but got a stop as the clock expired to salvage just enough of an advantage to earn a Game 3. In the final showdown of the season, Cash and Ford both posted their own double-doubles, and Ruth Riley scored 27 points on 11-of-19 shooting as the interior player dominated the game. L.A.’s Mwadi Mabika had 29 points and Leslie recorded another double-double, but it wasn’t enough as the Shock won, 83-78, ending the Sparks’s reign as champions and beginning a new era in the WNBA.
Cash was the team’s leading scorer, putting up 16.6 points per game. Nolan (12.4), Ford (10.8) and Riley (9.6) followed her. Ford averaged a double-double with a team-high 10.4 rebounds per night, and Elaine Powell was the top distributor, dishing 3.9 dimes per contest. It was head coach Bill Laimbeer’s first full season at the position after taking over in the middle of the 2002 campaign. This was his first WNBA championship, and he has since won two more.
The Shock had three players on the All-WNBA Second Team – Cash, Ford and Nolan – and Laimbeer was named Coach of the Year.
Worst Year: 2002One year before Detroit stood on top of the WNBA, it experienced the worst season of its existence.
It took 14 games for the Shock to win a game, dropping their first 13 matchups of the campaign, setting a record for the worst start to a WNBA season, which has since been broken. The team didn’t experience another losing streak that could remotely rival that, but the damage was already done. Detroit finished 9-23, the worst record in the WNBA by one game.
Swin Cash led the team in scoring at 14.8 points per game, with Wendy Palmer (11.5), Elaine Powell (9.9) and Deanna Nolan (8.7) providing the most support. Cash was also the top rebounder (6.9 boards per night), and Powell was the best passer, averaging 4.0 assists per outing. It was Greg Williams’s second season as head coach, but he was fired in the middle of the season, and Bill Laimbeer was hired and finished out the remaining games.
Winningest Coach: Cheryl ReeveAfter Detroit began the 2002 season 0-10, the worst start in league history at the time, the team fired head coach Greg Williams. Enter Bill Laimbeer.
The former Detroit Piston was hired as the Shock’s third head coach, and he made quite the impact. The team went 9-13 in his 22 games in 2002, much better than the previous 0-10, then completely changed the course of the franchise in 2003. Laimbeer helped lead Detroit to the 2003 WNBA Championship in the team’s second-ever postseason appearance, the third different team to win a title in the league at that time, joining the Houston Comets and Los Angeles Sparks in that elite club.
Laimbeer didn’t find the same fortunate in 2004 and 2005, missing the playoffs both years, but the Shock were back with a vengeance in 2006. Again, Laimbeer’s team sat upon the WNBA throne, winning its second championship that year. In 2007, Detroit returned to the WNBA Finals but fell to the Phoenix Mercury in five games. But again, Laimbeer had his Shock back the next season, and in 2008, Detroit claimed its third title, the second team in WNBA history to hold three crowns.
Three games into the 2009 campaign, Laimbeer resigned with his eye on an NBA position. His assistant and former teammate, Rick Mahorn, was promoted as his replacement.
“It’s time for me to be doing something else,” Laimber said in a news conference. “I want to coach in the NBA, and I think it was not fair to the Shock to try to coach them while my focus and passion were somewhere else. I don’t have another job, but it is something I want to explore. Whether it is a head coaching job or something as an assistant, that’s what I want to do.”
Laimbeer concluded his time with the Shock with a 164-108 overall record (27-16 in the playoffs), three championships, four WNBA Finals appearances and six postseason trips. He is tied for second for most-ever WNBA titles.
He later assumed the same position with the New York Liberty from 2013-17 and has been the head coach and general manager of the Las Vegas Aces since 2018.