Magazine cover gives WNBA some overdue respect

WBNA 20in20nobylineFor 20 weeks, to commemorate the WNBA’s 20th season (the
MSR having covered each season), the MSR sports section will feature a column or article on the W in our “20 in 20” series.

This week: a 20th anniversary layup line


Minnesota Lynx forward Maya Moore led the current and former WNBA players’ layup line on ESPN The Magazine’s “ambitious tri-fold cover” on its May issue. She, Tina Charles, Skylar Diggins, Tina Thompson, Teresa Weatherspoon, Chiney Ogwumike, Tamika Catchings, Katie Smith, Rebecca Lobo, Elena Delle Donne, Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart each is pictured with a white basketball in her hand and making basketball moves.

“It was really humbling to be in the group,” admits Moore. “We had different actions…like we were attempting a shot.”

magazine cover.45
Courtesy of ESPN

An ESPN fact sheet says approximately 9,000 photos were taken in 16 hours. “I thought ESPN did a real good job in connecting all the pieces and putting it all together,” notes Catchings. “It was a lot of hours for the crew who had to do it, but I was there maybe two hours or so.  It was in and out; then the next player came.”

“It was cool the way they shot all of us,” continues Moore, who successfully progressed from a fan as a young girl to a league MVP, three-time WNBA champion, and multiple-time player of the week winner.

The May 13 issue, after its regular takes on football, NBA and baseball, included seven WNBA-themed pieces in recognition of the league’s 20th anniversary

espnW Senior Writer Kate Fagan wrote about Phoenix teammates Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi, discussing their relationship, successes and struggles. The two also play together in Russia during the offseason, among many W players who do so mainly because of the salary disparities. They “exist in a perpetual state of motion” after they are drafted, in essence becoming “modern-day nomads” by playing virtually all year round, wrote Fagan.

Other articles included an oral history of the WNBA by some of its pioneers and on top draft picks such as Stewart this year who must annually shoulder the unrealistic burden of moving the league forward.

ESPN The Magazine was among several national sports publications to which I once subscribed, but various deficiencies, mainly these publications’ scant coverage of women’s sports, including the WNBA, prompted me to drop them all.

I still read them, mainly online, or buy a copy when needed. I obtained the May copy as they were passed out to fans entering the arena at the Lynx’s opening night game.

“All the players in the league got a copy the day before [its release],” announced Catchings. “It was in our lockers when we came in. Everybody [on her Fever team] was looking for my picture.”

The ESPN cover is a wide departure from the league’s first season when its first marketing campaign failed, which featured players in evening gowns. It was the magazine’s fourth time featuring W players, preceded by Taurasi in 2003, a very pregnant Candace Parker in 2009, and Griner posing with a snake in 2013.

Does this mean that the W, at least in the magazine editors’ eyes, has finally reach major league status? Fagan, in an MSR phone interview, was guarded in her optimism.

“I don’t really think it is going to be one moment that catapults the league to the level” alongside the men’s major leagues, surmises Fagan. “It has to be steady and smart marketing campaigns, dissemination of different stories that help introduce people to the players and the league in a new way.”

Let’s hope the ESPN W cover is the start of something more consistent in its coverage.


Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to