Instead of asking for a bunch of knick-knacks or things I don’t really need this holiday season, I decided to make a WNBA wish list. I’m not asking for much — just a few additions here and there that I think will help grow the league, reward fans and improve the overall experience of the season.
The league made significant progress in 2021 and has a lot of momentum on which to build. So, I put together some reasonable requests for the 2022 season. I only hope the jolly guy in the red suit delivers.
The orange hoodie has become the trademark merchandise item of the WNBA. It’s bright, comfortable and fashionable. Everyone from WNBA and NBA players, to celebrities and musicians, have been spotted wearing the sweatshirt, and it even won an award in 2020 for Best Fashion Statement of the Year.
It’s the league’s best-selling product, so why not keep the hype going with a revamped hoodie? Keep selling the classic orange, of course, but also offer it in the signature colors of WNBA teams, like Chicago Sky blue, New York Liberty seafoam, Phoenix Mercury purple, Las Vegas Aces gold, Seattle Storm green and more. How fun (and profitable) would that be?
Drake repping the now famous orange WNBA hoodie on his Instagram. The orange hoodie is the best-selling WNBA item ever, according to Fanatics. pic.twitter.com/iLaNvYaltt— Front Office Sports (@FOS) June 8, 2021
Drake repping the now famous orange WNBA hoodie on his Instagram. The orange hoodie is the best-selling WNBA item ever, according to Fanatics. pic.twitter.com/iLaNvYaltt
When the WNBA announced its 2022 schedule, teams around the league shared the news on social media. The Storm got people talking when they posted their game schedule on Twitter with a graphic featuring a photo of Sue Bird. A free agent, Bird hasn’t confirmed whether she’ll return to the court next season, but she also hasn’t closed the door. If Bird were to announce this coming season as her last, the league could plan the farewell tour she deserves and fans would have the opportunity to say a proper goodbye.
The WNBA All-Star Game debuted in 1999 and has been held in a handful of cities since then, but over the years, many of the locations have been repeats. Las Vegas, for example, has hosted the past two All-Star Games in 2019 and 2021. Availability, access and facilities all factor into the decision of which city gets to host the festivities, but it would be gratifying if the WNBA expanded its horizons and gave WNBA fans in other cities a chance to experience All-Star Weekend in their hometowns. Chicago has never hosted; neither has Los Angeles, Dallas, Atlanta or Indiana. Let’s spread the love around.
The last time the WNBA expanded was in 2009, when the Atlanta Dream entered the fold. For over a decade, the league has been content to roll with 12 teams. But for the past few years, the calls for expansion have been growing from basketball fans all over the country. And signs point to it happening sooner rather than later.
Former WNBA player Alana Beard headed up a group of investors, including the African American Sports and Entertainment Group, to bring a WNBA team to Oakland, Calif. Rapper and Toronto Raptors ambassador Drake even weighed in on the matter, telling the WNBA on Instagram that he “[needs] a Toronto team.” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert has said since the start of last season that if the league were successful in 2021, expansion talks would take place. Viewership numbers for the 2021 regular season were up nearly 50 percent. I’d say that’s a success.
Nothing is worse than watching a competitive, down-to-the-wire WNBA game end in a buzzer-beater win, only to have the broadcast cut to an irrelevant segment seconds later. No postgame interviews, no game breakdowns, no analysis or final thoughts — just a quick “see you later” and move on. I think legitimate postgame (and pregame) coverage in the WNBA, especially for the playoffs, is long overdue. With overall viewership numbers on an upswing, there’s clearly an appetite for it. The more television networks expand their WNBA coverage and introduce the storylines around these players and teams to fans, the more the league will continue to grow.
While we’re on the topic of additional coverage, let’s get crazy. Rather than catch a WNBA highlight here or there on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” or daily NBA Show, I’d love to hear WNBA-focused analysts talk about the league on a regular basis. Maybe something like “Inside the WNBA” or “WNBA Talk,” full of game highlights, player interviews, hot takes and game-day fits — the possibilities for conversation topics are endless in a league brimming with intrigue. And between former players and current WNBA analysts and personalities, there is no shortage of possible hosts to guide the discussions and share their insights.
There is a lot to love about WNBA League Pass. It’s easily accessible on any device, it’s incredibly affordable and it allows fans to watch games on demand, pause and rewind in the moment and view real-time stats. But it is not without its faults. Not every live game, for example, is available to consumers. Depending on where you live, some games are blacked out, and the app will sometimes glitch in the middle of a game, logging users out without any explanation. League Pass is a valuable resource for WNBA fans and media alike. I would love to see the WNBA invest in improving the quality of the experience.
I was casually watching a kids’ sitcom with my 9-year-old when Candace Parker appeared on screen in a guest starring role. It was great to see, and the next time I mentioned Parker’s name out loud in the presence of my daughter, she knew exactly who I was talking about. This is why beyond-the-court exposure of WNBA athletes is so important, especially for upcoming generations. I’d love to see more players make appearances on talk shows, sitcoms, commercials, podcasts, radio segments and more. In fact, a WNBA player has never hosted “Saturday Night Live.” Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Candace Parker or Liz Cambage would be naturals.
As part of the WNBA’s 25th anniversary celebration last season, the Las Vegas Aces honored former players throughout the franchise’s history as the Utah Starzz and the San Antonio Silver Stars. It was a way to celebrate and highlight players who had a significant impact on the franchise and the league. The WNBA would not be where it is today without those who paved the way for the longest-running professional women’s sports league in the country. Individual teams, and the league itself, should honor its past in some form every season.
With all of the growth the WNBA has undergone in the past five years, between the talent level on the floor to the recognition off of it, a little respect from the rest of the sports world would be nice. From a continued lack of recognition in mainstream media to dealing with swarms of Twitter trolls, the WNBA and its players are still fighting for the respect they deserve. They shouldn’t have to. Not in 2022, and not ever.
Lyndsey D’Arcangelo is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports, covering the WNBA. She also contributes to The Athletic and is the co-author of Hail Mary: The Rise and Fall of the National Women’s Football League. Follow Lyndsey on Twitter @darcangel21.