The women of the WNBA are showing the world what basketball is on their own terms.
When the WNBA Draft pops off tonight at 7pm at Nike NYC Headquarters, the players that are selected will be entering the league at a transformative time. Never before has it been so robust, popular, confident and representative of its true self.
It took the WNBA over two decades to feel comfortable enough in its own skin to not worry about stepping on toes while finding its niche in the sports landscape. It took Sheryl Swoopes and Candace Parker changing the narrative on female athletes, gender roles, child birth and relationships.
It took the LGBTQ community’s continued support of the league and its athletes. It also took a lot of skill, international and Olympic success, guts and belief that the WNBA could become the premier women’s pro league around the globe.
When the league launched back in the late ’90s, it was totally funded by the NBA; dependent on the father league’s money and marketing direction for survival. The league’s target audience was women and families. The male audience was almost nonexistent. The girls who were serious ballers preferred to watch NBA games and emulate male players. There were however, a handful of stars able to transcend the game and become known simply as Hall of Fame basketball players, void of gender distinction.
They provided hope for young women with dreams of playing professional basketball and inspiration to girls with a deeper yearning for the level of competition and athletic respect that was readily available to boys and men.
The family friendly, carnival-like atmosphere that was prevalent in WNBA arenas worked for a while, but as the talent bubbled and the amount of girls taking basketball seriously exploded, the evolution of the league became the marketing centerpoint.
Fast forward to 2019. The seriousness of the craft has spread like wildfire and the rippling effects can be felt at the grassroots level.
The WNBA is established, the talent pipeline is oozing with ballers and the brand of women’s basketball is closer to the men’s game than it’s ever been in terms of shooting ability, all-around skill and playing above the rim.
Constant comparisons to the men’s game is also what’s diminished the greatness and significance of the league over the years. Instead of appreciating the women’s game for its unique beauty, criticisms were made about the pace of the game and the altitude at which it was played.
All of that stops now.
There are women in high school that dunk in games now. Film of the WNBA we used to know is like the old grainy tapes of Bob Cousy and Bill Russell that is seen on NBA TV. The new WNBA is live and accessible in HD 24 hours a day on hundreds of mediums.
The true culture of women’s sports is now becoming evident to the world. Separate from comparison to the men’s game and respected for its unique, all-encompassing glory and contributions to empowering girls and women across the world.
There are more WNBA stars than ever. More dynamic women athletes to look up to.
The WNBA and Nike today revealed team uniforms for the 2019 WNBA season . As a reminder, the league announced a marquee partnership with AT&T on Monday and the company logo is featured on the front of all team jerseys.
For the second year, WNBA teams will wear Nike Women’s Aeroswift uniforms throughout the season. However, there are a number of aesthetic updates to keep an eye out for. Player numbers will only appear on the back of the jerseys so team logos feature more prominently on the front. The Las Vegas Aces Icon Edition uniform features new red accents, while the Statement Edition silhouette changed to red with black accents.
The revamped logo for the Chicago Sky will appear for the first time.
The Future is Now
With a new look, new voice and a whole new approach to storytelling, the WNBA is elevating not just the game but also the social and pop culture movements around it.
The League says its “making space for our game, our players and our fans to shine and show the world who we really are – bad ass ballers and dynamic women who challenge convention and shape culture.”
“The WNBA is reasserting itself as a bold, progressive league that stands for the power of women,” said WNBA COO Christy Hedgpeth. “This new voice will amplify our mission of empowerment and inspiration and will magnify what makes our league exceptional – the strength, diversity and multi-dimensionality of the women of the W.”