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Things we loved about the WNBA All-Star Game

Arike Ogunbowale won the All-Star Game MVP award after leading all scorers with 26 points. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

The WNBA All-Star Game had a little bit of everything. From the pregame introductions (“Leading the league in drip … Courtney Williams!”) to Arike Ogunbowale icing the game for Team WNBA with 26 points, Wednesday night in Las Vegas was made for primetime.

Liz Cambage didn’t play because of a minor injury suffered in practice with the Australian national team. So, the four-time All-Star took the game in like the rest of us, with a bag of popcorn and a smirk.

Rebecca Lobo and Holly Rowe each picked Team USA to win the pregame show. So did most other women’s basketball pundits (not ours!). But Team WNBA was full of the best players in the league, too, and they showed why in a 93-85 win over a United States team going for its seventh gold medal in Tokyo later this month.

Don’t call it a revenge game for Team USA “snubs”

On Tuesday, Arike Ogunbowale said she wasn’t trying to prove anything in the All-Star Game.

“We proved what we had to to get to the All-Star Game,” she said. “I’m just looking at it as a regular All-Star Game.”

The 2020 WNBA scoring champion then treated it like anything but, leading all scorers with 26 points on 10-for-18 shooting from the field and 5-for-10 from 3-point range. Ogunbowale’s performance earned her the MVP Award in her first All-Star Game appearance.

Ogunbowale wasn’t named to this year’s U.S. Olympic roster despite being in the player pool and attending multiple training camps. She wouldn’t say afterward whether she was out for revenge, but her performance did all of the necessary talking.

Jonquel Jones added her two cents about Ogunbowale’s future with Team USA, as well. “She’s young,” Jones said. “She’s gonna have her opportunity.”

Defense? Defense!

Some All-Stars played it down in the days leading up to the game, but it was clear Team WNBA wasn’t taking the opportunity against Team USA lightly. They had a chance to make history in the first official All-Star Game played during an Olympic year, and coach Lisa Leslie made sure to remind them of the stakes in the huddle.

“It was a different mentality,” Courtney Vandersloot said after the game. “It was an opportunity for us to compete against some of the best players in the world, so we didn’t really take it like an All-Star Game either. We were out there competing, we were trying to win the game.”

The WNBA All-Stars finished with more rebounds and steals than Team USA. A Candace Parker strip of Brittney Griner in the first half set the tone. Then, late steals and a Courtney Williams block on A’ja Wilson with 1:17 to play helped seal the win.

Leslie told her team that the key to beating Team USA was to create more possessions by out-rebounding them. At one point, ESPN caught Leslie on the mic yelling in the huddle, “Rebound on 3!” It wasn’t your typical directive for an All-Star Game, but the game plan and execution paid off for Team WNBA.

Allie Quigley vs. Jonquel Jones

The best drama of the night might have come at halftime.

Jonquel Jones, a 6-foot-6 center/forward for the Connecticut Sun, was the obvious dark-horse candidate in the 3-point shooting contest based on position. But if you’ve watched her boldly knock down step-back 3s during an MVP-level first half of the season, you knew she would put up a fight.

Standing in her way was Allie Quigley, for whom this competition is practically named after she won it previously in 2017 and 2018.

Quigley barely edged Jones in the first round, scoring 28 points to Jones’ 27. The Sky guard started off slowly in the championship round before hitting nine of her last 10 shots to defeat Jones 28-24.

Quigley, the only three-time winner of the event in WNBA history, confirmed after the game she doesn’t plan on participating in the contest again.

“I told myself before, this is the last time I’m doing this so I’ve gotta go out on top,” she said.

Maybe her wife can convince her otherwise.

The live tweets

Who needs live TV commentary when you have athletes and Twitter?

Several players pulled double duty Wednesday night, competing on the court and narrating the game from the sideline. Arike Ogunbowale was the MVP in more ways than one.

Yes, we’ll take more where that came from, please.

The last word of All-Star week goes to Candace Parker, the first woman to appear on the cover of NBA 2K, who talked about the importance of events like this for the growth of the sport. The All-Star Game aired on ESPN before Game 4 of the NBA Finals, giving the WNBA a chance to capture new fans who were tuning in.

“This was a great move. This was a great step forward for our league, because there are a lot of fans that support us and we’ve got to continue to grow,” Parker said. “I want my daughter, I want Dearica (Hamby)’s daughter to have the opportunity to play in a league like this.”

New Washington Spirit Head Coach Jonatan Giráldez Arrivin DC

head coach Jonatan Giráldez
Jonatan Giráldez joins the NWSL from FC Barcelona Femení. (Ramsey Cardy/UEFA via Getty Images)

Five months after announcing that the Washington Spirit had hired Barcelona Femení coach Jonatan Giráldez as the team's new head coach, Giráldez has joined the club in Washington, DC.

Giráldez is coming off of a successful season with the Spanish side, having won UEFA Women's Champions League, Copa de la Reina, Supercopa, and Liga F in his final season to complete a lauded Quadruple.

While Giráldez was finishing out his tenure in Europe, Adrián González filled in as Spirit interim head coach. González has also seen success, leading the team to its third-place standing with a 9-3-1 record through 13 games.

“I’m thrilled to join the Spirit and begin this next chapter with the club,” Giráldez said in an official team statement. “To be part of the vision Michele Kang has for the Spirit and women’s soccer globally is an exciting opportunity.”

Giráldez has worked at Barcelona since 2019, initially coming on as an assistant coach before moving up to head coach in 2021. The team went 30-0-0 on the season under Giráldez during his first year as manager.

He brings along with him Andrés González and Toni Gordo, who will serve as the Spirit's Fitness Coach and Club Analyst, respectively.

US Track & Field Olympic Trials Touch Down in Oregon

Sha’Carri Richardson competes in the women’s 200-meter preliminary round during the USATF Outdoor Championships
Sha’Carri Richardson will have some competition this week as athletes vie for an Olympic berth. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The US Olympic Track & Field Trials begin on June 21st, kicking off a 10-day quest to determine who will represent the US in Paris this summer.

The crucial meet will take place in Eugene, Oregon, where the top three finishers in each event will punch their ticket to the 2024 Olympics. As with this past week's US Swimming Trials, even the most decorated athletes must work to earn their spot — and one bad performance could undermine four years of preparation.

Reigning 100-meter World Champion Sha'Carri Richardson headlines this year's field, as the 24-year-old looks to qualify for her second Olympic Games and compete in her first. Richardson is a world champion in both the 100-meter and 200-meter sprint, but missed the Tokyo Olympics due to testing positive for THC shortly after the last US Olympic Trials.

Other standouts include 400-meter Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, who's currently the most decorated athlete in the active women's US Track & Field pool. McLaughlin-Levrone qualified to run in the 200-meter and 400-meter flat races alongside the 400-meter hurdles at the Olympic Trials, but opted to focus solely on her signature event.

800-meter specialist Athing Mu will also be a huge draw this week, as the Olympic gold medalist looks to shake off a lingering hamstring injury while pursuing her second Summer Games. Gold medal-winning pole vaulter Katie Moon will also attempt to qualify for her second-straight Olympic Games.

Ole Miss star McKenzie Long could be Richardson's greatest competition in the 100-meter and 200-meter events, as well as Richardson's Worlds teammate Gabby Thomas in the 200-meter. In field events, watch for Oregon senior Jaida Ross going head-to-head with reigning world champion Chase Jackson in the shot put, as both push for their first Olympic team berth.

Regardless of why you tune in, the US Olympic Trials are a perpetually thrilling and sometimes brutal qualification process. If you're able to make your way to the head of the pack, a shot at Olympic glory might just be waiting at the finish line.

Fans can catch live coverage throughout the Trials via NBC, USA, and Peacock.

Top Teams Square Off in NWSL Weekend Slate

NWSL Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda
Orlando Pride, led by forward Barbra Banda, will take on Utah in this weekend's NWSL action. (Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

As the NWSL season continues, a few top-performing clubs will have a chance to boost their standings this weekend.

First-place Kansas City will travel to Providence Park to take on fifth-place Portland, as the Current look to keep their unbeaten streak intact. And in New Jersey, third-place Washington will take on fourth-place Gotham FC, with both teams attempting to extend multi-game unbeaten streaks.

A six-point gap has opened between the fifth and sixth spot on the NWSL table — with just six points also separating the league's top five. Kansas City, Orlando, Washington, Gotham, and Portland have recently proven themselves to be a cut above the rest of the competition. With eight postseason spots up for grabs and half the season behind us, a pattern is forming that indicates the playoff race could come down to spots six through eight on the NWSL table.

Of those top five teams, only Orlando faces an opponent in the bottom half of the league this weekend: The Pride will take on 14th-place Utah, who nonetheless are coming off a win — just their second of the season — over Bay FC last weekend.

But despite Kansas City and Orlando having yet to lose a game, Gotham might be the squad coming into the weekend with the most momentum.

Clutch goals from Rose Lavelle and rookie Maycee Bell gave the Bats a 2-0 midweek win over San Diego on Wednesday, in a rematch of the 2024 Challenge Cup. Gotham's unbeaten streak dates all the way back to April, as rising availability and sharpened form have honed this year's superteam into a contender.

Bottom line? As the NWSL season passes the halfway mark, some matches might begin to feel more like playoff previews than mere regular season battles.

Chelsea Gray Returns From Injury in Aces Win Over Seattle

las vegas aces chelsea gray and kelsey plum celebrate a win over the seattle storm
Gray has been sidelined with a foot injury since the 2023 WNBA Finals. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Chelsea Gray made her return to the basketball court on Wednesday, helping the Aces to a 94-83 win over the Seattle Storm. 

The lauded point guard missed the first 12 games of the season, having been injured in last year’s WNBA Finals. The left foot injury caused her to miss Game 4 of the championship series, and she’s continued to rehab it through the beginning of the 2024 season. 

Her return on Wednesday was capitalized by the fact that she needed just 20 seconds to make an impact and record her first assist. While she finished with just one point, she had seven assists, four rebounds, and two blocks to go alongside it in 15:30 minutes. Gray's contributions on the night brought her career assist record up to 1,500.

"I probably went through every emotion leading up to today," Gray said after the game. "I was a little anxious all day. It's been a long time since I've been out on that court. But the fans were amazing from the time I came out to warm up to the time I checked in the game. It was a rush and a feeling I missed a lot."

It’s been a roller coaster of a season so far for Las Vegas, who have lost five of their last seven games. Gray, who averaged 15.3 points, 7.3 assists, and 4.0 rebounds in 2023, has proven herself a much-needed addition to the team’s lineup.

"Felt like my heart," Aces coach Becky Hammon said when asked how she felt hearing the crowd erupt for Gray's return. "She's the leader of our team. I thought she did a wonderful job too."

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