Ladies and gentlemen…THE WNBA IS BACK! Unless you’ve been under a rock, with your eyes closed and your fingers in your ears, you know that the WNBA began their 2020 campaign over the weekend. And the ladies came out the gate strong! For them just to be able to have a season, is a miracle in itself. But man, if the rest of the season is anything like this past weekend, then we’re in for a treat.
Even though there was a rocky start to the bubble experience, all was well once the ball started bouncing. We had six great games over the weekend, but everything wasn’t solely about basketball. Social justice messages were prevalent throughout the broadcasts. “Black Lives Matter” was emblazoned on the courts, and every player wore Breonna Taylor’s name on their jerseys. Layshia Clarendon delivered a powerful synopsis of the player-led “Say Her Name” initiative, as the players elected to remain in the locker during the playing of the national anthem.
Breanna Stewart also made an emphatic statement in her postgame interview, when she said that the players wanted to capitalize on the momentum of debuting the season, to continue to shed light on the racial issues that plague this country, and getting justice for Taylor’s family is their main focus. Skylar Diggins-Smith and several other players also used media availability, as an opportunity to keep the message at the forefront of discussion. Stewart said their efforts off the court, were just as important – if not more important – than what they did between the lines. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, as these ladies have been leading this charge for years.
In regards to the hoops action, we couldn’t have asked for anything better. Seattle and New York kicked things off in a highly touted matchup. The Storm got the band back together for the first time, since they won the championship in 2018. Stewie looked like she didn’t miss a beat and Sue Bird was as sharp as ever. Sabrina Ionescu got her first taste of the W. While she struggled shooting the ball and the Liberty took a loss, she still looked poised and handled pressure well. The Liberty will be a team to watch this season. They have a bevy of young talent, so it’s going to be exciting to see them grow.
We saw a lot of familiar faces we had been missing, come back. We definitely got some feelings of nostalgia, while watching Seimone Augustus and Angel McCoughtry fill it up for their respective new teams. They almost looked like the 2013 Finals versions of themselves. A couple of newcomers made waves as well. Chennedy Carter, Ty Harris and Crystal Dangerfield looked like they’re ready to be impact players right away. Carter showed why she was considered one of the most lethal scorers in the draft. Harris and Dangerfield took full advantage of their opportunities and played crucial minutes for their squads down the stretch.
Also, we have to shout out Myisha Hines-Allen. With the Mystics coming into the bubble shorthanded, she got the chance to start, and saying she made the most of the situation, might be the understatement of the newly minted season. Hines-Allen’s limited minutes during her WNBA career so far, may have caused people to forget what the former ACC Player of the Year is capable of. But they were quickly reminded on Sunday.
What was most gratifying from the entire weekend was the love and support the league was receiving. If you were anywhere near social media on Saturday and Sunday, you saw the hype was real. The WNBA was front and center of the sports world, and deservedly so. Let’s see what shining a little light on the league led to. The WNBA was one of the top tending topics over the weekend. The orange WNBA hoodie was probably the most talked about sports apparel item over the last few days. And ESPN added 13 more games to their broadcast schedule. It was really refreshing to see the W get some love.
This season may be a turning point in marketing for the league forever. With all the teams being centralized, this is the perfect opportunity to showcase this product and show the world what they’ve been missing. Whenever the league is put at the forefront, the numbers don’t lie. This year’s virtual draft was one of the most watched ever and this was the largest opening weekend audience in eight years. These ladies need to be championed in every possible way. When you have a product that sells itself, all you have to do is put it on the shelf.
It was a great opening weekend and I can’t wait to see what else the league has in store for the rest of the season. So many talented rookies, vets coming back and perhaps most importantly, a heavy focus on social justice. If you didn’t plan on tuning in to the W this season, you might want to reconsider.