Women’s basketball in the US has come a long way, since it was first played in the late 1800s, spreading out across the east to west coast via women’s colleges and universities. By 1976, women’s basketball had been added to the list of official Olympic sports, followed by the creation of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) – the very first professional league for women’s basketball.
The female equivalent to the National Basketball Association, here’s everything you need to know about the WNBA:
- The WNBA was founded on April 24, 1996 with eight teams, and its first full season was held in 1997.
- Sheryl Swoopes was the very first player to be signed in the WNBA and has held the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) title three times during her career. An Olympic gold medallist, Swoopes was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2017.
- There are currently 12 professional teams in the WNBA, split between the East and West Conferences. The WNBA season runs from May to September every year, with each team in the league playing around 36 games during the season.
- WNBA betting is the same as any other basketball league and the most popular bet is on the point spread, also known as an equalizer. With a point spread a team must win or not lose by a specific number of points or goals.
- Phoenix Mercury’s Diana Taurasi is the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer, with 8774 points scored during her career. She is widely considered one of the greatest women basketball players of all time and is also only one of five basketball players to ever win four Olympic gold medals.
- The WNBA Championship Finals are held every Fall to decide the league champions. Both the Minnesota Lynx and the Houston Comets have won the Finals a record four times.
- Top-seeded Washington Mystics were crowned the 2019 WNBA Champions after defeating the Connecticut Sun by 89-78 in front of their home fans.
- The average yearly attendance at WNBA games has now topped 1.3 million, with over 380,000 fans tuning in to watch the 2019 WNBA Finals live. WNBA games are aired on NBA TV and CBS Sports Network as well as Sportsnet and TSN in Canada.
- The WNBA's All-Star game was introduced in 1996, with the best players from the East and West conferences competing for the title. Every summer Olympic year the All-Star game is put on hold so players can take part in the ultimate sporting event.
- Five WNBA teams - Los Angeles Sparks, Minnesota Lynx, Indiana Fever, Phoenix Mercury and New York Liberty - have direct links to NBA counterparts and play in the same arenas.
Over 100 years after women’s basketball took hold in the US, the professional players are now poised to make a huge leap forward in terms of how the sport is seen. At the beginning of 2020, the WNBA and its players’ union tentatively agreed on a rise in players’ salaries, which could see the top players earn over $500,000 for the first time.