The Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) is a women's professional basketball league in the United States. It currently is composed of twelve teams. The league was founded on April 24, 1996, as the women's counterpart to the National Basketball Association (NBA). League play started in 1997; the regular season is currently played from June to September with the finals in October.
Many WNBA teams have direct NBA counterparts and play in the same arena. The Connecticut Sun, Seattle Storm, Tulsa Shock, and Chicago Sky are the only teams that do not share an arena with a direct NBA counterpart, although three of the four, the Sun, the Shock, and the Sky, share a market with a NBA counterpart. The four aforementioned franchises, along with the Atlanta Dream and the Los Angeles Sparks, are all independently owned. This independent ownership is important to the WNBA's growth; at one time, all teams in the league were owned by the NBA.
- 1.1 "We Got A League" (1997)
- 1.2 The Houston Comets dynasty (1997–2000)
- 1.3 Lisa Leslie and the Los Angeles Sparks (2001–2002)
- 1.4 Bill Laimbeer leaves his mark on the WNBA (2003–2006)
- 1.5 Bringing "Paul Ball" to the WNBA (2007–2009)
- 1.6 Changing of the guard (2010–2012)
- 1.7 The Three To See (2013)
- 1.8 Other developments
- 1.9 International influence
- 1.10 Milestones
- 2 Teams
- 3 The WNBA Draft
- 4 Regular season
- 5 The WNBA Playoffs
- 6 The WNBA Finals
- 7 Players and coaches
- 8 Rules and regulations
- 9 Business
- 10 Media coverage
- 11 All-Time franchise history
- 12 See also
- 13 References
- 14 External links
The league began with eight teams: the Charlotte Sting, Cleveland Rockers, Houston Comets and New York Liberty in the Eastern Conference; and the Los Angeles Sparks, Phoenix Mercury, Sacramento Monarchs and Utah Starzz in the Western Conference.
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.
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 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 scored the league's first point.
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 ran before each WNBA season until it was replaced with the "We Got Game" campaign.Sheryl Swoopes, the first player signed (shown in 2008)
Two teams were added in 1998 (Detroit and Washington) and two more in 1999 (Orlando and Minnesota), 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.
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.
On May 23, 2000, the Houston Comets became the first WNBA team to be invited to the White House Rose Garden. This was important to the WNBA's growth because before this invitation, only men's sports teams had traveled to the White House.
At the end of the 2000 season, the Houston Comets won their fourth championship, capturing every title since the league's inception. Led by the "Big Three" of Sheryl Swoopes, Tina Thompson, and four-time Finals MVP Cynthia Cooper, the Comets dominated every team in the league. Under head coach Van Chancellor, the team posted a 98–24 record through their first four seasons (16–3 in the Playoffs). After 2000, Cooper retired from the league and the Comets dynasty came to an end.
Going into the 2001 season, Houston faltered without Cooper and fell to fourth place in the conference by the end of the season. The top contender was the league's marquee team, the Los Angeles Sparks. The Sparks were predicted to win the earlier championships but the team could never get past the dominating Comets. Led by Lisa Leslie, the most dominating post player at the time, the Sparks posted an outstanding regular season record of 28–4. They advanced to their first ever WNBA Finals and swept the fourth-seededCharlotte Sting from the Eastern Conference. Looking to repeat in 2002, the Sparks again made a strong run toward the postseason, going 25–7 in the regular season under head coach Michael Cooper, formerly of the Los Angeles Lakers. Again, Leslie dominated opponents throughout the Playoffs, leading the Sparks to a perfect 6–0 record through all three rounds, beating rival New York Liberty in the2002 Finals.
Teams and the league were collectively owned by the NBA until the end of 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. This sale of teams also led to two teams folding, the Miami Sol and Portland Fire, because new owners could not be found.
After taking over a struggling franchise in 2002, former Detroit Pistons Bad Boy Bill Laimbeer had high hopes for the Detroit Shock in 2003. The team was just 9–23 in 2002, but Laimbeer predicted that the Shock would win the 2003 championship. Things started well for the Shock, who had three all-stars in the 2003 All-Star Game (Swin Cash, Cheryl Ford, and Deanna Nolan). Amazingly, Laimbeer orchestrated a rare worst-to-first turnaround and the Shock finished the season 25–9 in first place in the Eastern Conference. Winning the first two rounds of the Playoffs, the Shock had to face two-time champion Los Angeles Sparks and reigning Finals MVP Lisa Leslie in the 2003 Finals. The Shock beat the Sparks, winning game three on a three-pointer by Deanna Nolan.Bill Laimbeer
On October 21, 2004, 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 ofUSA Basketball. During the 2010-13 NCAA conference realignment, Ackerman was selected as the new commissioner of the new Big East Conference.
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.
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.
After missing out on the Finals in 2004 and 2005, the Shock bounced back in 2006 behind newly acquired Katie Smith. Along with Smith, the Shock still had six remaining members from their 2003 Finals run (Cash, Ford, Holland-Corn, Nolan, Powell, and Riley). Head coach Laimbeer knew how difficult it was to get to the Finals a second time and the Shock were up for the challenge. They finished second in the Eastern Conference, but knocked off first-seeded Connecticut in the second round of the Playoffs. The Shock had to face reigning champion Sacramento Monarchs in a five game series. The Shock won game five on their home floor, again solidifying their power in the league.Diana Taurasi of the Mercury
In December 2006, the Charlotte Bobcats organization announced it would no longer operate the Charlotte Sting. Soon after, the WNBA announced that the Sting would not operate for 2007. A dispersal draft was held January 8, 2007. Teams selected in inverse order of their 2006 records; Chicago received the first pick and selected Monique Currie.
Former Los Angeles Lakers championship coach Paul Westhead was named head coach of the Phoenix Mercury on October 11, 2005, bringing his up-tempo style of play to the WNBA. This fast-paced offense was perfect for his team, especially after the league shortened the shot clock from 30 seconds to 24 seconds in 2006. Much like the early Houston Comets championship teams, the Phoenix Mercury had risen to prominence led by their own "Big Three" of Cappie Pondexter, Diana Taurasi, and Penny Taylor.
The Mercury were well-suited for fast offense behind these three players. Phoenix averaged a league-record 88.97 points per game in 2007; teams could not keep up with the new style of play, and the Mercury were propelled into first place in the Western Conference. Facing the reigning champion Detroit Shock, the Mercury imposed their high-scoring offense with hopes of capturing their first title in franchise history. Averaging 93.2 points per game in the Finals series, the Mercury beat Detroit on their home floor in front of 22,076 fans in game five to claim their first ever WNBA title.
In October 2007 the WNBA awarded another expansion franchise to Atlanta. Atlanta businessman Ron Terwilliger was the original owner of the new team. Citizens of Atlanta were able to vote for their choices for the new team's nickname and colors. The Dream, as they were named, played their first regular season game on May 17, which was a 67-100 loss to the Connecticut Sun.
Paul Westhead resigned from the Mercury after capturing the 2007 title and Penny Taylor opted to stay home to prepare for the 2008 Summer Olympics, causing the Mercury to falter in 2008. The team posted a 16–18 record and became the first team in WNBA history to miss the Playoffs after winning the championship in the previous season. In their place, the Detroit Shock won their third championship under coach Bill Laimbeer, solidifying their place in WNBA history before Laimbeer resigned early in 2009, effectively ending the Shock dynasty.
Late in 2008, the WNBA took over ownership of one of the league's original franchises, the Houston Comets. The Comets ceased operations on December 1, 2008 after no owners for the franchise could be found. A dispersal draft took place on December 8, 2008 and with the first pick, Sancho Lyttle was taken by the Atlanta Dream.
After an unsatisfying conclusion in 2008, the Mercury looked to bounce back to championship caliber. New head coach Corey Gaines implemented Paul Westhead's style of play, and the Mercury averaged 92.82 points per game throughout the 2009 season. Helped by the return of Penny Taylor, the Mercury once again locked up first place in the Western Conference and advanced to the 2009 Finals. The championship series was a battle of contrasting styles as the Mercury (number one league offense, 92.82 points per game) had to face the Indiana Fever (number three league defense, 73.55 points per game). The series went five games, including arguably one of the most thrilling games in WNBA history in game one of the series (Phoenix won in overtime, 120–116. The Mercury beat the Fever in game five, this time on their home court, to capture their second WNBA championship.
Not only did Paul Westhead's system influence his Mercury team, but it created a domino effect throughout the league. Young athletic players were capable of scoring more and playing at a faster pace. As a league, the 2010 average of 80.35 points per game was the best ever, far surpassing the 69.2 average in the league's inaugural season.Sylvia Fowles of the Sky
On October 20, 2009, the WNBA announced that the Detroit Shock would relocate to Tulsa, Oklahoma; the team is called the Tulsa Shock. On November 20, 2009, the WNBA announced that theSacramento Monarchs had folded due to lack of support from its current owners, the Maloof family, who were also the owners of the Sacramento Kings at the time. The league announced it would seek new owners to relocate the team to the San Francisco Bay area; however, no ownership was found and a dispersal draft was held on December 14, 2009.
The 2010 season saw a tight race in the East, with three teams being tied for first place on the final day of the regular season. Five of the six teams in the East were in first place at some point during the season. The East held a .681 winning percentage over the West, its highest ever. In the 2010 Finals, two new teams represented each conference: the Seattle Storm and the Atlanta Dream. Seattle made their first finals appearance since winning it all in 2004 and Atlanta, coming into the playoffs as a four seed, impressively swept its opponents in the first two rounds to advance to the Finals in only the third year of the team's existence.
After the 2010 season, President Orender announced she would be resigning from her position as of December 31. On April 21, 2011, NBA commissioner David Stern announced that former Girl Scouts of the USA Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Laurel J. Richie would assume duties as President on May 16, 2011.
The 2011 season began with strong publicity helped by the rising young stars of the league and the NBA lockout. Many news outlets began covering the league more frequently. NBA TV, the television home of the NBA scheduled over 70 regular season games to be televised (along with a dozen more on ESPN2 and ABC). The new influx of young talent into the league gave many teams something to be excited about. Players like Candace Parker of the Sparks, Maya Moore of the Lynx, DeWanna Bonner, and Samantha Prahalis of the Mercury, Angel McCoughtry of the Dream, Sylvia Fowles of the Sky,Tina Charles of the Sun, and Liz Cambage of the Shock brought a new level of excitement to the game, adding talent to the teams of young veterans such as Diana Taurasi, Seimone Augustus andCappie Pondexter. The level of play was getting better, as evidenced by higher scoring, better defense, and higher shooting percentages. Fans responded to the new stars in the league; by the end of the2011 regular season, nine of the twelve teams in the league had increased attendance over their 2010 averages.
The new influx of talented young players showed that the league's longevity gave young girls something to aspire to. Rookies coming into the league had the luxury of growing up watching veterans like Cynthia Cooper, Lisa Leslie andTeresa Weatherspoon. For the first time ever, young girls could now look at the WNBA as an opportunity for basketball to continue after college.
The new players delivered in 2011. Connecticut Sun center Tina Charles set a league record for double-doubles in a season with 23. Also, Sylvia Fowles of the Chicago Sky became only the second player in WNBA history to finish a season averaging at least 20 points (20.0ppg) and 10 rebounds (10.2rpg) per game. The San Antonio Silver Stars experienced boosts from their young players as well; rookie Danielle Adams scored 32 points off the bench in June and fellow rookie Danielle Robinson had a 36-point game in September. Atlanta Dream forward Angel McCoughtry was the first player in league history to average over 20 points per game (21.6ppg) while playing under 30 minutes per game (27.9mpg).
McCoughtry led her team to the Finals for the second straight year, but despite breaking her own Finals scoring record, the Dream was swept for the second straight year, this time by the Minnesota Lynx, which won its first title behind a fully healthy Seimone Augustus.
The much publicized 2013 WNBA Draft produced perhaps the most exciting and talented class the league has yet boasted. Featuring Baylor University star Brittney Griner, Delaware's Elena Delle Donne, and Notre Dame All AmericanSkylar Diggins as the top three picks, the draft was the first to be televised in primetime on ESPN. Griner, Delle Donne, and Diggins were thus labelled "The Three To See", but with the draft also came top notch standouts such as Tayler Hill and Sugar Rodgers. The retirement of legends Katie Smith, Tina Thompson, Ticha Penicheiro, and Sheryl Swoopes coupled with the arrival of highly touted rookies and new rule changes effectively marked the end of an era for the WNBA and the ushering of another.LibertySunSkyRockersShockFeverDreamStingSolMiracleMysticsShockCometsStarsLynxFireStormStarzzMonarchsMercurySparks
The WNBA Players Association threatened to strike in 2003 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. The 2003 WNBA Draft was also delayed and negative publicity was gained from this strike.
In 2007, the WNBA and ESPN came to an 8-year television agreement. The agreement would be the first to pay television rights fees to the league's teams. Never before has an agreement promised rights fees to a women's professional league. The agreement runs from 2009 to 2016 and is worth millions of dollars. In 2013, an extension was signed through 2022. The new deal will pay each team $1 million a year.
During the 2008 regular season, the first ever outdoor professional basketball game in North America was played at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York between the New York Liberty and the Indiana Fever in front of over 19,000 fans. The Fever won the game 71-55.
Prior to the 2009 season, the maximum team roster size was changed from 13 players (11 active and 2 inactive) to 11 players (all active). Any team that falls below nine players able to play due to injury or any other factor outside of the control of the team will, upon request, be granted a roster hardship exception allowing the team to sign an additional player or players so that the team will have nine players able to play in an upcoming game or games. As soon as the injured (or otherwise sidelined) player(s) is able to play, the roster hardship player(s)—not any other player on the roster—must be waived.
In 2009, the Phoenix Mercury became the first American professional basketball team to feature advertisements on their uniform when they sold an ad to LifeLock Insurance on the front of their jerseys, leading many people to wonder if ads on NBA uniforms were coming soon. Since then several other WNBA teams have followed suit but no NBA team has sold ad space on their jerseys.
Before the start of the 2011 season, every team announced a new look for their uniforms. The supplier of the uniforms for the league, Adidas, upgraded all teams to new high-tech designs, much like they did for the NBA prior to the start of their season.
The 2011 NBA Lockout began on July 1, 2011. Unlike the previous lockout, which affected the WNBA, president Laurel J. Richie confirmed that this lockout would have no effect on the WNBA. If the NBA season was shortened or canceled, the 2012 WNBA season (including the WNBA teams still owned by NBA owners) would run as planned.List of foreign WNBA players
A number of international players have played in the WNBA, such as:
-  Svetlana Abrosimova, Russia – won a championship with the Storm in 2010
-  Elena Baranova, Russia – the first international player in the WNBA (1997), one-time All-Star (2001).
-  Erika de Souza, Brazil – one-time All-Star (2009)
-  Elizabeth Cambage, Australia – one-time All-Star (2011) and 2011 All-Rookie Team
-  Iziane Castro Marques, Brazil – one-time All-Star (2010)Lauren Jackson
-  Margo Dydek, Poland – tallest woman to play in the WNBA at 7' 2" (2.18 m)
-  Sandrine Gruda, France
-  Lauren Jackson, Australia – two-time champion (2004, 2010), three-time MVP and eight-time All-Star
-  Anete Jēkabsone-Žogota, Latvia
-  Yelena Leuchanka, Belarus
-  Mwadi Mabika, Democratic Republic of the Congo – won championships with the Sparks in 2001 and 2002
-  Hamchétou Maïga-Ba, Mali – won a championship with the Monarchs in 2005
-  Evanthia Maltsi, Greece
-  Razija Mujanovic, Yugoslavia
-  Eva Němcová, Czech Republic
-  Ticha Penicheiro, Portugal – won a championship with the Monarchs in 2005 and four-time All-Star
-  Kathrin Ress, Italy
-  Penny Taylor, Australia – two-time champion (2007, 2009) and four-time All-Star
-  Tammy Sutton-Brown, Canada – two-time All-Star
-  Amaya Valdemoro, Spain
-  Ann Wauters, Belgium
-  Sophia Young, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines – four-time All-Star
-  Zheng Haixia, China
Note that some of these players, among them Abrosimova, Leuchanka, Maïga-Ba, Penicheiro, Sutton-Brown, and Young, played U.S. college basketball.
See also: WNBA records
|First player signed||Sheryl Swoopes||Houston Comets||October 23, 1996||Signed by the WNBA and assigned to Houston.|
|First points scored||Penny Toler||Los Angeles Sparks||June 21, 1997||Scored the league's first points on a baseline jump-shot.|
|First triple double||Sheryl Swoopes||Houston Comets||July 27, 1998||14 points, 15 rebounds, 10 assists|
|First goaltending call||Sylvia Fowles||Chicago Sky||June 3, 2008||Trying to block a layup by Lisa Leslie.|
|First slam dunk||Lisa Leslie||Los Angeles Sparks||July 30, 2002||Dunked on a fast break against Miami.|
|Most career points||Tina Thompson||Hou., LA, Sea.||1997-2013||7,009 points|
|Most career rebounds||Lisa Leslie||Los Angeles Sparks||1997–2009||3,307 rebounds|
|Most career assists||Ticha Penicheiro||Sac., LA, Chi.||1998–2012||2,599 assists|
|Most points in a game||Riquna Williams||Tulsa Shock||September 8, 2013||51 points|
|Most rebounds in a game||Chamique Holdsclaw||Washington Mystics||May 23, 2003||24 rebounds|
|Most assists in a game||Ticha Penicheiro||Sacramento Monarchs||July 29, 1998||16 assists|
|Most career wins for a coach||Mike Thibault||Conn. Sun / Washington Mystics||2003–2013||212 wins|
|Most points scored by a team in one game||N/A||Phoenix Mercury||July 24, 2010||127 points in a double overtime win against Minnesota|
|Largest margin of victory||N/A||Seattle Storm||August 7, 2010||46-point win (111-65) over Tulsa|
|Largest attendance for one game||N/A||Detroit Shock||September 16, 2007||22,076 in game 5 of 2007 Finals|
The WNBA originated with 8 teams in 1997, and through a sequence of expansions, contractions, and relocations currently consists of 12 teams. There have been a total of 18 franchises 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 Indiana Pacers and Fever, the Los Angeles Lakers and Sparks, the Minnesota Timberwolves and Lynx, the New York Knicks and Liberty, the Phoenix Suns and Mercury, the Atlanta Hawks and the Dream, the San Antonio Spurs and the Stars, and the Washington Wizards and Mystics. Of these teams, only the Dream and the Sparks are owned separately. The Connecticut Sun are located in the same regional market as the Boston Celtics; though the teams are not affiliated with each other. Though located in the same market, the Chicago Sky are not affiliated with the Bulls, as evidenced by the home arena they play (the Sky play at Allstate Arena in nearby Rosemont, as opposed to the Bulls playing at United Center). The now defunct Charlotte Sting, Miami Sol, Portland Fire, Cleveland Rockers, Orlando Miracle, Houston Comets and Sacramento Monarchs were also sister teams of the Hornets, Heat, Trail Blazers, Cavaliers, Magic, Rockets and Kings, respectively. The Detroit Shock was the sister team of the Pistons until the teams' owner sold the Shock to investors who moved the team to Tulsa, Oklahoma. The team is not currently affiliated with Oklahoma's NBA team, the Thunder, but Shock owners left the door open for a future affiliation. The Shock are also one of two teams sharing a market with an NBA Development League team, sharing with the Thunder's affiliates, the Tulsa 66ers; the Sparks also share with the Los Angeles D-Fenders. The Seattle Storm was the sister team of the now relocated SuperSonics.
- Charlotte Sting – 1997–2006 (folded)
- Cleveland Rockers – 1997–2003 (folded)
- Detroit Shock – 1998–2009 (relocated; became the Tulsa Shock)
- Houston Comets – 1997–2008 (folded)
- Miami Sol – 2000–2002 (folded)
- Orlando Miracle – 1999–2002 (relocated; became the Connecticut Sun)
- Portland Fire – 2000–2002 (folded)
- Sacramento Monarchs – 1997–2009 (folded)
- Utah Starzz – 1997–2002 (relocated; became the San Antonio Silver Stars)
Every spring, the WNBA Draft is held at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut. From 2005 to 2008, the draft was held in the city that hosted the NCAA Women's Final Four. In 2009 and 2010, the draft was held at league headquarters in Secaucus, New Jersey. The draft is currently three rounds long with each of the 12 teams in the league (trades aside) getting three picks each. 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 four picks, a selection process similar to the NBA Draft Lottery is conducted for the four teams that did not qualify for the playoffs.
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 roster 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 May.
During the regular season, each team plays 34 games, 17 each home and away. Each team plays three in-conference teams 4 times each (12 games) and two in-conference teams 5 times each (10 games). Each team then plays the six out-of-conference teams twice (12 games). As in the NBA, 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. In 2004, The Game at Radio City was in held in place of a traditional All-Star 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 and 2012. In 2010, an exhibition game (Stars at the Sun) was held.
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 beginning 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 sportsmanship 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.
|Most Valuable Player Award||Candace Parker||Center||Los Angeles Sparks||234 out of 1,014|
|Finals MVP Award||Maya Moore||Forward||Minnesota Lynx|
|Rookie of the Year Award||Elena Delle Donne||Guard/Forward||Chicago Sky||39 out of 39|
|Most Improved Player Award||Shavonte Zellous||out of|
|Defensive Player of the Year Award||Sylvia Fowles||Center||Chicago Sky||21 out of 39|
|Sixth Woman of the Year Award||Riquna Williams||out of|
|Kim Perrot Sportsmanship Award||Swin Cash||Forward
|Chicago Sky||7 out of 39|
|Peak Performer: Points||Angel McCoughtry||Guard/Forward||Atlanta Dream||21.5 PPG|
|Peak Performer: Rebounds||Sylvia Fowles||Center||Chicago Sky||11.5 RPG|
|Peak Performer: Assists||Danielle Robinson||Guard||San Antonio Stars||6.7 APG|
|Coach of the Year Award||Mike Thibault||Washington Mystics|
- During the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, the break lasted from July 31- September 2.
- During the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, the league did not schedule any games from July 28-August 27.
- During the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the Olympic break stretched from July 14-August 15.
The WNBA Playoffs currently 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. For the first round, the matchups by seed are 1st vs 4th and 2nd vs 3rd. In the second round, the successful team plays against the other advancing team of the same conference. This leaves one surviving team from each conference. In both rounds, the best-of-three series follows a 1-1-1 home-court pattern, meaning that the higher-seeded team will have home court in games 1 and 3 while the other team plays at home in game 2. This pattern has been in place since 2010 (changed from 1-2 format, where the lower seed hosted the opening game).WNBA Finals
The final playoff round, a best-of-five series between the victors of each conference, is known as the WNBA Finals, and is held annually, currently scheduled for October. 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.
|The WNBA Finals|
|class="wikitable" style="margin-right:0px;border-color:rgb(170,170,170);color:black;"||Season||Champion||Runner-Up||Format||Result||Finals MVP|
|2010||Seattle Storm||Brian Agler||Atlanta Dream||Marynell Meadors||Best-of-five||3–0||Lauren Jackson|
|2011||Minnesota Lynx||Cheryl Reeve||Atlanta Dream||Marynell Meadors||Best-of-five||3–0||Seimone Augustus|
|2012||Indiana Fever||Lin Dunn||Minnesota Lynx||Cheryl Reeve||Best-of-five||3–1||Tamika Catchings|
|2013||Minnesota Lynx||Cheryl Reeve||Atlanta Dream||Fred Williams||Best-of-five||3–0||Maya Moore|
|}List of Women's National Basketball Association players and List of Women's National Basketball Association head coachesSee also: List of foreign WNBA playersSue Bird, a member of the All-Decade and Top 15 teams
In 2011, a decade and a half after the launch of the WNBA, only two players remained from the league's inaugural season in 1997: Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson. Thompson holds the record for the number of years in the league (fifteen). Lisa Leslie was the longest-tenured player from the 1997 draft class; she spent her entire career (1997–2009) with the Los Angeles Sparks. Tangela Smithhas played the most games in her career (415).
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.
Players for the WNBA's Top 15 Team were chosen in 2011 on the anniversary of the league's fifteenth season from amongst 30 nominees compiled in a similar manner to that of the All-Decade Team process.
Over 30 players have scored more than 3,000 points or more in their WNBA careers. Only three WNBA players have reached the 6,000 point milestone: Tina Thompson, Lisa Leslie and Katie Smith.
In 2008, 50-year-old Nancy Lieberman became the oldest player to play in a WNBA game. She signed a seven-day contract with the Detroit Shock and played one game, tallying two assists and two turnovers in nine minutes of action. By playing in the one game Lieberman broke a record that she herself had set in 1997, when she was the league's oldest player at 39.
Rules are governed by standard basketball rules as defined by the NBA, with a few notable exceptions:
- The three-point line is 22 feet 1.75 inches (6.75 m) from the middle of the basket, 21' 8" (6.6 m) at the corners. This is the same distance used under new FIBA rules; FIBA had increased its three-point distance to 22 feet 1.75 inches (6.75 m) since October 1, 2012 (for domestic competitions).
- The regulation WNBA ball is a minimum 28.5 inches (72.4 cm) in circumference, 1 inch (2.54 cm) smaller than the NBA ball. As of 2004, this size is used for all senior-level women's competitions worldwide.
- Quarters are 10 minutes in duration instead of 12.
Games are divided into four 10-minute quarters as opposed to the league's original two 20-minute halves of play, similar with FIBA rules (many WNBA players play in European or Australian leagues, which all use the FIBA rule set).
- The winner of the opening jump ball shall begin the 4th quarter with the ball out of bounds. The loser shall begin with the ball out of bounds in the second and third quarter. Previously under the two-half format, both periods started with jump balls, presumably to eliminate the possibility of a team purposely losing the opening tip in order to gain the opening possession of the second half. This is not a problem under the four-quarters because the winner of the opening tip gets the opening possession of the final period.
- The shot clock was decreased from 30 to 24 seconds. 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. FIBA also uses a 24-second clock.
- The amount of time that a team must move the ball across the half-court line went from 10 to 8 seconds.
- A referee can grant time-outs to either a player or the coach.
- Two free throws and possession of the ball for clear-path-to-the-basket foul. Previously only one free throw was awarded as well as possession.
|WNBA Court Dimensions|
|Length of court (baseline to baseline)||94 ft||28.65 m|
|Width of court (sideline to sideline)||50 ft||15.24 m|
|Rim height (floor to rim)||10 ft||3.05 m|
|Center circle diameter||12 ft||3.66 m|
|Three-point line distance from center of basket||22 ft 1.75 in||6.75 m|
|3-point line distance from centre of basket (corners)||21 ft 8 in||6.6 m|
|Shaded area/Lane/Key length||19 ft||5.8 m|
|Shaded area/Lane/Key width||16 ft||4.88 m|
|Free-throw line (distance from backboard)||15 ft||4.57 m|
|Free-throw half-circle radius||6 ft||1.83 m|
|Backboard width (side to side)||6 ft||1.83 m|
|Coaching box width (from baseline)||28 ft||8.54 m|
|*All dimensions are in line with NBA regulations except the three-point arc.|
On June 1, 2009, the Phoenix Mercury was the first team in WNBA history to announce a marquee sponsorship. The team secured a partnership with LifeLock to brand their jerseys and warm-ups. It was the first branded jersey in WNBA history.
Other teams eventually followed in the Mercury's footsteps to bring the total to five current teams with sponsorship deals:
- Indiana Fever – Finish Line, Inc.
- Seattle Storm – Bing
- Tulsa Shock – Osage Casino
- Washington Mystics – Inova Health System
On August 22, 2011, the WNBA announced a league-wide marquee sponsorship with Boost Mobile. The deal would allow the Boost Mobile logo to be placed on ten of the 12 teams' jerseys (excluding Phoenix and San Antonio) in addition to branding on the courts and in arenas. A source said the deal is a "multiyear, eight-figure deal." 
So far the WNBA has not been able to support itself. During the mid-2000s, the NBA spent more than $10 million per year to keep the WNBA financially solvent. In 2007, teams were estimated to be losing $1.5 million to $2 million a year. In 2011 it was reported that the league had its first-ever "cash flow positive" team (Connecticut Sun).
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 2010 is $827,000 (although it was later lowered to $775,000). By 2013 (the sixth year under this agreement), the cap for an entire team will be $900,000. In 2010, the minimum salary for a player with three-plus years of experience is $51,000 while the maximum salary for a six-plus year player is $101,500 (the first time in league history that players are able to receive over $100,000). The minimum salary for rookies is $35,190. Many WNBA players supplement their salaries by playing in European or Australian women's basketball leagues during the WNBA off-season.
For certain achievements, WNBA players are awarded bonuses. The following is a list of some of the bonuses given by the league (amount is per player):
- WNBA champion: $10,500
- Runner-up: $5,250
- Most valuable player: $15,000
- Rookie of the year: $5,000
- All-WNBA First Team member: $10,000
- All-Star Game participant: $2,500
|Player||Maya Moore||Candace Parker||Diana Taurasi||Becky Hammon||Sue Bird||Cappie Pondexter||Lauren Jackson||Tamika Catchings||Angel McCoughtry||Lindsay Whalen|
|Team||Minnesota||Los Angeles||Phoenix||San Antonio||Seattle||New York||Seattle||Indiana||Atlanta||Minnesota|
Overall league attendance was about 7,950 people per game in 2011. In 2012 the league had its lowest average regular-season attendance, 7,457 fans a game, since its inception in 1997. It has not averaged more than 10,000 since 1999.
Currently, 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. NBCshowed games from 1997 to 2002 as part of their NBA on NBC coverage before the league transferred the rights to ABC/ESPN.
In June 2007, the WNBA signed a contract extension with ESPN. The new television deal runs from 2009 to 2016. A minimum of 18 games will be broadcast on ABC, ESPN, and ESPN2 each season; the rights to broadcast the first regular season game and the All-Star game are held by ABC. Additionally, a minimum of 11 postseason games will be broadcast on any of the three stations. Along with this deal, came the first ever rights fees to be paid to a women's professional sports league. Over the eight years of the contract, "millions and millions of dollars" will be "dispersed to the league's teams." 
In 2013 it was announced that the WNBA and ESPN signed a six-year extension on the broadcast deal. In the new deal, a total of 30 games would be shown each season on ESPN networks and each team would receive around $1 million per year.
Some teams offer games on local radio, while all teams have some games broadcast on local television stations:
In 2009, the WNBA announced the launch of WNBA LiveAccess, a feature on WNBA.com that provides fans around the world with access to more than 200 live game webcasts throughout the WNBA season. All of the WNBA LiveAccess games are then archived for on-demand viewing. Every single game (except broadcasts on ABC, ESPN or ESPN2, which are available on ESPN3.com) is available via this system. The first use of LiveAccess was the E League versus Chicago Sky preseason game; the system worked as planned.
Prior to the 2011 season, LiveAccess was given a complete overhaul. The system became more reliable and many new features were added. Some of these include the ability to pause or rewind, picture-in-picture, quad-screen, and manually changing the bitrate.
Just two days before the start of the 2012 season, it was announced that users of LiveAccess would have to pay a $4.99 subscription fee to use the service. In 2013, this was increased to $14.99.
|Year||Season||Telecasts on ESPN2||Average Viewership||+/- over Previous|
On the 2008 season opening day (May 17), ABC broadcast the Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury matchup to showcase new rookie sensation Candace Parker. The game received a little over 1 million viewers.
|W||L||PCT||Playoffs||Playoffs W||Playoffs L||Playoffs PCT||Titles|
|Connecticut Sun (total)1||1999–present||7,375||266||202||.568||9||18||18||.500||0|
|Los Angeles Sparks||1997–present||9,190||318||208||.605||12||30||24||.555||2|
|New York Liberty||1997–present||11,340||279||247||.530||12||24||29||.453||0|
|San Antonio Silver Stars (total)2||1997–present||7,865||240||286||.456||8||10||19||.345||0|
|San Antonio Silver Stars||2003–present||8,184||153||187||.450||6||8||13||.381||0|
|Tulsa Shock (total)3||1998–present||7,760||228||270||.458||7||30||19||.612||3|