The Wubble has ended and it is always a sad day for sports fans when their favorite league crowns a champion and the waiting game begins. But as my mother always texts me “there’s new mercies every morning” and although the WNBA season has ended and that makes me sad the season was a true success. The new faces to the league made splashes with a historic ROTY and some generational talent. The current stars held their own as the best in the league even though some of the top talent was unable to play. The W is growing in popularity and that was evident this year; Let’s dive into all this season had to offer.
The WNBA has had an increase in viewership year-over-year for the past 3 years. Whenever I talk about the WNBA I always emphasize that the league is in a cyclical state of viewership. People don’t watch because games aren’t televised and because people don’t watch games aren’t televised. Viewership for Game 3 of the Finals was up 34% from last year’s finals. Total viewership numbers are still significantly lower than that of the Big 4 sports but nonetheless positive viewership change is much better than negative. For the entirety of the Finals series, viewership was up 14% from last year’s Finals; once again showing a solid positive trend in viewership. As a league that is constantly compared to the NBA and also a league in the relatively early stages of existence, this growth in viewership is a fantastic sign for the league’s potential success in the years to come.
Let’s move over to the players and talk about the new faces in the league. Personally, I was most excited to watch Sabrina Ionescu of the New York Liberty play this year and she was the heavy Rookie Of The Year favorite but unfortunately she injured her ankle in game 2 and was forced to miss the remainder of the year. This year’s ROTY was historic as I mentioned above because it was the first time in league history that a player drafted in the second round won the award: Crystal Dangerfield. Dangerfield averaged 16, 4 and 2 for the Minnesota Lynx. She led the team in both points and assists and helped to lead the Lynx to the WNBA playoffs before losing in the semi-finals to the eventual champion Seattle Storm. A force to be reckoned with for years to come, Dangerfield has given the Lynx an additional spark to push them back into title contention.
The 2 biggest stars of the WNBA battled it out throughout the entire season and into the finals. Regular Season MVP A’ja Wilson led her Los Vegas Aces to the #1 seed for the playoffs and helped her team make the finals before ultimately losing to Seattle. She was second in the league in points and in the top 10 in rebounds. Wilson was a dominant force and a justifiable MVP. The fact that the Aces were able to make the finals was a tribute to the excellence of Wilson as they were without 2 of their best players for the whole year with an additional 3rd missing the finals in Liz Cambage and Kelsey Plum for the season and Dearica Hamby for the finals. This team proved that they can and will compete for titles in the upcoming years and put the league on notice! On the other side of that coin is the fact that Breanna Stewart and the Storm looked like the best team in the league throughout the whole year and the worst news for the league is that the core of that Storm team is very young.
Jordin Canada and Jewel Loyd were both playing behind each other and then behind Sue Bird (who just secured her 4th title at the age of 40). This Storm team’s best aspect is their depth and when you’re able to have great depth behind a generational talent of Stewart, titles should be plentiful.
The league was missing some of its greats this year and that gives me even more hope for the future of this league. As mentioned above Cambage and Plum sat the year out due to injury and COVID and you could make a case that a team made up of solely players who opted out due to injury or COVID could make a title run. Here’s just a beginning starting 5 players who have missed at least 50% of the bubble season. Kelsey Plum, Jonquel Jones, Elena Delle Donne (2019 MVP), Liz Cambage and Brittney Griner. I’ll do the math for you: That’s 5 legit all-star candidate players. The league had increased viewership and was missing 26% of players who ranked in the top 10th over the past 3 years. Here’s a deeper dive from FiveThirtyEight on just how much talent was missed this year. The league is on the rise, hop on the bandwagon now before it’s too late.
Huge shoutout to Sue Bird for winning her 4th title in her 17th season (sounds like another big basketball player). Shoutout to Breanna Stewart for winning her 6th ring in 8 college and WNBA seasons, yes you read that right. And a MASSIVE shoutout to the women leading the Social Justice charge. Many sports leagues have put an emphasis on social justice this year, but they have failed to do what the WNBA has done this year and has always done. The Women of this league are the pioneers for social justice in the sports world and should have earned the respect of many.
So, The W is over for this season and we hit the offseason another year wiser. What player are you most looking forward to watching again next year? Or is there a player that missed this year that you’re excited to get back next year? Let us know below!