From humble beginnings, women’s basketball has now grown into a recognized sport, holding its own in a male-dominated arena, and the WNBA is a major reason for that growth. Since its first season in 1997, we have seen the number of teams participating and its talent pool grow.
The new young talent coming out of college, and the international game itself, is only improving, with each season promising to challenge the record books. In this article, we will look at where it all began, where it is now, and the inspirational players that paved the way for future generations.
As with the NBA and NCAA, online sportsbooks in Kansas offer a range of bets for WNBA wagering, such as money lines, point spreads, prop bets, futures, game totals, and live betting. In comparison to the NBA - you will find different odds with the WNBA, mainly down to the style of play, time of play, and size of the league.
In a male-dominated arena, women’s basketball hasn’t always been a bed of roses, and it isn’t quite there yet. However, with modern society evolving as it should, so is the recognition of women’s sporting achievements and their tenacity to strive for the best.
Until 2020, when the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) was announced, women in the WNBA felt very much unappreciated and struggled to get their voices heard. Issues were raised about the treatment of women athletes in the league, with gender equality and women’s rights at the top of the list of concerns.
The CBA brought about better conditions for the WNBA participants, focusing on an increased salary cap of 30%, total salaries during maternity leaves, mental health resources, better traveling conditions, an increased revenue split, player retention, and in-season tournaments.
WNBA vs. NBA
There are not too many dissimilarities when comparing the WNBA and the NBA. There is, of course, the gender difference and the fact that the NBA has been established for a much more extended period, dating back to 1946. The other significant difference is the number of teams that play in each league.
For the NBA league, thirty teams participate, while for the WNBA, just twelve teams compete. The WNBA is divided into two divisions, an Eastern Conference⎯holding six teams⎯and a Western Conference⎯comprising six teams.
The team sizes differ slightly, with the NBA allowing up to 12 players, with 5 on the court, and the WNBA allowing up to 15 in a team, with 5 on the court. The differences in the time durations of the matches are again minimal, with the NBA playing four quarters of 12 minutes and the WNBA playing four quarters of ten minutes.
Top WNBA Players
Several WNBA players have helped to shine a light on women’s basketball and bring it to the forefront of women’s sports in the public eye. Many players have empowered young girls to work hard, follow their dreams, and achieve great sporting accolades.
We can’t mention them all, so for our article, we’ll look at three outstanding contributors who have helped to shape the WNBA and the game as we know it today, bringing inspiration to future generations:
Lisa Leslie (1997−2009)
Lisa Leslie was a founding member of the WNBA in 1997 and became, arguably, the league’s first household name. Incredibly agile for her 6 '5 " build, Leslie became the first player to dunk in a WNBA game, paving the way for more recent talent, Brittney Griner, to thrill fans with high-flying dunks.
Lisa Leslie’s accolades include her twelve-time All-WNBA selection, three WNBA MVP (Most Valuable Player) awards, two WNBA titles, and four Olympic gold medals. Lisa still ranks in the top five for career rebounds and blocks, despite being out of the game for over a decade.
In 2019, Leslie added Ice Cube’s BIG3 Coach of the Year to her accolades following her first season on the bench. She remains Head Coach for the Triplets, a men’s expansion team, whom she led to the BIG3 Championship in her first year at the helm.
Sheryl Swoopes (1997−2011)
Sheryl Swoopes was the first player to be signed up for the WNBA in 1997 and accumulated over 2,000 points, 500 rebounds, 300 assists, and more than 200 steals. Swoopes was the first player to ever record a triple-double in the WNBA and still holds the record for having a triple-double in the playoffs.
Her accolades include being a three-time WNBA MVP, three-time Olympic gold medalist, three-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, four-time WNBA titles, and an NCAA championship. Sheryl was also the first woman to have a Nike basketball signature shoe, Air Swoopes, in 1996.
Tamika Catchings (2002−2016)
Indiana Fever icon, Tamika Catchings, is another early barrier breaker who has earnt her place as one of the top fifteen players in WNBA history. She ranks in the top five for various career stats, including points, playoff points, rebounds, minutes, and player efficiency ratings.
Her accolades include being a four-time Olympic gold medalist, five-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, ten-time WNBA All-Star, WNBA MVP, and a WNBA championship. Catchings has recently been awarded the International Citizen of the Year award (ICY).
The ICY award honors individuals whose work has achieved a global impact, and it elevated Indiana on the world stage. In 2004, Tamika established Catch the Stars Foundation, a non-profit organization that has benefited over 15,000 at-risk young people, promoting academic development and fitness.
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