It’s no secret that the WNBA has seen major changes in the past several weeks. It seems as if players are moving from city to city every day, with super teams already forming in New York and Las Vegas.
I was beginning to question how the Las Vegas Aces could even afford the roster they currently have: 2022 All-WNBA First-Team and WNBA All-Star MVP Kelsey Plum, 2022 WNBA Champion and Finals MVP Chelsea Gray, 2020/2022 WNBA MVP and 2022 Defensive Player of the Year A’ja Wilson— and, oh yeah, now Candace Parker, too. You’re joking.
I’d like to think the Aces organization isn’t paying their players under the table and is, indeed handling things professionally, but who’s to say? I’m sure the defending champs know what they’re doing—or so I’d hope? But Dearica Hamby might have something different to say about that one.
As a tried and true, die-hard Phoenix Mercury fan myself, I’m feeling mixed emotions regarding all the movement in the league so far. Pretty much equivalent to the ups and downs that Mercury fans have experienced the past few years—it’s been quite a rollercoaster, to say the least. The emotional toll Brittney Griner’s detainment in Russia caused for so many—her family, her teammates, and the entire country—is no small thing. To hear her commitment to suiting up in a Mercury uniform this season was a relief until I read that Diana Taurasi might be hanging up her shoes and calling it good at 19 seasons.
I must say, I knew when Taurasi’s time came to retire, it was going to be in the quietest way possible. She wouldn’t do a farewell tour or announce anything on social media—she would just play out the last game of the Mercury season and just be done. It’s a day I’ve been dreading ever since I began sitting courtside with my mom and dad at Mercury games and first laid eyes on the G.O.A.T. my freshman year of high school. I hate to think it’s already almost here.
I believed Griner’s return would be enough to keep the White Mamba motivated for one final run for a championship, but with Sue Bird no longer dishing her crap on the court, I couldn’t blame Taurasi for trading in her Lebrons for a margarita—or two… or three.
While Phoenix’s destiny for this season may remain unknown, super teams are quickly stacking up elsewhere around the league. Breanna Stewart and Jonquel Jones have both dominated on guard-heavy teams the past few years in Seattle and Connecticut, respectively. I’m curious to see how those two powerhouse point-forwards play off of each other this season.
Add in two of the best guards in the league in triple-double queen Sabrina Ionescu and veteran Courtney Vandersloot (too bad the other half of that power couple is sitting out the 2023 season) —that New York squad is looking pretty unstoppable if the team chemistry lives up to the hype. Not to mention Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello, who led the star-studded Mercury to a championship in 2014 in her first season as head coach, led the team to the playoffs in each of her eight seasons including two finals appearances, and now has potentially one of the best starting lineups in WNBA history.
Speaking of Vandersloot—what the heck is going on in Chicago? The Sky bid goodbye to their longtime point guard Sloot, lost sharpshooter Allie Quigley, and CP3 is already on a plane to Vegas (and you know what they say about “what happens in Vegas.”)
Chicago did something similar, exchanging many of their top players, and I still can’t understand why. The Sky roster contained Sylvia Fowles, Elena Delle Donne, and Epiphanny Prince to supplement the already stacked backcourt duo of Vandersloot and Quigley, and within two seasons, that team was ripped to shreds. It took Candace Parker coming back to the Windy City to bring Chicago its first championship in 2021, but by the looks of things now, the WNBA finals may be a lofty goal for the Sky this season.
As one of the biggest WNBA fans out there—trust me, just ask my family…or look in my bedroom at the full-sized Diana Taurasi, Brittney Griner, and Dewanna Bonner autographed and framed jerseys—one thing that excites me most about the upcoming 2023 season is the expanded game schedules.
From 2003 to 2019, the WNBA season spanned 34 games. 2020 yielded just 22 games in the COVID-19 bubble in Bradenton, Florida. 2021 hosted 32 games, and 2022 boosted up to 36. This season, each team will play a record 40 games. WNBA basketball will begin on Friday, May 19. All teams will compete during the opening weekend of the 27th season.
Ideally, media coverage of the league will continue to grow from last season’s exponential progress. The 2022 season was the most viewed WNBA season since 2006, back when legend Lisa Leslie was crowned league MVP and Seimone Augustus was just beginning to make her presence in the league known, earning Rookie of the Year.
Anyone and everyone tuned in for the WNBA playoffs last season, as viewership of the final matchups increased across the board. 2022 boasted the most-viewed semifinal round since 2014, the most-viewed first playoff round since 2007, and the most-viewed regular season since 2008.
Although league commissioner Cathy Engelbert has recently said that an expansion team is still two to four years out, I’m thrilled to see all the growth of the 144 players and 12 teams in the league right now.
The WNBA has never had so many eyes on it as it does now, and it is so well-deserved. Having four more games per team this season will only continue to highlight the high-caliber talent that stretches across this league. Rosters are getting deeper and deeper, super teams are prepped to snatch the spotlight, and more games will be available for WNBA fans everywhere to tune in to see their favorite players ball out.
While the Chicago Sky might not have the roster they had a year ago, they will be making history one way or another this season. The Sky will take on the Minnesota Lynx in the first-ever WNBA matchup in Canada on Saturday, May 13. The preseason game will be held at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
This season will mark the first without Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles willing their teams to a WNBA championship, but sadly we all knew this was coming sooner than later. Plus, Maya Moore just made it official she’s not coming back to grace us with her basketball presence. She’s got more important battles to fight and continue fighting.
WNBA fans are everywhere, folks: Anyone else counting down the days until May 19, or is that just me? According to those viewership stats, I’m pretty sure I’m in good company.
Tags mentioned:Basketball Legacy Women's sports