NEW YORK — The WNBA is evolving, and we’re not simply speaking concerning the 36 new gamers — together with No. 1 decide Jackie Younger, fellow Notre Dame star Arike Ogunbowale and 6-foot-7 Kalani Brown — who simply entered the league after being chosen in Wednesday’s draft.
Coming off maybe the best season in league historical past, the WNBA has undergone an entire rebrand — or “refresh,” because it’s been dubbed — heading into the brand new yr. The league has a brand new emblem (the primary since 2013, and solely its third ever) and a landmark, multiyear partnership with AT&T. The corporate may have its emblem featured on the brand new uniforms for all 12 WNBA groups, which Nike unveiled at its New York headquarters, the place the draft was held for the second consecutive yr. The sportswear model can also be strengthening its dedication to ladies’s basketball and the WNBA by investing in feminine participation and training and by launching a pilot program to offer jobs to retired athletes.
General, there’s a brand new vibe within the WNBA. Simply check out the league’s new business, titled “Make Method,” that includes a few of the recreation’s rising stars. But, there’s additionally nonetheless rather a lot to be completed to broaden curiosity within the league, improve information protection and assist encourage future feminine athletes. That’s very true because the league searches for its subsequent president after Lisa Borders stepped down in October 2018 to grow to be the primary president and CEO of Time’s Up.
“We, as ladies, have to help one another,” retired WNBA legend Sheryl Swoopes stated Wednesday throughout a panel dialogue titled “All Youngsters Are Made to Play” that additionally featured Rosemary St. Clair, Nike Ladies’s vice chairman and common supervisor; Kathy Behrens, the NBA’s president of social duty and participant packages; and lively gamers Sue Hen and Kia Nurse.
Afterward, The Undefeated caught up with Swoopes, Chook, Nurse and New York Liberty star Tina Charles, who talked concerning the draft, the WNBA refresh and what they hope to see from the league going ahead.
What do you keep in mind most from the day you bought drafted?
Kia Nurse (No. 10 decide within the 2018 draft; getting into her second WNBA season for the New York Liberty): It was like déjà vu strolling in right here immediately as a result of the orange carpet was out. I used to be like, ‘Don’t fall, no matter you do.’ However it was completely unimaginable to be in a room surrounded by so many unimaginable athletes, so many extremely accoladed individuals inside the WNBA and the league itself. If you’re sitting there and ready on your identify to return up, it’s a bit of bit nerve-wracking. However I feel to share that with your loved ones members on the perfect day of your life is thrilling.
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Sue Fowl (No. 1 decide within the 2002 draft; getting into her 17th WNBA season with the Seattle Storm): I keep in mind being just a little anxious, naturally. I keep in mind that there had been a variety of speak of me being the No. 1 decide. So regardless that that speak was occurring, and other people have been like assuring me, you don’t know till your identify is known as. So even because it was constructing, ‘With the No. 1 decide, the Seattle Storm choose …, ‘ you’re nonetheless feeling nerves. Then they lastly say your identify, and in a approach, there’s like a bit of little bit of a aid as a result of individuals have been telling me it was gonna occur, however what if it didn’t? There’s all the time that second. So it was particular and one thing I’d always remember.
Tina Charles (No. 1 decide within the 2010 draft; getting into her 10th WNBA season with the New York Liberty): It was my senior yr [at Connecticut]. We had simply gained the championship. We have been in Secaucus, New Jersey, and that day, I simply keep in mind my coronary heart beating out of my chest. There have been loads of rumors that I used to be gonna go No. 1, and when my identify was referred to as … it was only a dream come true. I simply hope that each one these ladies take pleasure in it.
Sheryl Swoopes (First participant to be signed to the WNBA in 1997; performed 12 seasons earlier than retiring in 2011; first feminine athlete to obtain a signature Nike shoe): I wasn’t drafted. When the WNBA first began, it was by appointment. As a result of I used to be from Texas and Houston had a workforce, they stated, ‘Sheryl, you’re going to Houston.’ So I by no means obtained to stay this second that these younger women live by sitting there and ready for his or her names to be referred to as. However Tina Thompson was the very first participant who was drafted. I keep in mind speaking to her and making an attempt to know her feelings and the way she was feeling. Each single participant since then that I’ve talked to, it’s about that second of understanding you’re gonna get drafted. The query is simply when. Whenever you hear your identify lastly being referred to as, it’s like, ‘Wow, I’ve put in all this difficult work … and now this difficult work is paying out.’ I truthfully like the truth that I acquired appointed someplace, however I additionally hate it as a result of as an athlete, these are the moments you reside for. … I keep in mind going again to my mother and saying, ‘I’m gonna be enjoying in Houston.’ She was like, ‘OK.’ … However it was thrilling. I can’t fake prefer it wasn’t.
Out of this yr’s draft class, who stands proud probably the most?
Fowl: In all probability Jackie Younger. I feel she’s the kind of participant who can have an instantaneous impression. I feel she’s the kind of participant that brings numerous instruments. … She’s not only one factor. She’s somebody who’s confirmed she will get triple-doubles, which really simply exhibits you possibly can influence the sport in quite a lot of methods. That’s why she’s my fave.
Charles: It’s onerous for me to say that I’ve a favourite. All of them stand out in their very own proper. And I feel a few of them shouldn’t assume, ‘Oh, why didn’t I’m going prime three or prime 5?’ Due to how nice this class is, it actually is dependent upon what groups want. It has nothing to do with lack of expertise. They’re all actually gifted, so groups are saying, ‘Hey, what do we actually want?’ … It’s what the WNBA wants. You’re going to get an amazing wave of nice expertise coming into the league.
Swoopes: I’m a Texas woman, so I’m undoubtedly going to go together with Kalani Brown from Baylor. I really like her recreation, and I really like the truth that she lives in herself. She’s an enormous woman. She’s pleased with it. She walks it, she talks it. And she will play. … I really like Asia Durr; she will simply flat-out rating. … And Jackie Younger. I’ve heard some individuals say she’s not prepared, however I really like her. She has issues you could’t train or coach, and that’s toughness. She’s gonna defend, she’s gonna shut you down, and when she decides she’s gonna be aggressive and rating, she will do this too. And I feel she has the physique that’s prepared for the WNBA.
Why is the WNBA’s rebrand so necessary now?
“Ladies’s basketball, ladies in society generally, I feel we’re at a pivotal second proper now, and you may really feel it. You’ll be able to sense it. ” — Sue Chook
Nurse: It’s large. Clearly, for us, we’re making an attempt to proceed to develop our recreation and the demand for the sport so extra individuals need to come and see it. There’s no higher approach to flip heads than to rebrand the whole lot and have individuals see what the brand new emblem is like, what the brand new jerseys are like.
Hen: It’s essential as a result of ladies’s basketball, ladies in society typically, I feel we’re at a pivotal second proper now, and you may really feel it. You’ll be able to sense it. Everyone is aware of it. So what higher time for a rebrand, a refresh, to actually get to some extent the place issues are consultant of who we’re as a league.
Charles: We’d like each little bit of assist so far as publicity and explanation why individuals ought to watch our recreation. Not solely due to our play but in addition who we’re as ladies and who we’re as people. The rebrand is gonna push that ahead.
Swoopes: It’s all the time essential that you simply maintain issues recent and maintain issues new. The place the league is true now, it was time to offer individuals one thing totally different and get them excited concerning the WNBA once more.
What do you want concerning the new emblem — and which participant does it most have a resemblance to?
Hen: I feel it’s cool. Personally, I haven’t had an issue with any of the logos, however this one is certainly brisker, sleeker, extra trendy. It’s received a superb look to it.
Nurse: I’ve been personally making an attempt to determine who it’s. The WNBA put out 4 choices of who it might be on Twitter. I used to be going via them, and one among them is my teammate [Kiah Stokes]. I’m like, ‘That’s not her.’ Then I stated, ‘OK, she has a bun. …’ So it’s both Diana Taurasi or Elena Delle Donne. However Taurasi’s bun is sort of sit-back and fairly small. However Delle Donne has a much bigger bun, so I’m not likely positive. I’m simply going loopy. Hopefully somebody will inform me.
Who do you assume is the brand new #WNBA emblem?
— WNBA (@WNBA) April 10, 2019
Chook: The bun might be Diana. The precise motion, I’ve heard individuals say Kiah Stokes. Who is aware of? They’d by no means admit it was someone anyway, so it gained’t matter.
What would you wish to see from the WNBA within the subsequent 5 years?
Nurse: We have to proceed to seek out methods to get younger ladies and their households to return to video games. Get individuals, typically, to video games. … Visibility is the whole lot, so discovering methods to place a reputation and face to a WNBA participant with out them having to see an image of them, that’s one thing that’s actually necessary. It’s about making an attempt to get a few of us to be family names in order that individuals are saying, ‘Let’s go see a recreation the place Sue Fowl’s enjoying or Breanna Stewart’s enjoying.’ That’s part of our recreation. That’s part of ensuring that younger ladies can take a look at their mother and say, ‘I need to be like her’ and never say ‘I need to be like him.’ The rebranding is a part of that. It’s about reaching out to the youthful market of youngsters that wanna come see basketball. It’s about determining how this league can get increasingly more discover.
Fowl: I might love for it to develop. That is what I all the time say. … You hear tales of older, retired NBA gamers who’re type of disgruntled and mad that they didn’t make a sure sum of money. I hope I’m that individual. I hope I’m that previous, retired WNBA participant who’s like, ‘I didn’t get to signal a $5 million contract! … Once I performed, it was solely this!’ I hope I’m. As a result of meaning we did it proper, meaning we helped begin it, and meaning it’s in good arms. In order that’s my hope.
Charles: Extra pay. Equal pay. That might be nice. And simply extra publicity. Extra sponsorship. Seeing ourselves extra and permitting extra ladies to have extra entry to us.
Swoopes: I’m not gonna say wage improve, as a result of everyone says that. And sure, I would like that too. However I might like to see extra groups. I might additionally wish to see extra former gamers concerned with WNBA groups, whether or not that’s within the entrance workplace or teaching. I feel there are plenty of followers on the market that also hook up with the previous gamers. They know these gamers, and I feel if the league discovered a approach to get them concerned with groups, I feel it might assist with attendance.
What made you signal with Nike?
Nurse: Rising up, I wore a number of various things, however Nike is one thing I all the time got here again to. The Nike Canada individuals are completely unimaginable. I work with individuals who make it a household environment. If I ever want something, it’s decide up the telephone and let’s determine it out collectively. They maintain my footwear fly on the courtroom. … It’s been a whole lot of enjoyable working with them and attending to know the model. I really like the grassroots stuff as nicely.
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Chook: Popping out of school, my faculty was Nike. I’d already been sporting that product; I’d already had relationships with individuals. And it actually was a no brainer. You need to be accountable and speak to different attire corporations and see what’s what, however my coronary heart was already with Nike. And so fortunately I used to be capable of signal with them, and since then, it’s been fantastic. They’ve all the time supported. And I personally subscribe to the ‘Look good, really feel good, play good.’ So once I’m in Nike, that’s precisely how I really feel. To have the backing of an organization like that, it’s particular.
Charles: Rising up, my AAU staff was a Nike staff, my school workforce was a Nike workforce, so it was fairly easy. The footwear are snug. I really like the gear, I really like the type, and particularly what Nike is doing so far as pushing ahead ladies’s basketball and ladies’s athletes.
Swoopes: There was no query. Once I grew up, I couldn’t afford Nike. I didn’t put on Nike, so I had L.A. Gear and Puma and Reebok. So when Nike truly approached me and stated, ‘Hey, we need to do an endorsement cope with you,’ I didn’t even know what that meant. I used to be like, ‘OK, what does that even seem like?’ Thoughts you, I’m simply popping out of school, so I’d by no means had a chance like that. So as soon as I went via the method of hiring an agent, I had that dialog they usually labored all of it out. At that second, there was by no means a dialog of a yr or two down the road doing a signature shoe. I don’t even know the place that concept got here from, however thank God it did. And as soon as it occurred, at that second, I used to be like, ‘Rattling, am I that good?’ As a result of the one individual I knew who had a signature shoe was Michael Jordan, and Michael was the person to me. So now I’m in that very same place, the place Nike is saying, ‘We need to do the identical factor for you that we did for Michael.’ My thought was, Wow. When all of it occurred, I keep in mind strolling into Woman Foot Locker, seeing my shoe and choosing it up. The woman within the retailer had no concept who I used to be. She stated, ‘Would you want a pair!’ And I stated, ‘Nah, I’m good! I obtained a variety of these!’ It was so particular to me.