Women's National Basketball Association
Infobox Sports league
current_season=2008 WNBA season
caption=The WNBA logo parallels the NBA logo; red and blue featuring a woman holding a basketball
TV =ABC, ESPN,
website= [http://wnba.com WNBA.com]
The Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) is an organization governing a professional basketball league for women in the
United States. The league was formed in 1996 as the women's counterpart to the NBA. League play started in 1997, the regular season is played from May to September with the playoffs starting in mid-September running into October.
Many WNBA teams have NBA counterparts and play in the same arena. The
Connecticut Sunwere the only team to play without sharing the city with an NBA team. However, on July 2, 2008, they were joined by the Seattle Storm, when the Seattle SuperSonicsmoved to Oklahoma City. As of July 2, 2008, the Chicago Skyand the Houston Cometsare the only other teams that do not share an arena with an NBA counterpart. The Atlanta Dream, Chicago Sky, Connecticut Sun, Houston Comets, Los Angeles Sparks, Phoenix Mercury, Seattle Stormand the Washington Mysticsare independently owned.
Every spring, the
WNBA Draftis held in the city that hosted the NCAA Women's Final Four. The draft is three rounds long with each of the 14 teams in the league (trades aside) getting three picks. Draft order for teams that made the playoffs the previous year are based on team records. The team with the highest previous record will pick last. Since eight teams qualify for playoffs, the bottom eight picks are determined by this method. For the remaining top six picks, a Draft Lottery is held for the six teams that did not qualify for the playoffs.
The league is divided into two conferences. As of the 2008 WNBA season, there are 7 teams in the Eastern Conference and 7 teams in the Western Conference. Each team plays a 34-game regular season schedule, beginning in May and ending in late August. Every team plays four teams in their conference 3 times each and play the remaining 2 teams 4 times apiece (20 games). Then they each play teams from the opposite conference twice (14 games), once on each team's home court. The four teams in each conference with the best Win/Loss records go on to compete in the
WNBA Playoffsduring September with the WNBA Finalsfollowing later in the month.
During years in which the
Summer Olympicswill be held, the WNBAtakes a month off in the middle of the season to allow the players to practice and compete with their respective national teams. During the 2008 season, most of August is being taken off to allow for the 2008 Summer Olympicsbeing held in Beijing, China. The regular season will run from May 17, 2008to September 14, 2008(the Olympic break will be from July 28, 2008to August 27, 2008. The WNBA Playoffs and WNBA Finalswill lead into October.
On July 22, regular play stops temporarily for the WNBA All-Star Game. The game is part of a weekend-long event, held in a selected WNBA city each year. The actual game is played on the selected WNBA team's home court. The All-Star Game features star players from the Western Conference facing star players from the Eastern Conference. During the season, fans get to vote for the players they would like to see start the game. The 2006 All-Star Game was the first game to feature custom uniforms that match the decade anniversary logo. Due to the Olympics, there will be no WNBA All-Star Game in 2008; the game will return in 2009.
WNBA Playoff Series
The top 4 teams in each conference compete in the WNBA Playoffs after the
regular season, usually in August and early September. Each conference has two conference semi-final series, putting the team with the best record in each conference against the team with the 4th best record in the conference. The team with the 3rd best record in each conference faces the team with the 2nd best record in the same conference. The winning teams from each of these series face each other in the conference final, with the winning team in each conference facing the other team in the WNBA Finals.
First and second round playoff games series are
best-of-three playoffgames series. The first game of the series is played on the home court of the team with the lower seed, while the last two games are played on the home court of the higher ranked team. The WNBA Finalsis a best-of-five playoffgames series, held in September.
Officially approved by the NBA Board of Governors on
April 24, 1996, the creation of the WNBA was announced at a press conference with Rebecca Lobo, Lisa Leslieand Sheryl Swoopesin attendance. While not the first major women's professional basketball league in the United States (a distinction held by the defunct WBL), the WNBA is the only league to receive full backing of the NBA. The WNBA logo, "Logo Woman", paralleled the NBA logo and was selected out of 50 different designs.
We Got Next
On the heels of a much-publicized gold medal run by the 1996 USA Basketball Women's National Team at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, the WNBA began its first season on
June 21, 1997to little fanfare. The league began with eight teams; the first WNBA game featured the New York Libertyfacing the Los Angeles Sparksin Los Angeles. The game was televised nationally in the United States on the NBCtelevision network. At the start of the 1997 season, the WNBA had television deals in place with NBC (NBA rights holder), and the Walt Disney Companyand Hearst Corporationjoint venture channels, ESPNand Lifetime TelevisionNetwork, respectively. Penny Tolerwas the first woman to score a point in the league.
The WNBA centered its marketing campaign, dubbed "We Got Next", around stars
Rebecca Lobo, Lisa Leslieand Sheryl Swoopes. In the league's first season, Leslie's Los Angeles Sparks underperformed and Swoopes sat out much of the season due to her pregnancy. The WNBA's true star in 1997 was WNBA MVP Cynthia Cooper, Swoopes' teammate on the Houston Comets. The Comets defeated Lobo's New York Liberty in the first WNBA Championship game.
The initial "We Got Next" advertisement would run following each NBA season until it was replaced with the "We Got Game" campaign.
truggle for Relevancy
In 1999, the league's chief competition, the American Basketball League, folded. Many of the ABL's star players, including several Olympic gold medalists (such as
Nikki McCrayand Dawn Staley) and a number of standout college performers (including Kate Starbirdand Jennifer Rizzotti), then joined the rosters of WNBA teams and, in so doing, enhanced the overall quality of play in the league. When a lockout resulted in an abbreviated NBA season, the WNBA saw faltering TV viewership.
Four teams were added after the 1997 season, bringing the number of teams in the league up to twelve. The 1999 season began with a collective bargaining agreement between players and the league, marking the first
collective bargainingagreement to be signed in the history of women's professional sports.
The WNBA made a huge step on May 23, 2000, when the Houston Comets became the first WNBA team to be invited to the
White House Rose Garden.
Expansion, Contraction, and Relocation
By the 2000 season, the WNBA had doubled in size. Two teams were added in 1998: the
Detroit Shockand the Washington Mystics; another two in 1999 (the Minnesota Lynxand the Orlando Miracle); and four more for the 2000 season (the Indiana Fever, the Seattle Storm, the Miami Sol, and the Portland Fire). Teams and the league were collectively owned by the NBA until 2002, when the NBA sold WNBA teams either to their NBA counterparts in the same city or to a third party. This led to two teams moving; Utah to San Antonio and Orlando to Connecticut. With the move the Sun became the first WNBA team to be owned by a third party instead of an NBA franchise. It also led to two teams folding, the Miami Soland Portland Fire.
In addition to the restructuring of teams, players also caused changes in the league. In 2002, the WNBA Players Association threatened to strike the next season if a new deal was not worked out between players and the league. The result was a delay in the start of the 2003 preseason.
After the 2003 season, the
Cleveland Rockersfolded because the ownership of that franchise was unwilling to operate the franchise.
The 2004 season proved to be the most competitive in league history, with almost all the teams vying for playoff spots. On
October 21, 2004, in the wake of this success, Val Ackerman, the first WNBA president, announced her resignation, effective February 1, 2005, citing the desire to spend more time with her family. Ackerman later became president of USA Basketball.
February 15, 2005, NBA Commissioner David Sternannounced that Donna Orender, who had been serving as the Senior Vice President of the PGA Tourand who had played for several teams in the now-defunct Women's Pro Basketball League, would be Ackerman's successor as of April 2005.
The WNBA awarded its first
expansion teamin several years to Chicago(later named the Sky) in February 2005. In the off-season, a set of rule changes was approved that made the WNBA more like the NBA.
The 2007 season was the WNBA's 11th; in 2006 the league became the first team-oriented women's professional sports league to exist for ten consecutive seasons. On the occasion of the tenth anniversary, the WNBA released its All-Decade Team, comprising the ten WNBA players deemed to have contributed, through on-court play and off-court activities, the most to women's basketball during the period of the league's existence.
In December 2006, the
Charlotte Bobcatsorganization announced it would no longer operate the Charlotte Sting. Soon after, the WNBA announced that the Charlotte Sting would not operate for the upcoming season. A dispersal draft was held January 8, 2007, with all players except for unrestricted free agents Allison Feasterand Tammy Sutton-Brownavailable for selection. Teams selected in inverse order of their 2006 records; Chicago received the first pick and selected Monique Currie.
In October 2007 the WNBA awarded another expansion franchise to Atlanta. Atlanta businessman Ron Terwilliger will be the owner of the new team, nicknamed the Dream. The Dream played their first regular season game on May 17, which was a 100-67 [http://www.wnba.com/games/20080517/ATLCON/boxscore.html] loss to the Connecticut Sun.
In 2008, the WNBA took over ownership of one of the league's most storied franchises, the
Houston Comets. If a new owner in Houston is not found by November 2008, the WNBA will look for ownership elsewhere. If none can be found by January 2009, the team will most likely fold.
There have been a total of 18 teams in WNBA history. A total of 4 teams have folded: the
Cleveland Rockers, the Miami Sol, the Charlotte Stingand the Portland Fire. Two other teams, the Utah Starzz and the Orlando Miracle moved, to San Antonio, Texasand Uncasville, Connecticutrespectively. Most team names are also very similar to those of NBA teams in the same market, such as the Washington Wizardsand Washington Mystics, the Detroit Pistonsand the Detroit Shock, the Sacramento Kingsand Sacramento Monarchs, the Phoenix Sunsand Phoenix Mercury, the Minnesota Timberwolvesand Minnesota Lynx, the Houston Rocketsand Houston Comets, the Charlotte Hornetsand Charlotte Stingand the Miami Heatand Miami Sol.
Players and Coaches
Over a decade after the launch of the WNBA, in 2008 only 5 players remain from the original
1997 WNBA Draft: Tamecka Dixon, Vickie Johnson, Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopesand Tina Thompson. Not drafted in 1997 but picked up as a free agentwas Mwadi Mabika. Only two of these players remain on the same teams that they were selected by in the 1997 WNBA Draft: Leslie with the Los Angeles Sparks, and Thompson with the Houston Comets. All six but Johnson have won a championship (Dixon, Leslie, and Mabika with the Sparks; Swoopes and Thompson with the Comets).
The members of the
WNBA's All-Decade Teamwere chosen in 2006 on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the WNBA from amongst 30 nominees compiled by fan, media, coach, and player voting. The team was to comprise the 10 best and most influential players of the first decade of the WNBA, with consideration also given to sportsmanship, community service, leadership, and contribution to the growth of women's basketball.
Paul Westheadof the Phoenix Mercurybecame the first person to earn both NBA and WNBA championship rings as a coach.
After the end of the regular season, these league awards are awarded to both coaches and players:
WNBA Finals MVP Award
WNBA Most Valuable Player Award
WNBA Defensive Player of the Year Award
WNBA Most Improved Player Award
WNBA Rookie of the Year Award
WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year Award
WNBA Peak Performers(3)
Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award
WNBA Coach of the Year Award
Rules are governed by standard basketball rules as defined by the NBA, with a few notable exceptions:
*The three-point line is 20 feet 6.25 inches (6.25 m) from the middle of the basket, in line with
*The regulation WNBA ball is a minimum 28.5 inches (72.4 cm) in circumference, 1.00 inch (2.54 cm) smaller than the NBA ball. As of 2004, this size is used for all senior-level women's competitions worldwide.
*There is no block/charge arc under the basket.
*Quarters are 10 minutes in duration instead of 12.
Starting with the 2006 WNBA season, all games are divided into four 10-minute quarters as opposed to the league's original two 20-minute halves of play, as to fit with international procedures (many WNBA players play in Europe or Australia in the Northern Hemisphere autumn and winter). The NBA rule on
jump balls is used for determining possession for the second, third, and fourth periods (i.e. team winning tip is awarded the ball at the beginning of the fourth quarter; the other team gets it to start the second and third periods). Under the two-half format both periods started with jump balls, presumably to prevent teams from purposely losing the opening tip in order to get the ball first in the second half. With the four quarters format this is not a problem because the team that "wins" the tip gets the ball first in the final period.
Also in 2006, the
shot clockwas decreased from 30 to 24 seconds and the league began adopting NBA rules (14 second reset on any defensive foul if less than such time remains when a foul is called). The rule changes signaled a move away from rules more similar to those of college basketballand toward those that provide a more NBA-like game.
In 2007, the rules were changed again; the amount of time that a team must move the ball across the half-court line went from 10 to 8 seconds. In addition, a referee can grant time-outs to either a player or the coach, as in the NBA.
In 2008, more rules were added; when the ball is being inbounded in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime, the ball may be passed anywhere on the court. Also, players not occupying lane spaces on free throws are allowed to stand as close to the basket as the three-point line (above the free-throw line extended).
Val Ackerman, 1997–2005
Donna Orender, 2005–present
So far the WNBA has not mirrored the monetary success of the NBA, though it targets profitability. The NBA has provided annual subsidies of approximately $12 million dollars to cover operating losses.
Many WNBA players choose to supplement their salaries by playing in
European or Australian women's basketball leagues during the WNBA off-season. In 2008, a new six-year collective bargaining agreement was agreed upon between the players and the league. The salary capfor an entire team in 2008 is $772,000. By 2013 (the sixth year under this agreement), the cap for an entire team will be $900,000. The "minimum" salary for a player with three-plus years of experience is $50,000 while the "maximum" salary for a six-plus year player is $97,500. If a player is signed any time after the first day of the WNBA regular season on a "Rest-of-Season Contract," the player must receive a full season salary. The minimum salary for rookies picked in: first round- $36,353, second round- $35,000, third round- $34,500.
WNBA players are also awarded bonuses for certain achievements. A player who earns a league award gets a $5,000 bonus. The league Most Valuable Player receives a $15,000 bonus. Additionally, playoff bonuses are given and each player on the WNBA champion team receives a $10,500 bonus.
In 2008, league merchandise sales were up more than 36%, and WNBA jersey sales were up more than 46%, based on combined sales from the NBA Store and WNBAStore.com.
*The average attendance of WNBA games, league-wide, is roughly 9,000 less than the average attendance of NBA games.
As of 2008, WNBA games are televised throughout the U.S. by ABC, ESPN2 and
NBA TV. In the early years two women's-oriented networks, Lifetime and Oxygen, also broadcast games including the first game of the WNBA. NBCshowed games from 1997 to 2002 as part of their NBA on NBCcoverage before the league transferred the rights to ABC/ESPN. This same deal was extended to the 2016 season in late June 2007.
Many teams have local telecasts and all games are also on local radio and
Sirius Satellite Radio.
Saturday and Sunday afternoon games are broadcast on ABC. Tuesday night games are broadcast on ESPN2. On opening day (May 17, 2008), ABC broadcast the
Los Angeles Sparksand Phoenix Mercurymatchup. The game received a little over 1 million viewers. Average viewership for games broadcast on national television was 413,000 (up from 346,000 in 2007).
WNBA finished up in key demos on ESPN2 -- Women 18-34 (+71%) and Men 18-34 (+28%) – and on ABC -- All Women (+10%) and Women 18-34 (+20%).
All-Time Franchise History
List of WNBA seasons
List of attendance figures at domestic professional sports leagues— the WNBA in a worldwide context
List of professional sports leagues
National Basketball Association
Other North American Professional Women's Basketball Leagues
National Women's Basketball League
American Basketball League (1996–1998)
Women's Professional Basketball League
Other North American Professional Women's Leagues
Women's Professional Soccer(WPS)
National Women's Hockey League(NWHL)
National Pro Fastpitch(NPF)
Women's United Soccer Association(WUSA)
* [http://www.basketball-reference.com/wnba/ WNBA Statistics at Basketball-Reference.com]
* [http://www.wnba.com WNBA Official website]
* [http://www.womensbasketballonline.com/wnba/index.html Women's Basketball Online's WNBA section]
* [http://www.wnba.com/about_us/rules_chart.html The WNBA Rules compared to those of the NBA and NCAA]
* [http://www.wnba.com/news/labor_agreement_030425.html WNBA's recent labor agreement]
* [http://www.bizjournals.com/sanantonio/stories/2005/04/25/story5.html WNBA Driving Toward Profit]
* [http://www.wnba.com/news/rulechanges_051206.html WNBA Official 2006 Rule Changes]
* [http://www.wnba.com/features/survivors_041108.html WNBA Class of 97 survivor as of 2004]
* [http://www.wnba.com/news/awards07_sixth.html WNBA introduced the Sixth Woman of The Year Award]
* [http://www.wnba.com/news/labor_agreement_030425.html WNBA's recent labor agreement]
* [http://www.wnba.com/dream/dream_080123.html Atlanta announces Team Name]
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