One of the best expertise in ladies’s basketball has begun to descend on the Las Vegas Strip for this weekend’s WNBA All-Star Recreation festivities. Whereas the town will function a backdrop for the long-awaited return of the talents competitors and the league’s new guard within the absence of many veteran stars, it can even be the soundboard for discussions round subjects akin to league well being, the upcoming collective bargaining settlement negotiation and, almost certainly, league enlargement.
With simply 144 spots obtainable within the 12-team league, the WNBA is among the hardest skilled sports activities leagues on the planet for an athlete to crack. Oftentimes when groups finalize their rosters in late Might, some convention participant of the yr or Last 4 hero is left off: e.g., Megan Gustafson, the 2019 Naismith School Participant of the Yr, was reduce by the Dallas Wings two days earlier than the season started. Most of the time, the response amongst WNBA followers and media alike leans towards the thought of league enlargement.
As an entire, the WNBA is trending upward, with elevated media protection showcasing the league’s wealth of expertise to a steadily growing viewers. The league noticed a June year-over-year viewership improve of 39% on ESPN2, in line with Sports activities Media Watch, its greatest begin since 2013. The league additionally lately introduced a deal to air WNBA video games on three main sports activities networks in Canada.
However in fact, house owners can’t merely purchase a brand new franchise — the league must be in an expansive mind-set. The final time the WNBA accredited a bid so as to add an enlargement workforce was in 2008, when businessman Ron Terwilliger reportedly paid $10 million to start out the Atlanta Dream.
Presently, the WNBA has no intention of increasing. In response to a present bid being constructed by a gaggle to deliver basketball to Toronto, a WNBA consultant advised Sportsnet in June that “the league’s major focus proper now’s the general well being and competitiveness of our present 12 groups.” New league commissioner Cathy Engelbert, a former CEO of Deloitte, echoed these statements earlier this month, stating that her priorities as she transitions into her position is to strengthen the league’s present groups earlier than they “critically think about increasing.”
Inside the matter of enlargement additionally lies one other alternative for the WNBA: cultural buy-in. Whereas the league has completed a greater job attracting youthful audiences just lately, one might argue it’s nonetheless lacking a way of cultural co-sign.
That’s the place we are available. Whereas the W might not have any curiosity in league enlargement, we do. We’ve assembled an inventory of six “entrepreneurs” who we consider may also help usher within the subsequent wave of the WNBA. We’re not saying these celebs would personal these franchises outright, however having a partial stake in a brand new staff, serving as a star face of the franchise, appears possible for these high-powered stars. Every superstar has a selected connection to the town, and every metropolis — from the South to the coasts, and even one outdoors the U.S. — has been within the dialog as a possible enlargement vacation spot.
Beyoncé (middle) and Jay-Z (proper) depart the courtroom on the finish of a 2018 NBA playoff recreation between the Golden State Warriors and New Orleans Pelicans at Oracle Area in Oakland, California.
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports activities
Jay-Z as soon as partially owned the Nets in his hometown of Brooklyn, New York, and her father, Mathew Knowles, has a partial stake within the Chicago Sky (together with former Future’s Baby member Michelle Williams!), so Beyoncé proudly owning a workforce in Houston can be a passing of the baton. We all know she’s a fan of the game. She’s graced NBA sidelines for years and was probably the most talked-about courtside movie star of the 2019 NBA Finals. In terms of the thought of Beyoncé proudly owning a WNBA franchise, all the celebs (or ought to we are saying comets) are in alignment. Beyoncé is from Houston, which on the inception of the league was residence to the WNBA’s first dynasty, the Houston Comets. From 1997 to 2000, the Comets gained the league’s first 4 championships and showcased WNBA legends Sheryl Swoopes, Tina Thompson and Cynthia Cooper.
Beyoncé plus the resurgence of a Houston franchise. Now that’s a Homecoming.
Miami, Gabrielle Union
Actress Gabrielle Union courtside at a recreation between the New York Knicks and Miami Warmth at Madison Sq. Backyard in New York.
Noah Okay. Murray-USA TODAY Sports activities
If anybody ought to personal a WNBA franchise in Miami, it’s Gabrielle Union. Miami had a WNBA group in 2000, however it folded in 2002 — one yr earlier than Union’s husband, Miami Warmth legend Dwyane Wade, arrived and ignited the whole metropolis, ultimately profitable three NBA championships in 15 seasons with the Warmth. Union, in fact, is a former hooper herself — the self-proclaimed Draymond Inexperienced of her highschool basketball staff.
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With Wade’s current retirement from the NBA, it’s Union’s flip to take over the 305. Union has been one of many largest movie star supporters of the WNBA and has been seen courtside with Wade at Los Angeles Sparks video games, even dancing with the group within the locker room after a house win in 2017.
That’s a Union we’d like to see.
Rapper Drake (middle) tosses a ball again onto the courtroom throughout Recreation four of the 2019 NBA Japanese Convention finals between the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Area in Toronto on Might 21.
Gregory Shamus/Getty Pictures
What higher place for the WNBA to have its first worldwide franchise than in a metropolis the place curiosity within the sport is at its peak? And if there’s any doubt concerning the curiosity in ladies’s basketball in The Six, a gaggle was lately shaped in Toronto in an try and launch a bid to convey a WNBA workforce to the town. I do know, I do know — the considered having to cope with Drake’s antics all summer time in addition to the NBA season (back-to-back, if you’ll) is an concept many might not embrace, however hear me out. We noticed what the Raptors’ 2019 run didn’t only for Toronto however for your complete nation of Canada.
Why Drake? Why not? Drake has proved to be an instrumental asset and ambassador for the Raptors. What he brings, apart from his sideline amusement, is his likeness as a logo of popular culture, which may draw a demographic that the WNBA has desperately tried to draw however has had various success in achieving. Final yr, he even did a shout-out to Las Vegas Aces middle Liz Cambage in his verse on Travis Scott’s “Sicko Mode.”
Cue the GIF of Drake clapping.
Bay Space, Ayesha Curry
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry (proper) waves to the gang together with his spouse, Ayesha (left), through the Warriors’ 2017 championship victory parade in downtown Oakland, California.
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports activities
If there’s one place the place the thought of WNBA enlargement feels inevitable, it’s the Bay Space. The NBA’s Warriors have been probably the most talked-about staff in basketball for the previous half-decade, and even earlier than bandwagoners hopped into the Golden State winner’s circle, the Bay Space nonetheless confirmed out. Perspective: The attendance for the 2008-09 Warriors, who gained 29 video games and completed 10th within the Western Convention, averaged underneath 1,000 followers fewer than the 2017-18 workforce that featured 4 All-Stars and gained its second straight NBA championship.
Briefly, the Bay Space loves basketball, interval.
With the Warriors shifting to a brand new area in San Francisco subsequent season, it marks a major alternative to introduce the WNBA to the Bay Space. Who higher to usher within the new franchise than the Currys, who’re nearly royalty within the area? Ayesha Curry is within the course of of building her personal empire, notably within the culinary subject. Her husband, Stephen Curry, has additionally already proven he’s a champion of the ladies’s recreation. He hosted a basketball camp within the Bay Space final summer time for 200 women aiming to start to shift views on the ladies’s recreation, which holds a profound significance for him.
Out of a possible battle of curiosity, nevertheless, Stephen Curry in all probability wouldn’t be capable of personal a WNBA workforce as an lively participant. All good, Ayesha’s obtained it.
Mississippi or Tennessee, Robin Roberts
Cynthia Cooper (left) of the Houston Comets indicators ESPN broadcaster Robin Roberts’ (proper) shirt after Recreation three of the 1998 WNBA Finals on Sept. 1, 1998, on the Compaq Middle in Houston.
Invoice Baptist/NBAE by way of Getty Photographs
Some perception into what sort of proprietor Robin Roberts, anchor of Good Morning America on ABC, can be: On the 2017 NCAA Ladies’s Remaining 4, Roberts was within the stands in Dallas as her group, the Mississippi State Bulldogs, pulled off the most important upset in ladies’s basketball by defeating UConn on the buzzer in additional time to advance to the championship recreation. After the sport, Roberts was within the locker room congratulating the workforce on the win. As a public determine who says good morning to your complete nation every single day of the week, Roberts turning into an proprietor of a WNBA workforce might introduce a brand new demographic to the league. She’s a former collegiate hooper for Southeastern Louisiana College, the place she completed her profession as one of many faculty’s all-time main scorers and rebounders (she averaged 27.6 factors her senior yr!). Roberts coated the pioneers of the WNBA as a broadcaster for ESPN and was the studio host for the NCAA Ladies’s Ultimate 4. In 2012, Roberts was elected to the Ladies’s Basketball Corridor of Fame for her influence on the ladies’s recreation.
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The WNBA has simply two groups within the South, Atlanta and Dallas, and the area is residence to a few of the greatest collegiate packages within the nation. Mississippi State has superior to the Candy 16 every of the previous 4 seasons, together with two nationwide championship recreation appearances; South Carolina gained the nationwide championship in 2017; and Tennessee has produced a number of WNBA legends, comparable to Chamique Holdsclaw, Candace Parker, Tamika Catchings and Kara Lawson. Roberts grew up in Mississippi and lived in Nashville, Tennessee. Both of these cities would suffice.
Philadelphia, JAda pinkett smith & Will Smith
Actors Will Smith (left) and Jada Pinkett Smith (proper) attend a recreation between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics.
Brian Babineau/NBAE by way of Getty Photographs
The WNBA has groups all alongside the Northeast, together with the Washington Mystics, the New York Liberty and the Connecticut Solar. May Philadelphia be subsequent? We’ve seen how The Course of has electrified 76ers followers in recent times, making the town a attainable vacation spot to fulfill Philly basketball followers’ want for year-round basketball. Who higher to courtroom the town’s first WNBA franchise than the Recent Prince? Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith have been minority house owners of the Sixers since 2011. Their private manufacturers together with a WNBA franchise would mesh completely. Whereas we’re at it, let’s make their son Jaden Smith’s JUST Water the official water of the soon-to-be franchise.
Will and Jada bringing the WNBA to Philly — we’d like to see it.