Home-Court Advantage? WNBA Teams Still Booted from Arenas During Playoffs

Home-Court Advantage? WNBA Teams Still Booted from Arenas During Playoffs

By Tamryn Spruill Every year, a WNBA team or two loses its home arena during the playoffs: the time of year a team needs familiarity and consistency most. This season, the No. 5 Phoenix Mercury will play their first-round single-elimination game against the No. 8 New York Liberty at Grand Canyon University (GCU) Arena because of what the team is calling a "scheduling conflict" at the team's home arena. But WNBA teams getting booted from their home courts is nothing new. A university arena is not the same as a professional one, especially for the Mercury, who pride themselves on the facilities they’ve installed for the team’s myriad working mothers. GCU is only a 20-minute drive from the Mercury’s usual home court, at the Footprint Center, so their X-Factor fan base is likely to turn out in droves. But close proximity to a substitute arena isn’t always the case. In 2018, the Washington Mystics were booted from Capital One Arena and forced to play three playoff games at Charles E....

Announcing ‘The W25’ and Determining the WNBA’s All-time GOAT

Announcing ‘The W25’ and Determining the WNBA’s All-time GOAT

By Tamryn Spruill In celebrating the WNBA's 25th season, the league on Sunday (Sept. 5) revealed during halftime of the hotly-awaited matchup between the Las Vegas Aces and the Chicago Sky (ABC) "The W25" -- or the 25 best players in the league's storied history. The depths of talent across the league's quarter-century history made choosing the top 25 players a difficult task. To make it easier, the league compiled a list of athletes who played at least two seasons in the WNBA and met at least four of seven criteria. From that list of 72 candidates, the WNBA employed the help of voters from the world of women's hoops, including players and media members, who were instructed to shave the list to 25. The league tallied the numbers on the Official "W25" Ballot to reveal the top 25 players in league history. Tamika Catchings, the WNBA's all-time leader in steals (with no former or current player in the stratosphere of her 1,074 steals) and vice president/general manager of the Indiana...

More Trash Graphics in a WNBA Broadcast

More Trash Graphics in a WNBA Broadcast

By Tamryn Spruill Accurately naming the two teams playing against each other is as basic as it gets in terms of duties related to televising a basketball game. When it comes to coverage of the WNBA, however, the task apparently isn't so simple. On Sunday, a screen-sized graphic advertised a nonexistent contest between the Las Vegas Aces and the Indiana Fever. The Aces were hosting the Washington Mystics, not the Fever. Olympic gold medalists A'ja Wilson and Chelsea Gray (of the USA Basketball 5x5 team) and Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young (of the USA Basketball 3x3 team) reunited with Liz Cambage, Riquna Williams and the Aces' other difference-makers to force an 84-83 come-from-behind win. But, sadly, no matter what great things happen on the court, pedestrian mistakes such as listing the incorrect team on a graphic, mispronouncing players' names or bungling graphics featuring starting lineups are gallingly common in coverage of the WNBA. Multiple times during the 2021 season, starting...

Layshia Clarendon Leads the Fight in the War Being Waged on Transgender Americans

Layshia Clarendon Leads the Fight in the War Being Waged on Transgender Americans

By Evan Cooper Emerging as a force to be reckoned with against gender identity discrimination, Layshia Clarendon, the WNBA’s first openly trans and non-binary player, is “at the forefront of the league’s groundbreaking social justice efforts and is tasked with engaging community conversations, advocacy and education on important topics surrounding social justice.” For all of their grassroots efforts in challenging policy and culture around gender in sports, Clarendon has been nominated for the Muhammad Ali Sports Humanitarian Award. Yet, in the same breath that we celebrate the joy of gender euphoria for countless people challenging the gender binary, we must band together and fight the intentional harms caused to our transgender, non-binary and gender non-conforming siblings.  There is no federal law that classifies transgender people as a protected class, requiring protections from very real discrimination and the dangers it provokes. We are left to our own resources to maneuver...

Black Women in the WNBA Know No Bounds When It Comes to Pursuing Financial Wellness

Black Women in the WNBA Know No Bounds When It Comes to Pursuing Financial Wellness

By Evan Cooper Like many exceptional Black women, Candace Parker has her hands in many pots. Most recently, she sat down with Trevor Noah for a virtual discussion of her many endeavors, including her latest: “Moments with Candace Parker,” a parenting-focused podcast. But Parker is not alone.  Many WNBA players opt to pursue an array of entrepreneurial endeavors in addition to being full-time athletes performing at the highest level. Renee Montgomery easily transitioned into sports broadcasting during her career; after retiring, she bought an ownership stake in the Atlanta Dream and is now the team’s vice president.  The Los Angeles Sparks’ Chiney Ogwumike is the first Black woman and WNBA player to host a nationally broadcasted ESPN radio show, and she produced the critically acclaimed “144,” a documentary that follows the WNBA’s 2020 bubble season that took place during a global pandemic and a national reckoning on racism and police violence. Two-time Olympic gold medalist Angel...

Any Expansion Should Be by Measured Approach, WNBA History Reveals

Any Expansion Should Be by Measured Approach, WNBA History Reveals

By Tamryn Spruill On this day in WNBA history (June 7, 1999), the league announced its decision to expand the league to 16 teams for the 2000 season, adding the Indiana Fever, the Portland Fire, the Miami Sol and the Seattle Storm. The addition of the four teams exceeded the more modest expansion in 1998, which brought the Detroit Shock and the Washington Mystics into the league, and 1999, which added the Minnesota Lynx and the Orlando Miracle. Of the four teams added in 2000, only the Fever and Storm exist, but the conundrum of WNBA teams going defunct is not limited to those that came after the original eight.   A review of the teams that have come and gone in the WNBA's 25-year history underscores the point. Of the WNBA's original eight teams, just three remain active today. And a total of eight teams that once existed no longer do. Active teams are presented in bold italics. 1997 WNBA teams EASTERN CONFERENCE  Charlotte Sting (1997-2007) Cleveland Rockers (1997-2003) Houston...

Seimone Augustus Deserved the Honor of Retiring a Lynx

Seimone Augustus Deserved the Honor of Retiring a Lynx

“Minnesota knows that they have a piece of my heart,” Seimone Augustus said, a tapestry featuring the logo of the Los Angeles Sparks undulating gently behind her. It was late into last week’s retirement press conference when a question by Charles Hallman, a longtime reporter for the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, brought her to tears. Six days before, Augustus -- the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 draft, a four-time champion with the Minnesota Lynx, an eight-time All-Star and top-10 all-time WNBA scorer -- announced her retirement, for reasons familiar to any athlete lucky enough to experience career longevity: the body. To prepare for training camp in her second season in L.A., Augustus worked with a trainer on cardio and conditioning. Asked to run 48 sprints, the Baton Rouge, La. native obliged, but not because it was easy. “My ego got me through the 48 sprints,” Augustus said. “But then when I got to my car, I couldn’t even crank my car because I was just, like, exhausted. I was...

Jennifer Rizzotti’s Journey from the Blizzard of New England to the Mohegan Tribe’s Sun

Jennifer Rizzotti’s Journey from the Blizzard of New England to the Mohegan Tribe’s Sun

By Tamryn Spruill Jennifer Rizzotti, currently an assistant coach with the USA Basketball women's Olympic team, is celebrated for her accomplishments at all levels of the game. last week, she added another esteemed role to her already-impressive resume: president of the Connecticut Sun. But Rizzotti's climb in pro hoops to top decision-maker of the Mohegan Tribe-owned Sun had chillier beginnings, in New England. Rizzotti graduated from the University of Connecticut with career averages of 11.4 points, 4.7 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 2.6 steals per game. As a junior, she helped the Huskies to a perfect 35-0 season en route to a national championship. As a senior in 1995-96, Rizzotti collected the best and biggest individual honors: AP National Player of the Year, Wade Trophy and Naismith Award. But Rizzotti did not get her professional playing start in the WNBA; the league did not exist yet. The NBA announced its plans to form a professional basketball league for women in April 1996,...

Rick Welts Career Retrospectives Omit the WNBA from His Resume

Rick Welts Career Retrospectives Omit the WNBA from His Resume

By Tamryn Spruill When long-time sports executive Rick Welts announced his decision last week to step down as president and chief operating officer of the Golden State Warriors, media entities were quick to publish retrospectives of his illustrious career. And they appropriately praised his efforts to foster inclusion of LGBTQ+ individuals by coming out as gay and being visible in a powerful position in the world of sports, with one of the most successful NBA franchises of the last decade, no less. His work in the late-90s to help launch the WNBA? Never mentioned, at least not by ESPN's The Undefeated. The Associated Press, meanwhile, went so far as to mention Welts' humble beginnings 46 years ago as a locker room attendant for the Seattle SuperSonics. No harsh feelings toward the writers or media outlets that omitted Welts' contributions to the WNBA's early success, but it is unacceptable that his award-winning efforts were not deemed important enough to write about. We resoundingly...

A’ja Wilson’s Self-mastery Defies Expectations Placed on Black Women and Professional Athletes

A’ja Wilson’s Self-mastery Defies Expectations Placed on Black Women and Professional Athletes

By Evan Cooper Curating a support system that holds her accountable and practicing self-discipline on and off the court, A’ja Wilson, the WNBA’s Most Valuable Player in 2020, is wise beyond her years and hungry to better herself and those around her. Before being selected as the No. 1 overall pick by the Las Vegas Aces in the 2018 WNBA Draft, Wilson blazed trails so wide at the University of South Carolina that a statue to honor her legacy was erected in January outside of Colonial Life Arena, where the Gamecocks play. In a recent sit-down interview with CBS News, Wilson discussed the great respect she has for her community, absorbing knowledge from WNBA trailblazers, understanding the value of collective effort (both professionally and politically) and investing in the younger generation. She knows the value of representation, as much as she did when she was a kid, and respects her role as an increasingly visible public figure. But her journey of self-mastery defies many of the...

An Exclusive Look into the WNBA’s 25th Anniversary Season

An Exclusive Look into the WNBA’s 25th Anniversary Season

By Tamryn Spruill We have a high level of competition, players emerge as stars, we build household names and we build these rivalries. That’s how WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert will measure success of the league’s 25th-anniversary season. Expected to tip off in mid-May, plans for the 2021 WNBA season signal an edging toward normalcy -- as much as health-and-safety protocols and vaccination rollout will allow. "Success, number one, is that we have a healthy season for our players, staff and fans,” Engelbert says during a phone call on Friday. “Number two is that we elevate the WNBA and the value of these professional working athletes in society.” The players' value, as the 2020 season of pandemic and social justice protest attests, is of leadership and transformation. A fight for justice for Breonna Taylor’s family in collaboration with the #SayHerName campaign branched into a fight against Kelly Loeffler’s bid for reelection in the Georgia Senate race. The "Vote Warnock" shirts...

The Unforgiveable Sins of Kelly Loeffler

The Unforgiveable Sins of Kelly Loeffler

By Tamryn Spruill Kelly Loeffler was a businesswoman and WNBA team co-owner first. She became a politician second, by appointment to the U.S. Senate for the state of Georgia. Her opposition to the league backing the players' dedication of the 2020 season to social justice was viewed widely as a political stunt to appeal to her voting base. The players, while supporting the #SayHerName campaign and seeking justice for Breonna Taylor, kicked Loeffler where it counts -- right in the middle of her political ambitions. By supporting her rival, Rev. Raphael Warnock, the players gave Warnock's campaign a boost that helped him win enough votes in November to force a runoff election, which he won in historic fashion on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, becoming the first Black person to represent Georgia as a senator. Now that Loeffler has been voted out of the Senate seat she was never voted into in the first place, does this mean she returns to WNBA ownership as if nothing ever happened? Unlikely, if...