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A Breakdown of Every WNBA Champion Throughout the League’s 24-Year History

Throughout its 24-year history, the WNBA has seen extreme swings of highs and lows. From the league’s conception in 1996 to the recent rise in popularity we’ve seen the league enjoy, the history of the WNBA is a storied one. Here is our list of every WNBA champion ever.

1997: Houston Comets
Finals MVP: Cynthia Cooper
(Photo by Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images)
  • Runner Up: New York Liberty
  • Games: 1-0

In the first-ever WNBA playoffs, the four teams with the best regular season records were seeded one to four. The Comets (18-10) and Liberty (17-11) both entered the playoffs as the top-ranked seeds on their side of the bracket, with the Comets maintaining the home-court advantage. Cynthia Cooper became the first WNBA Finals MVP after putting in 25 points and 4 assists in the sudden-death championship game. 

1998: Houston Comets
Finals MVP: Cynthia Cooper
Todd Warshaw
  • Runner Up: Phoenix Mercury
  • Games: 2-1

The second annual WNBA Finals marked the first time the series was held in a best-of-three format. The Comets were more than dominant this season, posting an exceptional 27-3 record. The Mercury took a tight game 1 by three points, but Cynthia Cooper proved to be too much for the Mercury. After back-to-back 20+ point performances, the Comets took home their second consecutive WNBA title.

1999: Houston Comets
Finals MVP: Cynthia Cooper
(Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
  • Runner Up: New York Liberty
  • Games: 2-1

The Liberty and Comets would reunite in the 1999 WNBA Finals to give us a rematch of the first-ever championship game. The Comets continued their regular season dominance, posting a regular season record of 26-6. Cynthia Cooper led scoring in game three with a 24-point performance, securing herself a third WNBA Finals MVP.

2000: Houston Comets
Finals MVP: Cynthia Cooper
(Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images)
  • Runner Up: New York Liberty
  • Games: 2-0

The Houston Comets vs New York Liberty trilogy would come to an end in 2000, as this would mark the last time these two franchises ever went up against each other in the finals. The Comets continued their dominant streak, claiming a fourth straight WNBA championship. Sheryl Swoopes was dominant in the close-out game, putting up an exceptional 31-point performance. 

2001: Los Angeles Sparks
Finals MVP: Lisa Leslie
(Photo by Steve Grayson/WireImage)
  • Runner Up: Charlotte Sting
  • Games: 2-0

After the most dominant four-year stretch in WNBA history, the Houston Comets dynasty fell and the Los Angeles Sparks took their spot on the WNBA mountaintop. Lisa Leslie took home her first career finals MVP after averaging 24 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in a close-out game two. 

2002: Los Angeles Sparks
Finals MVP: Lisa Leslie
(Photo by: Andrew D. Bernstein)/WNBAE/Getty Images)
  • Runner Up: New York Liberty
  • Games: 2-0

Lisa Leslie cemented her place as one of the greatest WNBA players ever after claiming a second WNBA Finals MVP. This marks the last time we’ve seen a back-to-back WNBA champion. The Sparks were able to edge the Liberty in game 2 69-66 to close out another championship. 

2003: Detroit Shock
Finals MVP: Ruth Riley
(Photo by Tom Pidgeon/Getty Images)
  • Runner Up: Los Angeles Sparks 
  • Games: 2-1

The Detroit Shock would win their franchise’s first WNBA championship in 2003 after defeating a Sparks team attempting a three-peat. Ruth Riley was electric in game three, Putting in 27 points en route to a five-point win. This would mark the first championship of three in a dominant early 2000s for the Shock. 

2004: Seattle Storm
Finals MVP: Betty Lennox
(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
  • Runner Up: Connecticut Sun 
  • Games: 2-1

The Seattle Storm have been one of the most dominant WNBA teams over the course of the league’s history. They would get their first taste of winning in 2004 after defeating the Connecticut Sun in three games. Betty Lennox was seminal in the Storm winning, as her 20+ point performances in games two and three helped push the Storm past the finish line. 

2005: Sacramento Monarchs
Finals MVP: Yolanda Griffith
(Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
  • Runner Up: Connecticut Sun 
  • Games: 3-1

The Sacramento Monarchs won their franchise’s first and only WNBA championship in 2005. This was the first time the WNBA went with a beat of five series for the WNBA Finals, a format the league still uses today. Yolanda Griffith pushed the Monarchs over the Sun in game four after posting a 14-point and 10-rebound double-double. 

2006: Detroit Shock
Finals MVP: Deanna Nolan
(Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)
  • Runner Up: Sacramento Monarchs
  • Games: 3-2

The Detroit Shock would secure a second WNBA championship after beating the Monarchs in the first-ever WNBA Finals game five. The Shock edged out the Monarchs 80-75 in the sudden death game. Deanna Nolan’s 24 points in a closeout game secured her the finals MVP. 

2007: Phoenix Mercury
Finals MVP: Cappie Pondexter
(Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)
  • Runner Up: Detroit Shock
  • Games: 3-2

2007 would mark the first time we saw legendary guard Diana Taurasi win a WNBA championship. The Shock had the best regular season in the league and were looking dominant. As the finals headed to Detroit for game five, Cappie Pondexter put up 26 points and 10 assists to secure Phoenix the championship. This was the first time a WNBA Finals was won on an opponent’s court. 

2008: Detroit Shock
Finals MVP: Katie Smith
(Photo by Domenic Centofanti/Getty Images)
  • Runner Up: San Antonio Silver Stars
  • Games: 3-0

The Detroit Shock would finally claim their spot upon the WNBA mountaintop in 2008, and it would mark the last time the franchise would ever win a championship. Katie Smith dominated the Stars all series, averaging 20+ points across the three-game sweep. The Shocks would soon dissolve in 2009. 

2009: Phoenix Mercury
Finals MVP: Diana Taurasi
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
  • Runner Up: Indiana Fever
  • Games: 3-2

The Mercury would claim their franchise’s second championship after defeating the Indiana Fever in five games. In a closeout game five, Diana Taurasi put in a game-high 26 points, securing her first WNBA Finals MVP. Game five of the 2009 WNBA Finals is constant action and one of the most memorable games in WNBA history. 

2010: Seattle Storm
Finals MVP: Lauren Jackson
(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
  • Runner Up: Atlanta Dream
  • Games: 3-0

After struggling to get past the first round of the playoffs, the Storm did all that and more in 2010 with a second franchise title. Australian basketball legend Lauren Jackson led the way for the Storm, dropping 25+ points in games one and two. This was the second championship for the duo of Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson. 

2011: Minnesota Lynx
Finals MVP: Seimone Augustus
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
  • Runner Up: Atlanta Dream 
  • Games: 3-0

There have been few teams as dominant in the WNBA as the Minnesota Lynx, and in 2011 they would get their first taste of success. They took down the Atlanta Dream in a three-game sweep that frankly wasn’t close. Seimone Augustus had an all-time performance in game two, putting in 26 points and grabbing 8 rebounds. 

2012: Indiana Fever
Finals MVP: Tamika Catchings
(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
  • Runner Up: Minnesota Lynx 
  • Games: 3-1

The 2012 WNBA Finals gave us a fierce battle between the Indiana Fever’s Tamika Catchings and the Minnesota Lynx’s Seimone Augustus. Both players battled it out and gave the opposition buckets throughout the series. Catchings was able to edge out Augustus and drop 28 points in a close-out game four, giving her a first WNBA Finals MVP. 

2013: Minnesota Lynx
Finals MVP: Maya Moore
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
  • Runner Up: Atlanta Dream
  • Games: 3-0

The Minnesota Lynx would reclaim their spot as WNBA champions in 2013 after a rematch of the 2011 WNBA Finals against the Atlanta Dream. The results were the same as in 2011, with a fairly easy three-game sweep. The Lynx won games one and two by 25 points. Maya Moore led the Lynx in scoring during games 1 and 3, securing her WNBA Finals MVP. 

2014: Phoenix Mercury
Finals MVP: Diana Taurasi
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
  • Runner Up: Chicago Sky
  • Games: 3-0

Diana Taurasi would win her second WNBA Finals MVP in 2014 after a three-game sweep against the Chicago Sky. This series was never really close with two huge blowout wins coming for the Mercury in games 1 and 2. The Sky were able to keep game 3 close, but the Mercury were able to edge it out by five points to claim another title. 

2015: Minnesota Lynx
Finals MVP: Sylvia Fowles
(Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)
  • Runner Up: Indiana Fever
  • Games: 3-2

It was Minnesota’s turn to claim their spot as the WNBA’s best once again in 2015. The series went back and forth, ultimately forcing a sudden death game five. Sylvia Fowles led the way in scoring, putting in 20 points. This was Fowles first WNBA Finals MVP in her historic WNBA career. 

2016: Los Angeles Sparks
Finals MVP: Candace Parker
(Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
  • Runner Up: Minnesota Lynx 
  • Games: 3-2

2016 would mark the second consecutive year we saw a future Hall of Famer win the WNBA Finals MVP. Candace Parker helped lead the Sparks to the franchise’s third WNBA championship. In game four she was spectacular, putting in 24 points en route to a 17-point win. 

2017: Minnesota Lynx
Finals MVP: Sylvia Fowles
(Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)
  • Runner Up: Los Angeles Sparks
  • Games: 3-2

The Lynx and Sparks would meet again in 2017 for a rematch of the previous year’s WNBA Finals. Sylvia Fowles proved to be too much for the Sparks to handle, as she grabbed 20 rebounds and put in 17 points, claiming a second WNBA Finals MVP. 

2018: Seattle Storm
Finals MVP: Breanna Stewart
(Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
  • Runner Up: Washington Mystics
  • Games: 3-0

2018 was undoubtedly the year of Breanna Stewart in the WNBA. The third-year forward out of Connecticut was otherworldly throughout the regular season, claiming her first MVP. The Storm easily took down the Mystics in three games, winning each game by 10+ points. Breanna Stewart put in 30 points in a closeout game three, securing her the WNBA Finals MVP. 

2019: Washington Mystics
Finals MVP: Emma Meesseman
(Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)
  • Runner Up: Connecticut Sun
  • Games: 3-2

The Mystics claimed their franchise’s first WNBA title in 2019 after defeating the Connecticut Sun. The series would be pushed to five games after an epic double-double from Suns forward Jonquel Jones. Emma Meesseman’s game-high 22 points would close out the series in game five, however. 

2020: Seattle Storm
Finals MVP: Breanna Stewart
(Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)
  • Runner Up: Las Vegas Aces
  • Games: 3-0

Sue Bird would win the last WNBA title of her storied career after a three-game sweep of the Las Vegas Aces. This series was held in the ‘WNBA bubble’ due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Breanna Stewart was otherworldly in game one, putting in 37 points. She would follow that up with 20+ point performances in games two and three to secure a second career WNBA Finals MVP. 

2021: Chicago Sky
Finals MVP: Kahleah Copper
(Photo by Kena Krutsinger/NBAE via Getty Images)
  • Runner Up: Phoenix Mercury
  • Games: 3-1

Candace Parker solidified her status as a Chicago legend, helping lead her hometown to its first WNBA title. Kahleah Copper was seminal for the Sky throughout the series, always available when a bucket or rebound was needed. The Sky would take game five by six points after an all-out performance from the Skys’ big three of Quigley, Parker, and Vandersloot. 

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Sports

5 Storylines to Follow During the 2022 WNBA Finals

After one of the greatest fourth-quarter comebacks in WNBA history, the Connecticut Sun advanced to the WNBA finals to face off against the Las Vegas Aces. The Sun fought back from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter of game five against the Chicago Sky, going on an 18-0 run to close the game. Meanwhile, the Aces enjoyed their night off, defeating the Seattle Storm in four games to move on to the finals. Here are five storylines you should follow in this year’s WNBA Finals.  

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1.) A First Time Champion Will Be Named

While both of these franchises have previously played in the WNBA Finals, neither has a title. This marks the fourth time a first-time WNBA champion will be crowned in the last three years. With the Aces coming up just short in 2020 and the Sun falling to the Washington Mystics in the 2019 Finals, both teams will have a heavy chip on their shoulder as they attempt to avenge their previous losses.

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2.) Becky Hammon’s First Year Coaching

The breadth of Greg Popovich’s coaching tree is genuinely mind-boggling. In the NBA, there are nine active NBA coaches, with six combined championships, who at one point were an assistant under Popovich; this year, Becky Hammon became the first Popovich disciple to cross over to the WNBA. In her debut season as a head coach at any level, Hammon led the Aces to a league-best 26-10 record. There is no question that Becky Hammon is one of the best coaches in the world.

Beyond her trailblazing work as the first woman coach in NBA history, Hammon’s immediate success in Vegas undoubtedly proves that she’s one of the best coaches in the world.

<code><iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/bNIDLnoiLeI" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>","hed3.) A’ja Wilson Can Cap Off a Historic MVP and DPOY Season With a Championship</code>
3.) A’ja Wilson Can Cap Off a Historic MVP and DPOY Season With a Championship

This regular season. Las Vegas Aces superstar forward A’ja Wilson made history by becoming the first WNBA player to win MVP and Defensive Player of the Year in the same year. Wilson is now the seventh player in WNBA history to win multiple regular season MVP awards, having also taken home the award in 2020. A championship to end the year would cap off the most dominant WNBA season ever and add more hardware to the ever-growing trophy room that A’ja Wilson is building.  

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4.) Jonquel Jones Can Cement Her Legacy With a Championship

Lest you think this series is purely a coronation for A’ja Wilson, Jonquel Jones of the Connecticut Sun is an elite player in her own right. The 2018 Sixth Woman of the Year and the 2021 MVP, the 6′ 6 Jones is a versatile scorer who has garnered comparisons to Kevin Durant throughout her career. If she can avenge that finals loss from 2019, she will surely cement herself as one of the greatest WNBA players ever.

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5.) Can the Sun Pull Off an Upset?

The Las Vegas Aces enter Game 1 as a -250 favorite to win with a -6 point spread. They’re equally heavy favorites in the series, currently sitting with -260 odds to win the Finals. Those odds should be no surprise because the Aces have one of the most stacked rosters the league has ever seen—A’ja Wilson is joined by this year’s All-Star game MVP Kelsey Plum, as well as walking bucket Chelsea Gray.

Still, the Sun are no slouches either—Jonquel Jones and DeWanna Bonner are as dominant as any frontcourt in the league and match up well with A’ja Wilson. The Sun made it this far for a reason, and if they can continue to ride this hot wave, they can bring home Connecticut’s first WNBA championship.

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When Did the WNBA Start?

The WNBA has been a professional sports league in the United States for over 25 seasons. The league is currently built out with 12 different teams and over 140 of the best female basketball players in the world. It was no small feat to get a professional women’s basketball league established, but because of the exceptional play of the 1995-96 U.S. national team, we have the league today. So when did the WNBA start?

1992-1994 USA Women’s Basketball
(Photo credit should read CHRIS WILKINS/AFP via Getty Images)

Before the WNBA, the biggest stage for a female professional basketball player was the Olympics and other international competitions. In 1988, the Men’s national team failed to make the gold-medal game, and finished with a bronze medal. The international format of basketball would be forever changed as NBA players would now be allowed to play in the Olympics. The following Olympics, which took place in 1992, were dominated by the Michael Jordan-led Dream Team. While the Men’s game was reaching new heights, the women’s national team was facing its biggest challenge yet. 

As the 1992 Mens ‘Dream Team’ would go on to claim gold, the women’s national team would only claim a bronze medal. This was a huge blow for a program that had just won the previous two gold medals. Things would go from bad to worse when the women’s national team would place bronze again at the FIBA World Cup in 1994. 

There was too much talent for these teams to not be finishing with gold, so something needed to change. The NBA and USA Basketball would sponsor a national-team program that would see their squad play 52 games in preparation for the 1996 Olympics. What that team would do was nothing short of incredible.

1995-96 USA Basketball Women’s Senior National Team
(Photo by Manny Millan /Sports Illustrated via Getty Images)

Leading the 1996 Women’s ‘Dream Team’ was Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer. VanDerveer’s track record as a coach in women’s basketball was as good, if not better than anyone. The roster would be built out with the eleven best Olympic prospects and they would embark on a 10-month journey to prepare for the 1996 Olympics. 

Winning a gold medal wasn’t the only objective this squad had. They were a testing ground for the NBA to see what the popularity for Women’s basketball could be. Not only did these athletes have the pressure of winning gold on their shoulders, they also had to show how deserving they were of their own professional league. 

To call the run the USA women’s senior national team had in 1995-96 “dominant” would be an understatement. They first started with a three-month tour facing off against the best collegiate squads in the country. They went undefeated, winning those games by an average margin of 45.2 points. The elite squad’s undefeated streak continued overseas. 

After a tournament in China that saw them play eight games in eight days, while traveling to three different cities, the team remained undefeated. They would end their pre-Olympic tour in North America, winning the last six games on their schedule. The final record for this team? 52-0. They would go on to win gold handedly at the 1996 Olympics, and the NBA was itching to start its sister league.

WNBA’s Creation
(Photo by NBA Photos/NBAE via Getty Images)

The WNBA was announced on April 24, 1996. Teammates on the 1996 squad, Rebecca Lobo, Lisa Leslie, and Sheryl Swoopes, were all in attendance. The league would start with eight teams in Charlotte, Cleveland, Houston, New York, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Sacramento, and Utah. 


The league officially kicked off on June 21, 1997, with a match up between the New York Liberty and the Los Angeles Sparks. Now, the league has been going strong for over 25 years and has elevated women’s basketball to new heights. As the league continues to grow, we can never forget the work that 1996 USA women’s team put in.

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Las Vegas Aces Guard Kelsey Plum Wins MVP: WNBA All-Star 2022

The 26th edition of the WNBA all-star game has come to an end in the Windy City of Chicago. The WNBA’s best took the stage at Wintrust Arena and delivered a jam-packed all-star game. Team Wilson was able to secure a win in a 134-112 contest over Team Stewart. Here’s how each team did and how first time all-star Kelsey Plum took home MVP honors.

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Team Stewart

Team Stewart came out of the gates hot to start the game, taking an early 28-23 lead. They would be outscored 11 to 36 in the second quarter and be able to regain their footing, ultimately leading to a loss. Connecticut Sun forward Jonquel Jones put in 5 three-pointers and led scoring for Team Stewart with 29 points. She paired that with 13 boards, giving her the only double-double of the night. Seattle Storm guard Jewell Loyd was exceptional off the bench knocking down 7 three-pointers on the way to a 21 point game. Team Stewart made a late run in the 4th quarter bringing the deficit to 7, but was unable to complete the comeback.

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In her first all-star game ever, Las Vegas Aces guard Kelsey Plum was nothing short of electric. She displayed cunning skills at the rim and patience in the mid-range going a perfect 7 for 7 from inside the arc. Beyond the arc she was equally as dazzling knocking down 5 three-pointers and securing the games MVP award. There was nothing anyone could do however to top the excitement that Minnesota Lynx forward Sylvia Fowles sent through the arena. In her last all-star game ever, the WNBA legend punished the rim with a fast-break slam. This was an immensely successful weekend for the WNBA and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the league.

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Allie Quigley Beats All-Time Three-Point Champion Record: WNBA All-Star 2022

Chicago Sky guard Allie Quigley had thought her three-point competition days were over after tying Larry Bird for most wins all-time last season. What more was there for her to accomplish on this stage? That all changed once the annual WNBA All-Star weekend was announced to take place in Quigley’s hometown of Chicago. It was an easy decision at this point for Quigley. She was going to suit up and attempt to win her record breaking fourth three-point contest, and well, she did just that. Here is what happened at the 2022 WNBA all-star three-point.

Round 1
(Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Participants in this years WNBA three-point contest came out of the gates on fire. Washington Mystics guard Ariel Atkins and Atlanta Dream rookie Rhyne Howard posted scores of 24, enough to push them into a tie for second. Quigley was the last participant in the first round and scored a round-high 26 points. Quigley was the only participant to hit the MTN Dew three-point shot in the first round.

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Final Round

As Ariel Atkins stepped to the rack for the championship round of the 2022 WNBA three-point contest she had one thing on her mind, stop Quigley from winning again. Atkins was exceptional in her final round, posting a score of 21. It was a valiant effort, but no one on earth was stopping Quigley this year. Quigley hit both her four-point MTN Dew balls, and finished the night with a perfect 5-5 final rack. She posted a contest high 30 points to secure a record 4th three-point contest title. In Candace Parker’s own words “They should rename it the Allie Quigley competition.”

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2022 WNBA All-Star Game Preview

For the first time in its history, the WNBA All-Star weekend will take place in the city of Chicago. The defending WNBA champion Chicago Sky will host the star-studded weekend, with four of their own players selected for the big game on Sunday, July 10th. Here are the rosters for the 2022 WNBA All-Star game and who was drafted to what team.

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Selection Process

The WNBA All-Star selection process is much the same as their NBA counterpart. Voting is split into three categories. Fan votes, WNBA players votes, and sports media votes. The fan’s account for 50% of the vote, while the other 50% is split between players and sports media. The two leading vote getters, and subsequently the two captains, are Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart, and Las Vegas Aces forward A’ja Wilson. Similar to how the NBA gave an all-star spot to Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade during their final season in 2019, Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird and Minnesota Lynx center Sylvia Fowles were named co-captains, as both athletes announced their retirement earlier this season. After the voting had finished, the two captains drafted their teams live on ESPN.

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Team Wilson
  • CAPTAIN: A’ja Wilson (Aces) 
  • Co-Captain: Sylvia Fowles (Lynx)*
  • Sabrina Ionescu (Liberty)*
  • Candace Parker (Sky)*
  • Kelsey Plum (Aces)*
  • Ariel Atkins (Mystics)
  • Dearica Hamby (Aces)
  • Natasha Howard (Liberty)
  • Rhyne Howard (Dream)
  • Brionna Jones (Sun)
  • Courtney Vandersloot (Sky) 

The leading vote getter and odds-on favorite to win regular season MVP this year, A’ja Wilson headlines Team Wilson. Wilson had a legendary career at South Carolina, winning a national championship and just about every accolade that you can earn. She has been dominating the WNBA since being drafted first overall in 2018. The first overall pick was designated to Chicago Sky forward and hometown hero Candace Parker. Wilson rounded out her starters with Aces teammate Kelsey Plum, and traded for Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu and co-captain Sylvia Fowles.

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Team Stewart
  • CAPTAIN: Breanna Stewart (Storm)*
  • Co-Captain: Sue Bird (Storm)*
  • Jonquel Jones (Sun)*
  • Nneka Ogwumike (Sparks)*
  • Jackie Young (Aces)*
  • Kahleah Copper (Sky)
  • Skylar Diggins-Smith (Mercury)
  • Jewell Loyd (Storm)
  • Emma Meesseman (Sky)
  • Arike Ogunbowale (Wing)
  • Alyssa Thomas (Sun)

Breanna Stewart will captain opposite A’ja Wilson after getting the second most all-star votes. There are few athletes that have dominated their sport the way that Stewart has. She won a national championship each year she was at UCONN, and has helped carry the Storm to two WNBA championships. Stewart selected Las Vegas Aces guard Jackie Young. Stewart put the finishing touches on her starting lineup taking Suns forward Jonquel Jones, and finally trading for Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike and co-captain Sue Bird.

The 26th annual WNBA All-Star game will take place on July 10th, at 1pm EST on ABC.

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Sports

Who Is Lauren Jackson?

What if? It’s the hypothetical question sports fans love to use when dissecting why their favorite team or players failed. As a die-hard Chicago Bulls fan, I regularly ponder the alternate reality that Derrick Rose never got hurt. Lauren Jackson, Naismith Basketball HOF member and one of the most dominant Australian basketball players ever, has pondered that “what if” since injuries forced her retirement in 2016. Now at 41 years young, Jackson will finish her career on her own terms with the Australian Women’s National Basketball Team -Also known as The Opals- at the 2022 FIBA World Cup. This is the story of Lauren Jackson.

Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL)
4x MVP, 5x Champion, 4x Grand Final MVP, 6x All-Star Five
(Photo by Fairfax Media via Getty Images/Fairfax Media via Getty Images via Getty Images)

Lauren Jackson began her basketball in the Women’s National Basketball League when she was just 16 years old. At only 17 years old she led the Australian Institute of Sport to the WNBL championship. In 1999, Jackson would join the Canberra Capitals where she would play the rest of her WNBL career. Jackson’s 1999 WNBL season made waves to any scout watching. She won the WNBL MVP, the WNBL championship, and was named to the WNBL First-Team. Jackson would resign with Canberra in 2013, but never saw the court due to injuries. She would continue to battle and attempt to play until ultimately having to retire in 2016.

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WNBA
3x MVP, 2x Champion, 2010 Finals MVP, 2007 Defensive Player of the Year, 3x Scoring Champ, 7x All-Star, 7x All-WNBA First Team

As Lauren Jackson was dominating the WNBL, a new league was sprouting 9,000 miles away. In the fifth ever WNBA draft, Lauren Jackson was selected first overall by the Seattle Storm in 2001. Jackson was quick to make her name known, earning an All-Star nod in her first season. She would be named the captain of the Storm in her second season, making her the youngest player in the league with the designation. Jackson would claim her first WNBA title in 2004, but the best was yet to come. In 2007, Lauren Jackson had maybe the greatest individual season in WNBA history. She put up maddening averages of 23.8 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks. Those numbers were good enough to lead the league in scoring and rebounding, giving her the edge to win MVP and DPOY. Jackson would win one more title with the Storm in 2010, also winning her first Finals MVP. Over the course of the 2011 and 2012 season, injuries derailed Jackson and she only saw the floor in 22 games. She officially announced her retirement in 2016.

The Opals
2x Gold Medals, 4x Silver Medals, 3x Bronze Medals
(Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

Lauren Jackson is not only one of the most decorated basketball players in professional leagues, but she has also won a slew of medals in an Australian uniform. Jackson has played in four Olympic games and medaled in every competition. In 2006 The Opals would go on a dominant run, winning gold at the FIBA World Championships and Commonwealth Games. She attempted to suit up for The Opals in 2014 but worsening injuries forced her to have surgery. After not playing basketball competitively since 2015, Lauren Jackson made her return in the Semi-pro NBL1 East for the Albury Wodonga Bandits. She was otherworldly, averaging 32.6 points and 11.6 rebounds. At the age of 41, Jackson showed not only that she could play, but that she was still one of the best players in the world. She will join The Opals this September in her return to the FIBA World Cup, a competition she has not played in since 2006. Jackson proves that when you truly love and want something, no form of adversity can get in your way. 

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Sports Strength

Becky Hammon Returns To The WNBA At The Right Time

Truth be told, any time Becky Hammon returned to the WNBA would have been the “right” time, but this particular moment is that. On New Year’s Eve, Hammon, a current San Antonio Spurs assistant coach, confirmed her return to the WNBA as she signed the league’s highest-paid deal for a coach after becoming the new head coach of the Las Vegas Aces.

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While some basketball fans had become familiar with Hammon as a potential head coach replacement for the Spurs’ Greg Popovich, many remember Hammon as the six-time WNBA All-Star who was the face of the New York Liberty and formerly-known San Antonio Stars; who are now known as the Aces. In the same way, she shined on the court with her intensity and ability to succeed in the clutch, Hammon began having similar success on the sidelines.

Over the past seven years, Hammon made history as a Spurs assistant coach between being the first woman to coach in an All-Star game and winning an NBA Summer League championship as head coach. And even though some may be surprised at Hammon’s decision to return to the WNBA given her growing likelihood to become an NBA head coach, it doesn’t mean that chance is over if she chooses to return there.

But at this point of Hammon’s career, it’s about elevation. The newest Aces’ head coach knows all about that, and she couldn’t have picked a better time to return to her roots– the WNBA is the most popular it’s ever been, processes a significant number of talent, and her Aces are a title contender. Hammon is taking a massive step forward that will reward her with more in the future. And that’s regardless of whether the NBA is involved or not.

Hammon’s WNBA return should be a lesson in understanding that being a part of their league isn’t a demotion. It’s an honor and one’s way to giving back to the place that produced their greatest success yet.

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Sports Strength

Ranking The Five-Best WNBA Games In 2022

After what was arguably the league’s most successful season ever, the anticipation for the 2022 WNBA season is at an all-time high. So what other way to keep building on that momentum than by releasing next season’s schedule? That’s what the WNBA chose to do last Thursday, so fans of the league can now start planning their schedule around next season’s tip-off on May 6th.

Make no mistake: the W will provide plenty of action every night, but here are the five absolute can’t-miss games for the 2022 WNBA regular season.

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Chicago Sky vs. Los Angeles Sparks on May 6th

It’s opening night, and not only will we see the hometown hero (Candace Parker) and home team (Chicago Sky) receive their rings at home, but they’ll do so in front of Parker’s former team, the Los Angeles Sparks. When Parker and guards Kahleah Copper and Courtney Vandersloot square off against former MVP Nneka Ogwumike and Erica Wheeler, it’s the definition of must-see TV.

Phoenix Mercury vs. Las Vegas Aces on May 6th

Besides having a massive amount of star power between the two of them (Diana Taurasi, A’ja Wilson, Liz Cambage, and Brittney Griner), the Mercury and the Aces are battle-tested. Their match-up on opening night will be a fitting sequel to their epic playoff battles last year, when the Mercury upset the second-seeded Aces in a decisive Game Five on the road in the semifinals.

Chicago Sky vs. Phoenix Mercury on May 31st

Fewer things scream “must-see TV” more than a rematch of the previous year’s Finals. For both the Mercury and Sky, this is a substantial measuring-stick kind of game and it’ll have a playoff-atmosphere as a result.

New York Liberty vs. Seattle Storm on June 19th

Even though the Eastern and Western Conference competitors will be facing each other for the third time at this point of the season, the date of this matchup gives it more importance. With three weeks remaining before the All-Star break, will Sabrina Ionescu and the upstart New York Liberty be able to build on their gains of last season? Will the Storm remain their usually competitive selves, despite Sue Bird’s potential retirement? When the Liberty and the Storm square off, it’ll be a fascinating barometer for who these teams are and who they may become.

Dallas Wings vs. Las Vegas Aces on August 4th

Lost in the noise of last year’s playoff race, the Dallas Wings snuck in as the seventh-seed because of their late-season play. Guard Arike Ogunbowale is coming off of three consecutive seasons with at least 18 points per game, and this game is likely to help determine the Wings’ playoff push– especially with the season concluding ten days later.

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Sports Strength

Yes, Drake Should Own A WNBA Team

Whether it’s releasing No. 1 albums (Certified Lover Boy) and creating successful brands (October’s Very Own) or being the inspiration for some of social media’s most memorable memes, musician Drake has impacted everything in sports, music, and fashion. But the Toronto, native’s most significant impact yet could come in the form of ownership. On Wednesday (Nov. 3rd), Drake interacted with the WNBA on his Instagram story by saying, “I need a Toronto team.”

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Sports and WNBA fans alike immediately reacted to this by imagining the possibility that the league created a team in Toronto, with Drake as one of its owners. Ever since becoming a musical superstar after the turn of the last decade, the Certified Lover Boy musician has proudly represented his hometown. Between being a global ambassador of the NBA’s Toronto Raptors and hosting his annual, star-packed OVO fest there for nine consecutive summers, Drake’s love for Toronto is well-documented as it has more chapters waiting to be written.

Fueling even more speculation about the prospect of a WNBA franchise in Toronto, Drake posted on Instagram a picture of himself and Las Vegas Aces star center, Liz Cambage.

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The two’s friendship has been known for years as Drake not only shouted out Cambage while rapping on Travis Scott’s 2018 smash hit, “Sicko Mode” but congratulated her after she set a WNBA record for most points scored in a game with 53 against the New York Liberty during that same year.

Even though most major sports leagues in America are reluctant to actually expand, the WNBA genuinely considers it. Commissioner Cathy Engelbert confirmed the league’s interest in adding more teams to the league during her press conference during this year’s WNBA Finals.

“The data looks like it’s going to read out some interesting information for us to start having exploratory discussions with certain cities,” Engelbert told reporters. “Make sure that we can find great ownership groups to support a WNBA team and great fan bases. So that’s why I think looking at how those cities are already supporting the WNBA, whether it’s viewership, merch sales, or other things or whether they’re supporting women’s sports or women’s college basketball are great indicators of how it would get supported if a WNBA team were to go in that market.”

If there’s any market that has proven to be successful, it’s Toronto, and with Drake’s presence and willingness to contribute, the WNBA could have a relatively easy move to the 416 if they chose to do so.