The WNBA playoffs begin this week (Wednesday 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2) and the average sports fan may be thinking, "So what?" Despite the growing popularity of the WNBA, many are still in the dark about the immense talent radiating throughout the league.
These women are electric, explosive, entertaining and inspiring every time they hit the court, yet how many sports fanatics have ever really sat down to watch a game?
So, whether you're a casual sports fan, a die-hard NBA junkie counting down the days till October 18, or a total WNBA newbie, here are five reasons why this year's WNBA playoffs are going to be sheer entertainment, making it the perfect time to fall in love with women's basketball.
1. These Athletes Can Hoop
This may seem like an obvious selling point, but I'm no fool. I know there are voices out there parroting about the lack of athleticism, excitement and overall ability of the women of the WNBA. Anyone who thinks that has clearly not watched many (if any) WNBA games. The playoffs are guaranteed to be showtime. If you love fast-paced ball movement, draining threes, driving to the hoop, banging on the boards, and passion, you're going to love the WNBA playoffs. This 2022 postseason promises to be unpredictable due to the sheer level of talent on all eight teams.
2. More Games Equals More Drama
The league's playoff structure has moved away from single-game elimination and implemented a best-of-three series for the first round. In this new single-elimination format, the top seed will host the first two games and should a third game be needed, they will travel for the win-or-go-home battle. Also new, of the eight teams who advanced to the postseason, none will have a bye; all seeds will be participating in the first-round 2-1 format. This lays the groundwork for some exciting home court advantages and travel challenges. There have been numerous debates about whether it's fair that the determining game is played on the lower team's home court, which if game threes are forced, is guaranteed to bring drama. As exciting as single-game eliminations can be, when you have this level of talent amongst teams, fandoms win exponentially by the league gifting us more games. The semifinals and final game will remain a best of five series.
3. Becky Hammon and the Las Vegas Aces
What do you get when you mix the coaching genius of Becky Hammon with the handling, shooting, strength and Basketball IQs of Kelsey Plum and A'ja Wilson? Must-see basketball. You get explosive, engaging, high-octane basketball. You also get things like the first two teammates in WNBA history to record 700+ points each in a single season. And don't forget Chelsea Gray, who was on fire last week, helping secure Vegas the No. 1 seed with her electric performance of 33 points, nine assists and seven rebounds. What a line. Sprinkle in a home court energy that could rival any NBA playoff crowd's vibe, and you've got a recipe for heart-racing basketball. If watching the Aces doesn't get you amped for playoff basketball, you might not even like basketball.
4. Legendary Sue Bird's Final Season and Possible Fifth Ring
Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images
After playing her entire 21-year career with Seattle, WNBA All-Star and basketball legend Sue Bird is saying goodbye to the game she loves. If her speech at the end of her last regular season game played in front of her adoring home fans is any indication, Bird would love nothing more than to end her illustrious career with a championship. Bird just last week became the second player in WNBA history to eclipse 1,000 three-pointers made, right behind fellow WNBA legend Diana Taurasi (who sadly is injured and won't be playing with her Mercury teammates this postseason). If watching sports history isn't your thing, Bird isn't the only ticket-drawing powerhouse on the Storm's roster. With shooters like Breanna Stewart (recently named 1/3 of the 2022 WNBA Peak Performers) and Jewell Loyd (Loyd's coming off a career-high game against Las Vegas with 38 points and eight threes) you're guaranteed to find a player to root for.
5. The Chicago Sky Chasing Back-to-Back WNBA Titles
As the No. 2 seed, the Chicago Sky is fighting for the elusive back-to-back championships. Chicago is attempting to become the first team in over 20 years to do it since the Los Angeles Sparks completed the feat in 2001 and 2002. Can they do it? Candace Parker and the Sky's impressive depth will first have to get past their first-round rivals New York Liberty, who despite having the No. 7 seed and thanks in part to young star Sabrina Ionescu, seem to be peaking right when they need to be.
Honorable Mentions to Get You Pumped for the First Round
Sleep on the Connecticut Sun if you want, but reigning MVP Jonquel Jones and the Sun are hungry for their first championship ring. Seriously, they pushed out the Minnesota Lynx, giving Sylvia Fowles a tough end to her illustrious WNBA career. The Sun are not playing around.
The Washington Mystics have a healthy Elena Delle Donne back for the first time since they won it all back in 2019, giving the No. 5 seed a chance against the Storm in the first round.
Don't count out Phoenix Mercury. Despite being without legend Diana Taurasi (due to quad injury), the Mercury are coming into their 10th straight playoffs fired up. The team has been dealt many challenges, like teammate Brittney Griner's detention in Russia. Teams that feel like they have something to prove are always fun to watch in the playoffs.
Catch ALL the WNBA Playoff First-Round Action:
(1) Las Vegas Aces vs. (8) Phoenix Mercury
Game 1: Phoenix at Las Vegas, Wednesday, Aug. 17 (10 p.m. ET, ESPN) Game 2: Phoenix at Las Vegas, Saturday, Aug. 20 (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2) Game 3*: Las Vegas at Phoenix, Tuesday, Aug. 23 (TBD)
(2) Chicago Sky vs. (7) New York Liberty
Game 1: New York at Chicago, Wednesday, Aug. 17 (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2) Game 2: New York at Chicago, Saturday, Aug. 20 (Noon ET, ESPN) Game 3*: Chicago at New York, Tuesday, Aug. 23 (TBD)
(3) Connecticut Sun vs. (6) Dallas Wings
Game 1: Dallas at Connecticut, Thursday, Aug. 18 (8 p.m. ET, ESPNU/NBA TV) Game 2: Dallas at Connecticut, Sunday, Aug. 21 (noon ET, ABC) Game 3*: Connecticut at Dallas, Wednesday, Aug. 24 (TBD)
(4) Seattle Storm vs. (5) Washington Mystics
Game 1: Washington at Seattle, Thursday, Aug. 18 (10 p.m. ET, ESPN2) Game 2: Washington at Seattle, Sunday, Aug. 21 (4 p.m. ET, ESPN) Game 3*: Seattle at Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 24 (TBD)
* if necessary