Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA)
The Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) started out in 1997 when it was approved by the NBA Board of Governors and nowadays, it features the most talented American female basketball players.it is the official American professional league and counts 12 teams so far.
The WNBA is the counterpart of the NBA for male basketball players. Almost all WNBA teams have a matching NBA team with whom they share the same arena. There are only four NWBA that do not have an immediate NBA counterpart, and these are the Connecticut Sun, Chicago Sky, Dallas Wings, and Seattle Storm. These teams are in private ownership, along with two more teams, i.e. the Los Angeles Sparks and Atlanta Dream. Still, it took some time to get there, since all of the teams where at one time or the other, where in the ownership of NBA. Independence of the teams is crucial for the teams’ growth and development with no restrictions whatsoever.
The independent status leads the teams also to be less associated with the NBA. The WNBA League had its first season in Fall 1997. Today, the seasons take place from June to September at a regular basis which also overlaps with the July All Star game.
The League, was established and approved in 1996, and the first season of 1997 saw eight teams compete for the national title in female basketball. Even if the independent status grants the teams some liberties, they are still fully backed by the NBA. Even the WNBA logo matches the NBA logo.
The Women's National Basketball Association was not the first professional league in the USA, since there was the Women’s Basketball League (WBL) for a whole decade. Nevertheless, the league was anolished, leaving the WNBA as the biggest professional league in basketball.
The most renowned names that are associated with the first league’s season are Lisa Leslie, Rebecca Lobo, and Sheryl Swoops, and Cynthia Cooper as the driving forces of their teams who caught the hearts of many basketball fans.
The League was campaigning under the slogan "We got Next" and conveniently replaced with "We got Game" somewhat later. The campaigns were also very important to draw attention to the talented female basketball players who have been in the shadow of their male counterparts for too long.
The main rival league was the American Basketball League which was home to some of the most distinguished and most talented basketball players. But when the league folded in 1999, it was the opportunity for WNBA to offer a home to the most exquisite basketball talents in America. The WNBA League expanded further, now stronger and better, with the back-up. The number of the teams in the league doubled by the season of 2000, providing for an even wider variety.
One of the historic moments of the League was also the Houston Comets’ invitation to the White House Rose Garden which further fastened the status of the league. It was the first time that female basketball players were attending an event at the White House.
The First Seasons and Dominant Teams
The Houston Comets have dominated the league for four seasons in a row, remaining unbeatable on the basketball court. The extraordinary team was coached by Van Chancellor. Cooper, Thompson and Swoopes were the star pupils on the court who defended the throne for four years after Cooper retired in 2000, the Comets had to hand over the title.
2001 and 2002 saw the rise of LA Sparks who finally had the chance to fight for the title after Cooper was out of the picture. For two years in a row, the LA Sparks kept sparkling under the basketball spotlight under Lisa Lesli, who led the team to the finals and the medal.
2003 and the Strike Alert
The female basketball players were not exactly satisfied with their contracts with the WNBA so they threatened to go on strike if the League refuses to renegotiate the terms and conditions. The whole parade attracted negative media attention and pre-season games were also delayed.
Nevertheless, obstacles were overcome and the 2003 season saw yet another team rising above the others. The Detroit Shock won the 2003 title under the guidance of Bill Laimbeer who had just bought the franchise which was on the edge of closing down. The Shock entered the 2003 All-Star Game with the advantage of having three all-star stars, i.e. Cash, Nolan, and Ford, who also played the crucial role in the finale against the title holders from LA, the LA Sparks.The game was remembered by Nolan’’s three-point shot which decided he game.
The 2003 season saw one team fold, the Cleveland Rockers due to the owners’ wish to discontue the franchise.
In 2005, a new WNBA president was elected to fill in the vacant position after the initial President Ackerman resigned. The new President was Donna Orender, a former basketball player. 2006 saw yet another improvement of the WNBA League, when new rules were introduced granting the WNBA players more NBA-like perks.
2006 was also significant since it marked a successful decade making the WNBA the only women’s professional team sport league to have made it to paly ten consecutive seasons. Such a success had to be celebrated, whereby the best 10 WNBA players from all seasons were rewarded for their contribution to the league, not only on the court, but also outside of it. The 2006 season saw Detroit Shock return to the throne after two years.
The 2007 witnessed yet the opening of another franchise in Atlanta. Initially owned by Terwilliger, the Atlanta Dream entered its first game as part of the WNBA. It might was not enough to win the title, but the Atlanta Dream were fascinating on the court (2007). The team got its name from a voting process, where citizens of Atlanta could choose one of the proposed names for their new basketball team, and Atlanta Dream secured the most voices.
In 2007, another major event caught the eye of the public, which also can be referred back to the 2003 disatisfaction of players. Namely, in 2007, a new deal was worked out between WNBA and ESPN, who signed an eight-year contract granting to allocate television right commissions directly to the teams. It was the firsr agreement of this kind in female sports.
During the years, the WNBA gained in popularity and is covered much more by the media than when it started out. Porfessional basketball for women was an important step for the USA culture and society, offering girls the opportunity to pursue a career as basketball players according to the highest standards.