WNBA history
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InsideHoops [WNBA] April 14, 2002

WNBA Basketball League History

 


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The powers that be in the NBA said "Let them Get Next." And so, on April 24, 1997, they approved the proposal to begin the WNBA. The league would kick off in June, 1997.

It wouldn't make sense to put this league up against NBA or NCAA basketball, so it was decided that WNBA basketball would be played during the summer. This would help get the games on tv, giving several networks a shot at making room on their schedules.

NBC, ESPN, and the Lifetime channel had tv deals to air WNBA games.

The first WNBA season was a huge success, and after just two years of winning the hearts of women's basketball fans, WNBA games were made available in 125 different countries. While the majority of those attending WNBA games are female, the WNBA tv audience is currently almost equally divided between males and females.

The first WNBA player signing: Sheryl Swoopes, on October 23, 1996.

The first WNBA President: Val Ackerman.

The first WNBA MVP: Cynthia Cooper.

The first WNBA basket: Scored by Penny Toler, L.A. Sparks.

The first four WNBA Champions: The Houston Comets.

Number of WNBA teams initially created: Eight. The Eastern Conference consisted of the New York Liberty, Charlotte Sting, Cleveland Rockers and Houston Comets. The Western Conference consisted of the Phoenix Mercury, Los Angeles Sparks, Utah Starzz and the Sacramento Monarchs.

Since that first WNBA season the number of teams has doubled (to 16). In 1998 the Detroit Shock and Washington Mystics were created. In 1999 the league welcomed the Orlando Miracle and Minnesota Lynx. And, in 2000, the new teams were the Seattle Storm, Indiana Fever, Miami Sol and Portland Fire.

The first collective bargaining agreement in the history of women's team sports? The WNBA's, announced in late April of 1999.

WNBA rules? The shot clock is 30 seconds, and the game consists of two 20-minute halves. The WNBA Game Ball is 28.5 inches in circumference, one inch smaller than the NBA Game Ball.

In 1999, the WNBA averaged over 10,000 fans per game, far exceeding many expectations.

Women's basketball has come a long way. And the WNBA will only get bigger and better as more and more female athletes chase their basketball dreams.







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