The WNBA is the league that was supposed to transcend women’s team sports forever, but instead it’s become more of a joke than anything else. In 1996, the NBA announced that they would support and finance the creation of the WNBA with the slogan, “We Got Next.” This press conference looked really promising for the league as many people were very excited, but things never really happened the way they hoped or believed it would, as everything that could go wrong did in the WNBA.
Three players that planned on entering the league as its marquee stars were at the press conference: Lisa Leslie, Rebecca Lobo, Sheryl Swoopes. In 1997, in the league’s first season its stars from the “We Got Next” campaign were far from stars for the most part; Swoopes barely played due to being pregnant, Leslie played poorly and was quickly dubbed overrated, while Lobo was about to lead her team to the WNBA finals to lose to the Swoopes’ Houston Comets team.
That Houston Comets team featured a player who was signed to that Houston team because of her 10 years of experience playing basketball professionally and that player was Cynthia Cooper. Cooper became an instant star and led the Comets to 4 straight championships, as she was the Finals MVP in each one of those championship runs.
Even with the résumé to be one the best players in the league, this would be a constant trend some players would be overlooked regardless of how good they seem to be only to enter the league and take over. This coming season in the WNBA may be even more unpredictable, which should leave for possibly the most unpredictable year the league has seen since its initial season.
What’s to watch for in the 2013 season in the WNBA? Well for one, let’s not forget about the #1 overall pick in the WNBA draft, Brittney Griner. Griner already made a big splash in the league by announcing that she was a lesbian and she should make even more news when she steps on the hardwood for the first time. She is widely considered the best women’s college basketball player that we have seen in years and she is already been hyped to be the player that will rule the WNBA. Griner will be playing with two amazing players in Diana Taurasi and Candice Dupree, after going 7-27 last season, this team will definitely be .500 this season with a good shot at the playoffs.
Elena Delle Donne is thought to take over the scoring role from Epiphanny Prince who scored 18 points a game for the Chicago Sky last season. Elena has the ability to score inside and out and has a chance at being the first player to ever score 30 points a game in the WNBA and is a sleeper to win the rookie of the year over Brittney Griner. Last season Chicago missed the playoffs by one game, so this season with the addition of Delle Donne most people expect the Sky to contend for a WNBA championship with Prince and Sylvia Fowles pacing the rest of the points, as well as Swin Cash there to provide true veteran leadership.
This season it looks like the Indiana Fever are set to try to repeat as champions with Tamika Catchings set to lead them back to the promise land, while Minnesota will try to make it to their third straight visit to the WNBA Finals. Maya Moore and Seimone Augustus are looking to avenge the disappointment the Lynx felt last year losing in the WNBA Finals.
Many people expect Cappie Pondexter to light it up again as she led the league in scoring last season, scoring 20.4 points per game, but she might have some competition thanks to two promising rookies. Candace Parker and the 2012 Rookie of the Year, Nneka Ogwumike, hope that after a good season last year that they can get over the hump and get the LA Sparks to the WNBA Finals. This season the storylines seem endless, as they truly might make for the most exciting season since its first season.
But the real question is who’s even going to be watching all this great basketball? In the last three years, only two teams have averaged more than 10,000 people in attendance a game — which it terrible, as most of the buildings that WNBA teams play in are NBA arenas. This lack of attendance is leading to an average of $1.5 million in losses for most teams in the league, as the WNBA has been able to support itself since its inception. As for TV coverage, the WNBA lacks there as well, as every team in the league plays 33 games a season and in recent history only an average of 14 games a year are nationally televised with only about 300,000 viewers a game watching at home.
The WNBA has a ton of amazing basketball players, but in all honesty even with the sponsors that they have brought in to help them keep the league going and support from the NBA, the WNBA can only last for so much longer. The worst part is the competition in the WNBA is getting better, but it seems like every year fewer and fewer people attend games and watch games on TV at home, which will lead to a very soon death for the league.
Where will the young players in the WNBA play if the league folds? Overseas? There probably are about 500 people in the U.S. who follow women’s professional basketball in other countries and they all either are ex-players, family members of players, or players waiting for their chance at playing, so if the WNBA folds all we will really have is women’s college basketball.
Women’s college basketball is great, but when those four years are up we won’t be able to see these players take their game to the next level. This looks to be a great year in the WNBA and most basketball lovers are actually excited for it, but again the question still remains. Who’s going to watch?