This column continues the Only One series with special reports on the 2015 WNBA All-Star Game.
Uncasville, Conn. — WNBA President Laurel Richie asked why I love coming to these contests. Saturday will be 10 straight games for the Only One covering the WNBA All-Star Game, and 11 out of 13 total midsummer games.
Rather than some artificial goal, such as baseball’s All-Star game, the winner gives the respective league home field advantage in the World Series, or the NBA’s mid-season contest, which is a no-defense, all-offense affair, the W’s All-Star Game instead has bragging rights always on the line.
The Western Conference won the first six games, but since 2006 the Eastern Conference has won four of the last six, including last year’s one-point overtime win. “I think we do a great job of mixing in competitiveness but also there’s a fun air to it,” said Minnesota’s Maya Moore. “You’ll see some good basketball.”
“It displays what we are about as a league,” added Atlanta General Manager Angela Taylor. “They play hard for 40 minutes. They are playing defense — it’s not ‘ole’ defense or a lot of high scoring.”
“It wouldn’t be right if we didn’t try to win. Everybody wants to win,” said Plenette Pierson of Tulsa.
Pre-All Star notes, quotes and anything else —
The All-Star practice tradition of players shooting half-court shots continued Friday at the open practices for both squads. Washington’s Stefanie Dolson, after several attempts, made it for the East; DeWanna Bonner (Phoenix) swished her first attempt from the center court line. West Coach Sandy Brondello called for a dunk contest — only 6-8 Brittney Griner took part and flushed a couple of attempts, including an alley-oop from Danielle Robinson.
Triple plays — Minnesota (Moore, Seimone Augustus, Lindsay Whalen), Phoenix (Bonner, Griner, Candice Dupree) and Tulsa (Pierson, Skylar Diggins, Riquana Williams) all sent three players to this year’s All-Star Game. “It’s a moment in the season where you can appreciate” being here, noted Moore, a four-time All Star starter. Unfortunately, Augustus, Whalen and Diggins all are unable to play due to injuries.
First-time All-Stars this year: Dolson, Bonner, Pierson, Riquna Williams (Tulsa), Marissa Coleman (Indiana), Alex Bentley and Kelsey Bone (Connecticut), Jantel Lavender (Los Angeles), Kayla McBride (San Antonio) and Emma Messeman (Washington).
Between practices, some of the players reflected on what being in the All-Star Game meant to them. “I’ve been wanting to play in the WNBA all of my life,” added Bentley. “I grow up watching Tamika Catchings and the Indiana Pacers. This is huge for me.”
“It’s kind of surreal…I’m very blessed and humbled. I’m still trying to take this in,” said McBride. “They called me and told me I was an All-Star,” noted Bone. “I thought it was a prank.”
“To say Pienette Pierson is an All-Star, it is an amazing feeling. It is something I can’t put into words,” said Pierson, the 12-year forward.
This is the first time since 2009 that there are no rookies in the All-Star Game. Also, this is the only the second time two females — as Phoenix’s Brondello and Chicago Coach and General Manager Pokey Chatman — served as head coaches for the West and East. Furthermore, Chatman is the first Black woman to be an All-Star head coach. “I have a court-side seat and I am going to enjoy it,” she concluded.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more 015 WNBA All-Star coverage: