Women's National Basketball Association
The Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) is an organization governing a professional basketball league for women in the United States. The league was formed in 1996 as the women's counterpart to the NBA. League play started in 1997; the regular season is played from May to September with the playoffs starting in mid-September and running into October.
Many WNBA teams have NBA counterparts and play in the same arena. The Connecticut Sun was the only team to play without sharing the city with an NBA team. However, on July 2, 2008, they were joined by the Seattle Storm, when the Seattle SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City. Currently, the Chicago Sky is the only other team that does not share an arena with an NBA counterpart. The Atlanta Dream, Chicago Sky, Connecticut Sun, Los Angeles Sparks, Phoenix Mercury, Seattle Storm and the Washington Mystics are independently owned.
 1997: We Got Next
Officially approved by the NBA Board of Governors on April 24, 1996, the creation of the WNBA was announced at a press conference with Rebecca Lobo, Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes in attendance. While not the first major women's professional basketball league in the United States (a distinction held by the defunct WBL), the WNBA is the only league to receive full backing of the NBA. The WNBA logo, "Logo Woman", paralleled the NBA logo and was selected out of 50 different designs.
 Late 1990s: The Comets Dynasty
On the heels of a much-publicized gold medal run by the 1996 USA Basketball Women's National Team at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games, the WNBA began its first season on June 21, 1997 to little fanfare. The league began with eight teams; the first WNBA game featured the New York Liberty facing the Los Angeles Sparks in Los Angeles. The game was televised nationally in the United States on the NBC television network. At the start of the 1997 season, the WNBA had television deals in place with NBC (NBA rights holder), and the Walt Disney Company and Hearst Corporation joint venture channels, ESPN and Lifetime Television Network, respectively. Penny Toler was the first woman to score a point in the league.
The WNBA centered its marketing campaign, dubbed "We Got Next", around stars Rebecca Lobo, Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes. In the league's first season, Leslie's Los Angeles Sparks underperformed and Swoopes sat out much of the season due to her pregnancy. The WNBA's true star in 1997 was WNBA MVP Cynthia Cooper, Swoopes' teammate on the Houston Comets. The Comets defeated Lobo's New York Liberty in the first WNBA Championship game.
The initial "We Got Next" advertisement would run following each NBA season until it was replaced with the "We Got Game" campaign.
In 1999, the league's chief competition, the American Basketball League, folded. Many of the ABL's star players, including several Olympic gold medalists (such as Nikki McCray and Dawn Staley) and a number of standout college performers (including Kate Starbird and Jennifer Rizzotti), then joined the rosters of WNBA teams and, in so doing, enhanced the overall quality of play in the league. When a lockout resulted in an abbreviated NBA season, the WNBA saw faltering TV viewership.
Four teams were added after the 1997 season, bringing the number of teams in the league up to twelve. The 1999 season began with a collective bargaining agreement between players and the league, marking the first collective bargaining agreement to be signed in the history of women's professional sports.
 Early 2000s: Moving Forward
The WNBA made a huge step on May 23, 2000, when the Houston Comets became the first WNBA team to be invited to the White House Rose Garden.
By the 2000 season, the WNBA had doubled in size. Two teams were added in 1998: the Detroit Shock and the Washington Mystics; another two in 1999 (the Minnesota Lynx and the Orlando Miracle); and four more for the 2000 season (the Indiana Fever, the Seattle Storm, the Miami Sol, and the Portland Fire). Teams and the league were collectively owned by the NBA until 2002, when the NBA sold WNBA teams either to their NBA counterparts in the same city or to a third party. This led to two teams moving; Utah to San Antonio and Orlando to Connecticut. With the move the Sun became the first WNBA team to be owned by a third party instead of an NBA franchise. It also led to two teams folding, the Miami Sol and Portland Fire.
On October 21, 2004, in the wake of this success, Val Ackerman, the first WNBA president, announced her resignation, effective February 1, 2005, citing the desire to spend more time with her family. Ackerman later became president of USA Basketball.
On February 15, 2005, NBA Commissioner David Stern announced that Donna Orender, who had been serving as the Senior Vice President of the PGA Tour and who had played for several teams in the now-defunct Women's Pro Basketball League, would be Ackerman's successor as of April 2005.
 Late 2000s: Parity in the West, Change in the East
The WNBA awarded its first expansion team in several years to Chicago (later named the Sky) in February 2006. In the off-season, a set of rule changes was approved that made the WNBA more like the NBA.
In 2006 the league became the first team-oriented women's professional sports league to exist for ten consecutive seasons. On the occasion of the tenth anniversary, the WNBA released its All-Decade Team, comprising the ten WNBA players deemed to have contributed, through on-court play and off-court activities, the most to women's basketball during the period of the league's existence.
In December 2006, the Charlotte Bobcats organization announced it would no longer operate the Charlotte Sting. Soon after, the WNBA announced that the Charlotte Sting would not operate for the upcoming season. A dispersal draft was held January 8, 2007, with all players except for unrestricted free agents Allison Feaster and Tammy Sutton-Brown available for selection. Teams selected in inverse order of their 2006 records; Chicago received the first pick and selected Monique Currie.
In October 2007 the WNBA awarded another expansion franchise to Atlanta. Atlanta businessman Ron Terwilliger will be the owner of the new team, nicknamed the Dream. The Dream played their first regular season game on May 17, which was a 100-67 loss to the Connecticut Sun.
During this expansion and contraction, the Western Conference saw increased levels of parity. In 2008, every Western Conference team was in the running for playoff position until the last week of the season. With the two recent expansion teams (Atlanta and Chicago) and a struggling Washington franchise, the same teams rose in the Eastern Conference year after year.
The 2009 WNBA season is set to start on June 6, 2009 and end on September 13, 2009. A decision was made to start the season later than normal to allow players overseas to have enough time to practice with their WNBA teams. This will also allow all graduating college seniors to participate in graduation ceremonies with their classes.
 Other Developments
In 2002, the WNBA Players Association threatened to strike the next season if a new deal was not worked out between players and the league. The result was a delay in the start of the 2003 preseason.
After the 2003 season, the Cleveland Rockers folded because the ownership of that franchise was unwilling to operate the franchise.
During the 2008 regular season, the first outdoor professional basketball game was played at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York between the New York Liberty and the Indiana Fever
In 2008, the WNBA took over ownership of one of the league's original franchises, the Houston Comets. The Houston Comets ceased operations on December 1, 2008.  A dispersal draft will take place on December 8, 2008.
The WNBA originated with 8 teams in 1997, and through a sequence of expansions, contractions, and relocations currently consists of 13 teams. There have been a total of 18 teams in WNBA history. Most WNBA teams are associated with the NBA team from the same market and are known as sister teams. These teams include the Detroit Pistons and the Detroit Shock, the Indiana Pacers and Indiana Fever, the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Sparks, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Lynx, the New York Knicks and New York Liberty, the Phoenix Suns and Phoenix Mercury, the Sacramento Kings and Sacramento Monarchs, the San Antonio Spurs and the San Antonio Silver Stars, and the Washington Wizards and Washington Mystics. The now defunct Charlotte Sting, Miami Sol and Houston Comets were also sister teams of the Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat and Houston Rockets, respectively. The Seattle Storm was the sister team of the now relocated Seattle SuperSonics.
||Sky blue, Red, White
||Sky blue, Gold
||Mohegan Sun Arena
||Navy blue, Red, Gold
||The Palace of Auburn Hills
||Blue, Red, Navy blue
||Navy blue, Gold, Red
|New York Liberty
||New York City, NY
||Madison Square Garden
||Blue, Liberty green, Orange
||Blue, Black, Bronze
|Los Angeles Sparks
||Los Angeles, CA
||Blue, Green, Silver
||US Airways Center
||Purple, Red, Chartreuse
||Purple, Red, Silver
|San Antonio Silver Stars
||San Antonio, TX
||Green, Red, Gold
An asterisk (*) denotes a franchise move. See the respective team articles for more information.
 Former Teams
 Future Teams
In 2007, investors took steps to recreate the Colorado Chill, a previously successful franchise in the now-defunct NWBL, as a WNBA expansion team, but in September, Chill backers announced that they had not raised enough money to join the WNBA in 2008.
As of August 2008, Norm Freedman, whose history with basketball dates back some 35 years, is heading a group of investors interested in bringing a WNBA franchise to play out of the Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. "The prospects are better than 50%," Freedman said. "The WNBA is quite positive, and so am I, that a team in Toronto will do well. 
In 2008, the city of Baltimore, Maryland announced that when the new arena in the city is completed, a WNBA franchise may be "moved" to that location. There is no word on which franchise would be moved. One rumor had the Washington Mystics relocating to Baltimore because the team has failed to compete during their 10 years in Washington.
Also in 2008, news surfaced that the WNBA was focusing on Nashville, Tennessee as a possible site for expansion. WNBA President Donna Orender claimed that "Tennessee is so logical" referring to the success of women's college basketball in that area. 
Every spring, the WNBA Draft is held in the city that hosted the NCAA Women's Final Four. The draft is three rounds long with each of the 13 teams in the league (trades aside) getting three picks. Draft order for teams that made the playoffs the previous year are based on team records. The team with the highest previous record will pick last. Since eight teams qualify for playoffs, the bottom eight picks are determined by this method. For the remaining top five picks, a Draft Lottery is held for the five teams that did not qualify for the playoffs.
 Regular Season
Following the winter break, teams hold training camps in May. Training camps allow the coaching staff to evaluate players (especially rookies), scout the team's strengths and weaknesses, prepare the players for the rigorous regular season, and determine the 11-woman active roster (and a 2-woman inactive list) with which they will begin the regular season. After training camp, a series of preseason exhibition games are held. The WNBA regular season begins in June.
During the regular season, each team plays 34 games, 17 each home and away. In the Western Conference, each team plays the five other teams 4 times each (20 games). Then they each play teams from the Eastern Conference twice (14 games), once on each team's home court. In the Eastern Conference, every team plays two teams in their conference 3 times each and play the remaining four teams 4 times apiece (22 games). Then they each play team from the opposite conference twice (12 games), once on each team's home court. This asymmetrical structure means the strength of schedule will vary significantly between teams. Each team hosts and visits every other team at least once every season.
In July, the regular season pauses to celebrate the annual WNBA All-Star Game. The game is part of a weekend-long event, held in a selected WNBA city each year. The actual game is played on the selected WNBA team's home court. The All-Star Game features star players from the Western Conference facing star players from the Eastern Conference. During the season, fans get to vote for the players they would like to see start the game. The 2006 All-Star Game was the first game to feature custom uniforms that match the decade anniversary logo. Due to the Olympics, there was no WNBA All-Star Game in 2008; the game will return in 2009.
Shortly after the All-Star break is the trading deadline. After this date, teams are not allowed to exchange players with each other for the remainder of the season, although they may still sign and release players. Major trades are often completed right before the trading deadline, making that day a hectic time for general managers.
Around the middle of September, the regular season ends. It is during this time that voting begins for individual awards. The Sixth Woman of the Year Award is given to the best player coming off the bench (must have more games coming off the bench than actual games started). The Rookie of the Year Award is awarded to the most outstanding first-year player. The Most Improved Player Award is awarded to the player who is deemed to have shown the most improvement from the previous season. The Defensive Player of the Year Award is awarded to the league's best defender. The Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award is awarded to the player who shows the outstanding sportspanship on and off the court. The Coach of the Year Award is awarded to the coach that has made the most positive difference to a team. The Most Valuable Player Award is given to player deemed the most valuable for (her team) that season.
Also named are the All-WNBA Teams, the All-Defensive Teams, and the All-Rookie Team; each consists of five players. There are two All-WNBA teams, consisting of the top players at each position, with first-team status being the most desirable. There are two All-Defensive teams, consisting of the top defenders at each position. There is one All-Rookie team, consisting of the top first-year players regardless of position.
 2008 Award Winners
 Olympic-Year Seasons
During years in which the Summer Olympics will be held, the WNBA takes a month off in the middle of the season to allow the players to practice and compete with their respective national teams. During the 2008 season, most of August was taken off to allow for the 2008 Summer Olympics being held in Beijing, China. The regular season ran from May 17, 2008 to September 14, 2008 (the Olympic break was from July 28, 2008 to August 27, 2008. The WNBA Playoffs and WNBA Finals led into October.
The WNBA Playoffs begin in late September, with four teams in each conference qualifying for the playoffs. Having a higher seed offers several advantages. Since the first seed plays the fourth seed, and the second seed plays the third seed, having a higher seed generally means one will be facing a weaker team. The team in each series with the better record has home court advantage.
The first two playoff rounds follow a tournament format with each team playing a rival in a best-of-three series, with the first team to win two games advancing into the next round, while the other team is eliminated from the playoffs. In the next round, the successful team plays against another advancing team of the same conference. All but one team in each conference are eliminated from the playoffs. Since the WNBA does not re-seed teams, the playoff bracket in each conference uses a traditional design, with the winner of the series matching the 1st and 4th seeded teams playing the winner of the series matching the 2nd and 3rd seeded teams. In both rounds, the best-of-three series follows a 1-2 home-court pattern, meaning that one team will have home court in game 1 while the other plays at home in games 2 and 3.
 WNBA Finals
The final playoff round, a best-of-five series between the victors of both conferences, is known as the WNBA Finals, and is held annually in late September. Each player on the winning team receives a championship ring. In addition, the league awards a WNBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award. For this round, the series follows a 2-2-1 pattern, meaning that one team will have home court in games 1, 2, and 5, while the other plays at home in games 3 and 4. The 2-2-1 pattern in the WNBA Finals has been in place since 2005.
 Players and Coaches
Over a decade after the launch of the WNBA, in 2008 only 5 players remain from the original 1997 WNBA Draft: Tamecka Dixon, Vickie Johnson, Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson. Not drafted in 1997 but picked up as a free agent was Mwadi Mabika. Only two of these players remain on the same teams that they were selected by in the 1997 WNBA Draft: Leslie with the Los Angeles Sparks, and Thompson with the Houston Comets. All six but Johnson have won a championship (Dixon, Leslie, and Mabika with the Sparks; Swoopes and Thompson with the Comets).
The members of the WNBA's All-Decade Team were chosen in 2006 on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the WNBA from amongst 30 nominees compiled by fan, media, coach, and player voting. The team was to comprise the 10 best and most influential players of the first decade of the WNBA, with consideration also given to sportsmanship, community service, leadership, and contribution to the growth of women's basketball.
Over 50 players have scored more than 2,000 points or more in their WNBA careers. Only three WNBA players have reached the 5,000 point milestone: Lisa Leslie, Tina Thompson and Katie Smith.
In 2007, Paul Westhead of the Phoenix Mercury became the first person to earn both NBA and WNBA championship rings as a coach.
The oldest player to play in the league was Nancy Lieberman who signed a seven-day contract and played in 1 game for the Detroit Shock in 2008. She was 50 years old. She broke the previous record (39) which was set by herself in 1997 before she retired.
Rules are governed by standard basketball rules as defined by the NBA, with a few notable exceptions:
- The three-point line is 20 feet 6.25 inches (6.25 m) from the middle of the basket, in line with FIBA regulations.
- The regulation WNBA ball is a minimum 28.5 inches (72.4 cm) in circumference, 1.00 inch (2.54 cm) smaller than the NBA ball. As of 2004, this size is used for all senior-level women's competitions worldwide.
- There is no block/charge arc under the basket.
- Quarters are 10 minutes in duration instead of 12.
Starting with the 2006 WNBA season, all games are divided into four 10-minute quarters as opposed to the league's original two 20-minute halves of play, as to fit with international procedures (many WNBA players play in Europe or Australia in the Northern Hemisphere autumn and winter). The NBA rule on jump balls is used for determining possession for the second, third, and fourth periods (i.e. team winning tip is awarded the ball at the beginning of the fourth quarter; the other team gets it to start the second and third periods). Under the two-half format both periods started with jump balls, presumably to prevent teams from purposely losing the opening tip in order to get the ball first in the second half. With the four quarters format this is not a problem because the team that wins the tip gets the ball first in the final period.
Also in 2006, the shot clock was decreased from 30 to 24 seconds and the league began adopting NBA rules (14 second reset on any defensive foul if less than such time remains when a foul is called). The rule changes signaled a move away from rules more similar to those of college basketball and toward those that provide a more NBA-like game.
In 2007, the rules were changed again; the amount of time that a team must move the ball across the half-court line went from 10 to 8 seconds. In addition, a referee can grant time-outs to either a player or the coach, as in the NBA.
In 2008, more rules were added; when the ball is being inbounded in the final minute of the fourth quarter or overtime, the ball may be passed anywhere on the court. Also, players not occupying lane spaces on free throws are allowed to stand as close to the basket as the three-point line (above the free-throw line extended).
 WNBA Presidents
So far the WNBA has not mirrored the monetary success of the NBA, though it targets profitability. The NBA has provided annual subsidies of approximately $12 million dollars to cover operating losses.
 Salary Caps
Many WNBA players choose to supplement their salaries by playing in European or Australian women's basketball leagues during the WNBA off-season. In 2008, a new six-year collective bargaining agreement was agreed upon between the players and the league. The salary cap for an entire team in 2008 is $772,000. By 2013 (the sixth year under this agreement), the cap for an entire team will be $900,000. The minimum salary for a player with three-plus years of experience is $50,000 while the maximum salary for a six-plus year player is $97,500. The minimum salary for rookies picked in: first round- $36,353, second round- $35,000, third round- $34,500.
WNBA players are also awarded bonuses for certain achievements. A player who earns a league award gets a $5,000 bonus. The league Most Valuable Player receives a $15,000 bonus. Additionally, playoff bonuses are given and each player on the WNBA champion team receives a $10,500 bonus.
In 2008, league merchandise sales were up more than 36%, and WNBA jersey sales were up more than 46%, based on combined sales from the NBA Store and WNBAStore.com.
Overall, league attendance was about 8,000 people per game in 2008. Attendance has gone up and down but has climbed slightly in the last two years. Attendance was at its peak in the league's second season (1998) at almost 11,000 fans per game, and the all time league average is 8,400 fans per game.
- There were 46 sellouts in 2008, almost triple the 17 for the 2007 regular season and double the previous record of 23 in 2004.
|Total WNBA Attendance
||Mohegan Sun Arena
||The Palace of Auburn Hills
|Los Angeles Sparks
|New York Liberty
||Madison Square Garden
||US Airways Center
|San Antonio Silver Stars
 Media Coverage
As of 2008, WNBA games are televised throughout the U.S. by ABC, ESPN2 and NBA TV. In the early years two women's-oriented networks, Lifetime and Oxygen, also broadcast games including the first game of the WNBA. NBC showed games from 1997 to 2002 as part of their NBA on NBC coverage before the league transferred the rights to ABC/ESPN. This same deal was extended to the 2016 season in late June 2007.
Many teams have local telecasts and all games are also on local radio and Sirius Satellite Radio.
Saturday and Sunday afternoon games are broadcast on ABC. Tuesday night games are broadcast on ESPN2. On opening day (May 17, 2008), ABC broadcast the Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury matchup. The game received a little over 1 million viewers. Average viewership for games broadcast on national television was 413,000 (up from 346,000 in 2007).
WNBA finished up in key demos on ESPN2 -- Women 18-34 (+71%) and Men 18-34 (+28%) – and on ABC -- All Women (+10%) and Women 18-34 (+20%).
 All-Time Franchise History
 See also
Other North American Professional Women's Basketball Leagues
Other North American Professional Women's Leagues
Video Games featuring some WNBA Players
 External links