A number of women’s sports stars have made this year’s Forbes “30 Under 30” list, including Sophia Smith and Angel Reese.

Forbes features 30 people who are changing the game in sports, including Smith, who helped lead the U.S. women’s national team in the 2023 World Cup. Despite a disappointing finish at the tournament, the 23-year-old forward represents the future of the national team, and she also won the NWSL Golden Boot with 11 goals for the Portland Thorns.

Reese led the LSU basketball team to its first national title in April 2023. The Most Outstanding Player of the 2023 Final Four, the 21-year-old’s national profile skyrocketed, and she has endorsement deals with Reebok, Coach and more. While Reese is off to a rocky start to the new season, including an unexplained four-game absence, she remains among the biggest stars in the college game.

Other honorees from the world of women’s sports include:

  • Napheesa Collier, 27, Minnesota Lynx forward
  • Jessica Pegula, 29, tennis player
  • Kate Douglass, 22, Team USA swimmer
  • Sha’Carri Richardson, Team USA sprinter
  • Olivia Dunne, 21, LSU gymnast
  • Diana Flores, 26, flag football quarterback
  • Maddie Musselman, 25, Team USA water polo player

Several more names included on the list come from the business side of women’s sports, including Robyn Brown, who is the senior manager of brand and content strategy for the Phoenix Mercury, and Natalie White, who founded women’s basketball shoe brand Moolah Kicks.

Nate Tibbetts is set to become the highest-paid coach in WNBA history with the Phoenix Mercury, which prompted one WNBA star to call out the pay discrepancies between players and coaches.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad coaches are getting paid,” Minnesota Lynx forward Napheesa Collier wrote on social media. “But it’s kinda crazy they’re making 4 times more than the highest paid players.”

For the 2023 season, Indiana Fever guard Erica Wheeler was the highest-paid player in the league, with a salary of $242,154. In 2024, a trio of players are set to lead the league with salaries of $241,984: Dallas Wings guard Arike Ogunbowale, Seattle Storm guard Jewell Loyd and Chicago Sky guard Kahleah Copper.

Collier had a salary of $202,154 for the 2023 season. The average salary for WNBA players in the 2022 season stood at $102,751.

Las Vegas Aces head coach Becky Hammon, who was the highest-paid coach in the WNBA before Tibbetts, reportedly earns $1 million per season. While the exact terms of the deal have not been reported, he is set to outearn Hammon, ESPN reported Monday.

Collier is not the first player who has called out salary issues in the WNBA. Las Vegas Aces guard Kelsey Plum pointed out the pay gap with the NBA after the 2022 season, saying: “We’re not asking to get paid what the men get paid. We’re asking to get paid the same percentage of revenue shared.”

At the end of last season, Napheesa Collier was in Uncasville, Conn., trying to help the Lynx secure a playoff spot. She had given birth to her daughter, Mila, less than three months prior.

There were no expectations for Collier to be back on the court. Even she knew it was a little bit crazy. But Collier wasn’t doing it for herself — she was doing it for Sylvia Fowles, who was playing in her last regular season game before retirement. Collier wanted to be there for the teammate who had been there for so much of her early career.

So, on Aug. 14, 2022, Collier played in her fourth and final game of the season. She had given birth on May 25, and tiny Mila was in attendance in the arms of Collier’s mom, as visual proof of just how quickly she returned to the court.

That game marked the start of a new chapter for Collier in a lot of ways. The Lynx lost and didn’t make the playoffs, but it was still a special moment. They celebrated Fowles, a two-time WNBA champion and one of the foundational players of the Lynx’s dynasty of the past decade, and she passed the baton onto Collier. The new face of the Minnesota Lynx.

A year and a month later, Collier was back in Connecticut, sitting on the podium addressing media members after her team’s 90-60 blowout loss in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series against the Sun. Unlike when she returned to play with Fowles, there were expectations. A lot of them.

But Collier was ready for those expectations the moment she assumed her role as Minnesota’s veteran leader. This season, after the Lynx started 0-6, they battled their way to the playoffs, largely thanks to Collier, who enjoyed a career-best season while averaging 21.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game. On Sunday, Collier helped the Lynx stave off elimination with an 82-75 win over the No. 3 Sun, before falling in the deciding game in Minnesota on Wednesday night, 90-75.

“I knew that Phee was going to be pivotal to our ability to find success, and maybe in a season that people didn’t necessarily think that we could find success,” coach Cheryl Reeve said. “She’s probably exceeded the expectations.”

And with expectations comes accountability.

Last week, Collier answered questions, dejected but determined. In the locker room, following a loss in which Collier recorded 14 points, six rebounds and two blocks, Reeve said her 26-year-old star was the most upset out of anyone.

“I’m disappointed in myself, obviously not how I want to come out for our first playoff game,” Collier said. “So I just have to learn from it and do better next game. That’s the beauty about a series is that we get another crack at it.”

It’s not that Collier didn’t have the ability to answer questions like that before. In fact, Reeve named her a captain during her second season in the WNBA. But there was always someone with more experience and, in turn, more accolades that the team would look to when things got tough. During her first season, it was Seimone Augustus; for every year after that, it was Fowles. Now and into the future, it’s Collier’s responsibility.

In Games 2 and 3 of the series against Connecticut, Collier answered her own charge, doing everything she could to try to force the upset. On Wednesday night, she set a new playoff career mark with 31 points on 11-for-19 shooting despite being double- and sometimes triple-teamed. After the game, Sun coach Stephanie White said Collier would be a WNBA MVP one day, and Reeve praised the forward for putting “the team on her back repeatedly this season.”

“(Reeve) saw me as our next franchise player, which obviously I’m so honored to be that,” Collier said. “They were trying to prepare me early for that role and putting me in positions to grow as a leader.”

Minnesota’s No. 2 draft pick, rookie Diamond Miller, was in a similar position this year. Playing in her first WNBA playoffs, the rookie said she sought advice from Collier before taking on Connecticut in Game 1 last week.

Miller played in plenty of postseason games at Maryland, but the WNBA playoffs, Collier told her, are a whole different level of basketball. She encouraged Miller to enjoy the moment and not let it get too big.

Collier tried to create a locker room culture like the one she came into as a rookie, averaging 13.1 points and 6.6 rebounds per game on her way to being named 2019 Rookie of the Year. One where players like Miller and Minnesota’s other rookie, Dorka Juhász, felt comfortable.

“I’ve just tried to tell them that not everything is a life-or-death situation, because as rookies, I feel like they can’t put it into perspective,” Collier said. “You have a bad game, but that doesn’t mean you’re a bad player.”

Her Rookie of the Year season was just four seasons ago, but for Collier, it feels like much longer. At that point, she was fresh out of college, in a lot of ways feeling like a kid herself. This year, she was packing a diaper bag between games for her 1-year-old daughter.

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Collier attends a Lynx game last year with husband Alex Bazzell and daughter Mila after giving birth. (Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Being a mother changed her in ways Collier didn’t necessarily expect. Everything she does on the court as a player and a leader was always inside of her, but Mila has made her different off the court. Now, Collier is more vocal for causes she cares about, both inside and outside of the WNBA.

One of those causes is the way the WNBA treats moms.

A month ago, Skylar Diggins-Smith revealed on social media that she wasn’t allowed to use the Phoenix Mercury’s facilities while away on maternity leave. Earlier in the season, the Las Vegas Aces came under scrutiny after Dearica Hamby accused them of trading her because she was pregnant.

Under the current CBA, teams are required pay players on maternity leave their full salaries, the value of which still counts against the salary cap. That’s a rule Collier wants to see change.

“My salary hurts the team if I’m not playing,” she said. “So, in the future it’s really plausible to see people getting kicked off teams — that’s what Dearica accused Vegas of. It’s plausible that teams won’t want to hire players in relationships, or who have spoken about wanting kids because it’s going to come off the cap. So, making sure that that doesn’t happen in our next CBA, I think is really important.”

The league also offers monthly stipends to help with childcare, but Collier would like to see that increase in the future.

“I think we’ve made huge strides,” Collier said of the current CBA, which was ratified in 2020 during Cathy Engelbert’s first year as WNBA Commissioner. “It’s kind of like buying your first house. It’s amazing, but it shows you everything you like about it and everything that needs to change.”

Collier is becoming more vocal about issues outside of the WNBA as well. In the future, she wants to get more involved in gun safety causes, something she thinks about every time she and Mila leave the house.

Mila is only 1, but her safety at school is already at the forefront of Collier’s mind.

“It’s just so heartbreaking that it feels like people in power don’t care how many children die from this,” she said. “It’s the number one cause of death in kids in the United States. It’s just insane and mind-boggling. So, it’s definitely something that I want to get more involved in and just kind of use my platform for any way that I can help make change.”

Mila also inspired the creation of Unrivaled, a 3×3 league that Collier is launching with fellow UConn graduate Breanna Stewart.

The idea came from a discussion Collier had at the dining room table with her husband, basketball skills coach Alex Bazzell. He brought up the possibility of forming another league, and Collier ran with it. Getting Stewart involved was only natural, and from conception to launch, Unrivaled came to fruition in a matter of months.

The 3×3 league, which will run during the WNBA offseason from January to March, will feature 30 players and provide them with another opportunity to play professionally without going overseas. Players’ salaries for the 10-week season are expected to be competitive with top WNBA and overseas salaries. The league will officially launch in 2025, Collier said Thursday, and be based in Miami.

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(Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)

Collier liked the idea for Unrivaled both because of the WNBA’s prioritization rule and because of her family. She’s no longer in a place in her life where going to a different country for a few months every year is plausible or desirable. She’s always been a homebody, but now with Mila, it’s more of a priority to stay home. Plus, she wants to help create opportunities for her peers, while also capitalizing on the rising interest in women’s sports.

“This is not a passing (fad),” Collier said of the recent momentum behind women’s sports and the WNBA, which just recorded its most-watched regular season in 2021 years and the highest average attendance for a season since 2018.

“And we want to be able to make money off that too, and monetize the hard work that we’re putting in and what we think is a great product. So that’s why we’re really excited that all the players are going to have equity in it. We’re really excited about the salary that we’re going to be offering. I’m really hoping to make a difference in our sport.”

She also hopes that difference leads to even more growth for women in sports, of course with Mila in mind.

Collier, 26, always liked the idea of being a young mom in the league. She looks up to the bond that Candace Parker has with her daughter Lailaa, who was born early in Parker’s WNBA career.

“I don’t want her to just hear these stories about me,” Collier said of her daughter. “I want her to grow up experiencing them.”

And she hopes Mila looks back on those experiences with pride.

“I just want to be a good role model for her in every aspect of life,” Collier said.

Napheesa Collier knows she likely has a fine coming from the WNBA.

After the Minnesota Lynx’s 90-81 win over the Dallas Wings on Thursday, Collier took aim at the refereeing in the game. Both teams got into foul trouble, with the Lynx committing 20 to the Wings’ 18. Four players nearly fouled out of the game, including Minnesota’s Jessica Shepard and Dallas’ Teaira McCowan.

“I don’t talk about this often, but the officiating was awful,” Collier told reporters after the game. “It was great as a team to fight through adversity despite those two reds. … It’s really frustrating when it’s not consistent on both ends.”

When her husband, Alex Bazzell, tweeted that he knew Collier was “about to get fined,” she replied, “Worth it.”

Collier isn’t the first WNBA player to call out the officiating this season. Earlier in August, Wings guard Arike Ogunbowale was one of two players ejected from a game against the Chicago Sky, as part of a testy weekend that resulted in one suspension and seven fines for players. Afterward, she questioned the decision to eject her and called attention to the quality of refereeing in the WNBA this season.

“[The referee] was looking for something. I just watched it back a million times,” Ogunbowale said. “I don’t know what’s going on this year with the refs, but that was the worst call I’ve ever seen in my life.”

Mystics players Elena Delle Donne and Natasha Cloud have also expressed their frustration with the officiating. Delle Donne has said that referees treat her “like a rookie with calls,” while Cloud called the referees’ inability to do their jobs “f–king bulls–t.”

In June, Atlanta Dream coach Tanisha Wright questioned the officiating in one of her team’s games.

“We’re expected to play at a high level every single night… The officials need to be able to rise to that same occasion. They should be held to that same standard,” Wright said. “They’re going to fine me for this, but I’m challenging them to raise their standards … Officiating needs to get better, period.”

WNBA All-Star Game MVP and Seattle Storm guard Jewell Loyd has also said that the league and referees need to do a better job at protecting the players.

“It’s not just us. Every single team has said something about the refs,” she said. “That tells you that something is going wrong in that department. You expect high-level players, we expect high-level refs. We’re not getting that every single night.”

With one month of regular season games left to play, the WNBA MVP race is getting serious as players make their cases on the court.

From 40-point games to triple-doubles, three candidates are routinely putting on MVP-level performances and are ahead of the rest, while three others deserve a mention.

Top contenders

A’ja Wilson, Las Vegas Aces

Last year’s MVP and Defensive Player of the Year is once again a leader for both awards. The Aces are the top team in the WNBA and the favorites to win the championship, and Wilson is the heart of their offense and defense.

A player who dominates both ends of the court automatically has a leg up in MVP conversations, and Wilson certainly does. She’s averaging a near double-double with 21.2 points and 9.6 rebounds per game, while recording 2.2 blocks on the defensive end. Wilson’s importance to the Aces goes well beyond her impressive stat line, though.

Defensively, her rim protection allows the Las Vegas guards to play intense on-ball defense and take risks that lead to run-outs. They know if they get beat off the dribble, Wilson is there to clean up.

Some will argue against Wilson’s case for MVP because of the talent she has around her, with her All-Star and All-WNBA teammates carrying much of the responsibility. On the flip side, the Aces have four elite offensive weapons — including Chelsea Gray, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young — but they know running things through Wilson is the best way to win. It’s working, as Wilson takes the most shots out of anyone on the team at 14.3 per game, and Las Vegas has the best record in the WNBA at 27-3.

And with Candace Parker out after having surgery on her foot, Wilson has taken on an even greater role. Starting on July 11, she went on an eight-game stretch of 20 or more points per game. Since then, she’s scored over 20 points in 11 of her team’s last 12 contests, including a career-high 40 points in a win over the Mystics on Friday.

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(Elsa/Getty Images)

Breanna Stewart, New York Liberty

To reach MVP status, a player has to do things that no one else has. Stewart certainly does that. Teammate Courtney Vandersloot has called the New York Liberty forward “the best player in the world,” and she has a point.

The Liberty have 11 games left in the regular season, and Stewart has already set a WNBA record by becoming the first player in history to record three 40-point games in a single season. Her first came in New York’s home opener, when Stewart dropped 45 in a win over the Fever. She did it again on July 5 in a win over the Mercury, and most recently in another victory over the Fever on Sunday.

Stewart’s season stats are also MVP-worthy. She’s averaging 23.3 points (second in the WNBA), 9.2 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game. Stewart has been consistent in her scoring efforts, finishing with single-digit points just once in her team’s 30 games.

The Liberty have the second-best record in the league at 24-6, but things haven’t necessarily been easy for the team. They were dubbed a “superteam” after bringing in Stewart, Jonquel Jones and Vandersloot to join Sabrina Ionescu and Betnijah Laney in the offseason, but early on the group of stars failed to mesh. Notably, Jones was nursing an injury at the beginning of the season that kept the former MVP from performing at the level people expected.

Through the ups and downs, Stewart was the guiding force, almost single-handedly keeping her team afloat. Now they are reaping the benefits, as one of the favorites (alongside the Aces) to win the WNBA title. That’s something the Liberty have never accomplished despite being one of the league’s first franchises. With Stewart on their roster, it’s suddenly a real possibility.

Stewart and Wilson will go head-to-head twice this week, first in the WNBA Commissioner’s Cup championship game on Tuesday and again in their teams’ final regular-season meeting of the season on Thursday.

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(Erica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut Sun

Stewart and Wilson will likely battle it out for the MVP trophy — conversations surrounding the award so far this season have skewed toward one or the other — but the Sun’s Alyssa Thomas deserves the same amount of attention.

The Sun are a contending team, currently third in the league with a 21-9 record. Along with the Aces and Liberty, they are one of just three teams in the WNBA with over 20 wins.

A lot changed for Connecticut in the offseason, as Jonquel Jones departed for New York and Curt Miller took a head coaching job with the Los Angeles Sparks. A drop-off from last year’s Finals appearance was expected but never happened. The Sun have stayed in contention against all odds, including an injury to reigning WNBA Sixth Player of the Year Brionna Jones, and Thomas is the biggest reason why.

Statistically, no single category jumps off Thomas’ stat page, but when you add it all together, you get the WNBA’s triple-double queen. Thomas isn’t scoring 20 points a game, but it’s hard to argue that anyone is more important to their team than she is to the Sun.

Thomas is averaging 15.3 points, 10.1 rebounds and 8.1 assists per game. She also does the majority of Connecticut’s ball-handling, boasting a 4.1-to-1.6 assist-to-turnover record. Thomas has been stuffing the stat sheet all season and currently holds the WNBA record for triple-doubles, with five so far in 2023. Thomas does a little bit — or in some cases a lot — of everything for her team, making her a perfect MVP candidate.

Other candidates worth mentioning

At least three other WNBA players come to mind as having MVP-type seasons. But a large part of the criteria for the award is playing for a team in contention to win a title, and right now, these players don’t fall into that category.

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(Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

Satou Sabally, Dallas Wings

The Wings have the goods to make a playoff run, thanks to Arike Ogunbowale, Natasha Howard, Satou Sabally and a group of skilled role players. Sabally is healthy after battling injuries over the last couple of years, and she’s having the best season of her life.

The Oregon product is averaging 18.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.7 steals per game, making her an asset all over the court. The Wings are currently in fourth place in the WNBA at 16-14, with impressive wins over the Aces, Liberty and Sun.

Napheesa Collier, Minnesota Lynx

With WNBA legend Sylvia Fowles in retirement, the Lynx are officially Collier’s team, and she’s up for the challenge. The 2019 first-round pick is averaging a career-high in points with 21.4 per contest, to go along with 7.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.5 steals per game. The Lynx are fifth in the WNBA at 14-16.

Jewell Loyd, Seattle Storm

The Storm star is taking on a huge role for her team now that Stewart is gone and Sue Bird has retired. She’s leading the WNBA with 24.1 points per game and 3.1 made 3-pointers per game. But Seattle is 10th in the WNBA, making it hard for Loyd to make a real case for the MVP award.

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

There’s a new professional women’s basketball league on the horizon founded by former UConn teammates and current WNBA stars Napheesa Collier and Breanna Stewart. Announced on Thursday, Unrivaled is an innovative 3-on-3 league that will run in the WNBA’s winter offseason and serve as the “most exclusive basketball league in the world.”

The league initially will target 30 of the top players in the WNBA, with six teams and five players per team. Unrivaled will run for 10 weeks from January to March with three games played per week, and it also will feature a single-elimination 1-on-1 tournament. The league’s official launch year has not yet been determined.

In its inaugural season, Unrivaled will be based in Miami, Fla., and competition will take place in a custom facility with a state-of-the-art LED surrounding and a shortened 65-foot basketball court, which will provide an experience the women’s game has never seen before. The facility will also include fan seating, a weight room, recovery resources and content studios.

The new league aims to host at least one event in a larger arena during its debut season and currently has several locations in consideration.

Players’ salaries for the 10-week season are expected to be competitive with top WNBA and overseas salaries, a source informed Just Women’s Sports. The maximum WNBA annual salary is currently $234,936, and the average salary is just over $100,000 a year. Each Unrivaled player will also have equity in the league. Unrivaled’s revenue streams will consist of advertisement and sponsorships, media rights, merchandising and ticket sales.

The league is currently in the midst of fundraising, and Stewart told ESPN she’s already had conversations with potential business partners.

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Napheesa Collier, Unrivaled co-founder, is a three-time WNBA All-Star with Minnesota. (Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

The timing of the new league coincides with fan interest in women’s basketball reaching historic highs. The 2022 WNBA season on ESPN was the most-viewed since 2006, and ESPN’s 2023 season-opening broadcast peaked at 1 million viewers and was the most-watched regular season game on cable television in 24 years. At the NCAA level, the 2023 championship game between LSU and Iowa averaged 9.9 million viewers, making it the most-watched women’s college basketball game ever.

Unrivaled will provide players with an opportunity to tap into the growing market and with another means of offseason income.

For years, many WNBA players have gone overseas in the winter months to compete and supplement their WNBA incomes. That option has become even more tenuous since the WNBA’s prioritization rule went into effect this year, fining players with over two years of WNBA experience if they did not report to their teams by May 1. In 2024, the consequences are much steeper: Players will be suspended for the season if they are not present by the start of training camp, according to the clause written into the league’s CBA.

The Unrivaled season is expected to wrap up in March, leaving its players with plenty of time to prepare for WNBA training camp.

“It’s the ability for players to stay home, to be in a market like Miami where we can just be the buzz and create that with the best WNBA players,” Stewart told ESPN. “We can’t keep fighting [the WNBA’s prioritization rule]. It is a rule that takes away our choices, which should never be a thing, especially as women, but it is still a rule.”

One of the biggest benefits of players competing in the WNBA and Unrivaled is rest. For the first time, top professional players who wish to earn an income through basketball in the winter won’t be forced to balance two full-season leagues and a 12-month schedule. With the start of WNBA training camp in April and the completion of the season in September, Unrivaled and WNBA competitors will have three months from October, November and December to rest their bodies.

Unrivaled plans to invest in content creation and brand visibility, giving its players an opportunity to market themselves during the WNBA offseason and grow their individual brands year-round.

The league could also be in a unique position to lure top college players out early with substantial contracts compared to WNBA rookie salaries, which currently fall within the range of $65,000 to $74,000 annually.

Rachel Galligan is a basketball analyst at Just Women’s Sports. A former professional basketball player and collegiate coach, she also contributes to Winsidr. Follow Rachel on Twitter @RachGall.

Dorka Juhász is settling into WNBA life pretty well.

Playing professionally is a “dream come true” for Juhász, who was drafted 16th overall by the Minnesota Lynx in April. One of just 15 rookies to make an opening day roster, she hasn’t squandered her opportunity.

Instead, she’s averaging 4.2 points and 4.6 rebounds. And she’s coming off of a career-best 10-point, 12-rebound performance – her first WNBA double-double and first time in double digits. The forward notes that part of what has helped her be so prepared is playing for UConn.

“I’m super grateful that I was able to play two years at UConn because I felt like that was a huge step toward my professional career and kind of just getting a little taste of what it’s gonna be when you get out in the real professional world,” Juhász told the Hartford Courant. “I felt very prepared, I can’t even lie, whenever I went through training camp. I felt comfortable in the uncomfortableness of just being in training camp and just competing, fighting for a spot because that’s what we did every single practice.”

Napheesa Collier also had career-bests during that game, notching a career-high 33 points to help propel the Lynx to a win over Seattle. After starting the season 0-6, the team has gone 5-3 and is starting to put the pieces together.

“I am really proud of us. I think just getting games under our belt, we had a lot of new people, a lot of young people,” Collier said postgame. “With experience comes that gelling and I think that’s what you’re starting to see.”

And Collier has been a huge part of the team coming together. After missing the majority of last season due to pregnancy, Collier has returned with a vengeance. She’s also stepped into a leadership role with the retirement of Sylvia Fowles.

“She’s super talented, she’s super smart, she’s very, very skilled,” Juhász said of Collier. “I’ve been trying to kind of follow her steps and learn the way she’s doing stuff and how she’s handling herself on and off the court. So it’s been amazing to have her as a vet … she’s been super helpful.”

Juhász told the Hartford Courant that Collier is always there to answer any questions she may have. She’s also made sure to include Juhász in team activities and other fun outings. And that’s inspired Juhász as she’s stepped onto the court.

“I always looked at myself as when I’m on the court I want to have an impact no matter if I’m a rookie or not,” Juhász said. “So I think for my season it’s that, just getting better every single game and just having an impact, but also just being a great teammate and learning as much as I can from the players around me and the coaches around me. I think that’s always been the goal is just keep leveling up as a player and … whatever it takes to win I’m gonna do my part.”

Napheesa Collier made her return to the Minnesota Lynx on Sunday less than three months after giving birth to daughter Mila.

The 25-year-old forward helped the team to a 81-71 win over the Atlanta Dream. She came back to the court just over 10 weeks after welcoming daughter Mila in late May.

Collier’s first bucket was a 3-pointer, her first of six points on the night. She also contributed two rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block. She played 21 minutes total, which is more than coach Cheryl Reeve anticipated in her return. Previously, the coach had said that Collier could join the team in “spot situations.”

“She’s got to catch up with the speed of the game and as things are happening, but that’s probably about as successful as I thought it could be, playing probably a bit longer than what we initially thought,” Reeve said.

The 2019 WNBA Rookie of the Year wasn’t meant to play Sunday, but when it became clear that Aerial Powers would miss the game – which was key to the Lynx’s continued playoff chase – Collier opted to play.

While she dealt with “some nerves,” Collier said that it was a “good first game back” and that she knew her body was ready.

“I was really excited,” Collier said, with Mila joining her postgame. “Obviously, there’s some nerves coming in, especially this late in the season and trying to get back here and rush to do everything. But it felt so good to hear my name called and have the fans cheer for me. It was a really good feeling. So I’m really glad I played tonight.”

The forward had made her intention to return this season clear, with Collier wanting to join teammate Sylvia Fowles on the court in her final season. But for the Lynx, her return brought an added boost.

“Her energy, her movement, it just creates easier things for other people, and her length defensively is pretty helpful,” Reeve said. “She’s like a security blanket for everybody.”

Teammate Kayla McBride, who led the Lynx with 20 points and six assists in the win, echoed the sentiment.

“It’s her basketball IQ,” McBride said of what she brings to the team. “She’s always in the right place at the right time… She always competes, you know what you’re getting from Phee is that consistency… It felt like everything was back to normal.”

Napheesa Collier will return to the court with the Minnesota Lynx Sunday, three months after giving birth to her daughter, Mila, in May.

The 25-year-old previously expressed interest in returning to the court in 2022 in order play with Lynx teammate Sylvia Fowles, who is set to retire at the end of the season.

Minnesota is in the middle of a postseason push, with the Lynx ranked 11th with four games left on the team’s regular-season schedule.

Per The Star Tribune, Collier practiced with the Lynx Saturday, hoping to prepare for playing time in the coming days.

In May, Collier signed a multi-year contract extension with the Lynx, keeping her with the team through 2025.

Minnesota will face off against the Atlanta Dream on Sunday at 7 pm ET on Prime Video.

Napheesa Collier joined the Minnesota Lynx for practice Wednesday for the first time since giving birth to her daughter in late May.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve revealed that the forward did some light work Wednesday, which the coach called five-on-zero. While Collier remains far from game action, the team aims to ramp up her training in the next few weeks.

She is expected to join the team on the road next week.

“It’s nice we have a couple practices and a shoot-around [this week],” Reeve said. “The idea is to progress into next week, as we go on the road, and actually have some practice time on the road.

“I’d say segments. Segments of practice,” Reeve continued, outlining the plan for Collier. “I don’t think we’re going to get to the point where we feel that Phee can do things fully by the time the season ends. I don’t see that.”

The Lynx, who are in 10th place (two places out of a playoff spot), have nine games left in the regular season. Collier has expressed her desire to play with friend Sylvia Fowles before the season ends. Fowles is in her final WNBA season after announcing her plan to retire in February.

Collier is making her way back from maternity leave. She gave birth to daughter Mila in May and rejoined the team earlier this month.

“So the heart rate is what the biggest challenge is,” Reeve said. “That and legs. I mean, her legs aren’t anywhere near ready. So she progressed a little bit.”

But that doesn’t mean that Collier won’t grace the court at all for the Lynx.

“I see maybe spot situations, possibly, for her,” Reeve said.