The 2021 WNBA regular season starts this week. Minnesota opens play May 14 at home against Phoenix, the Lynx’s first home game since 2019.
“This is going to be competitive” because of so many changes around the league from the draft and free agency, stated Lynx center Sylvia Fowles, who begins her 15th season.
Old faces, new places
Candace Parker starts her 14th season in Chicago after the previous 13 in Los Angeles. She is among many veterans now with new teams this season. “I always looked up to her since I was a little kid,” said Chicago teammate Azura Stevens. “I did a project on her in middle school.”
New uniforms, new logo, new ball
The W introduced its new H.E.R. uniforms for all teams, a new 25th anniversary logo and a new game ball. “This one has a little bit more grip, and I like it,” says new Lynx Aerial Powers, in her seventh season. The old ball, according to Powers, “was very slippery.”
Milestones to watch for
Several sistahs are expected to hit scoring, rebounding and assists milestones during the season.
Fowles needs 513 points to reach 6,000 career points.
Parker needs 316 points to reach 6,000 and 98 rebounds to reach 3,000.
Angel McCoughtry (Las Vegas) needs 215 points to reach 6,000.
Tina Charles (Washington) needs 18 points to reach 6,000.
Candice Dupree (Seattle) needs 272 points to reach 7,000.
Brittney Griner (Phoenix) needs 316 points to reach 4,000.
Kayla McBride (Minnesota) needs 142 points to reach 3,000.
Amanda Zahui B (Los Angeles) needs 47 points to reach 1,000.
Naphessa Collier (Minnesota) needs 201 points to reach 1,000.
Seimone Augustus (Los Angeles) needs 89 assists to reach 1,000.
After last season’s Wubble, all 12 WNBA teams are back in their respective home arenas. “I feel like we haven’t seen this place in so long,” declared Fowles. “It’s just been over a year, but to be back on our home floor, to see the people we haven’t seen in here, to be just back in this atmosphere, it feels so good to be back on the court.”
“Last year I was a virtual coach,” said LA Sparks Associate HC Fred Williams. He and Seattle HC Dan Hughes weren’t allowed to coach last season due to health precautions. “That was the tough part, watching every game” from home, added Williams.
Erica Wheeler also sat out last season for pandemic reasons. She signed with Los Angeles as a free agent. “I could have given up so many times, but I kept pushing and pushing,” said the undrafted guard from Rutgers who finally hooked onto a team in 2015. She became the first undrafted player to win All-Star MVP (2019) and is now in her seventh season.
The WNBA is celebrating 25 years. The league’s greatest players will be selected by fans and others and will be announced later this season. Yet it still seeks major league acceptance by many sports media types and others.
A sports media Q & A last week in The Athletic made no mention of the W among pro sports viewing. Yet at least 100 regular season games are scheduled on several channels this year: CBS (40), NBA TV (35), ESPN and CBSN (25), ESPN2 (12), ABC (9) and at least 20 games on social media sites.
“We’re well poised for success and growth,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert. “I couldn’t be more pleased with how things are going. We’re a player-first league.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.