Las Vegas and the Aces’ WNBA showcase over the weekend was a win from nearly every angle. Which city can make their mark next?
The WNBA All-Star break has come and gone, but memories from Las Vegas will last a lifetime.
Women’s basketball enjoyed a victorious weekend in Nevada, as fans packed Mandalay Bay Events Center for a weekend of hoops heaven. The Vegas faithful has already taken kindly to their local Aces, and came out in full force when the league’s best arrived in the city. They witness a team curated by their very own A’ja Wilson defeat a squad headlined by Washington’s Elena Delle Donne by a 129-126 final.
“The fans were great, the atmosphere was great. I’m very fortunate to have my first one here,” said Kia Nurse of the New York Liberty. “It’s a fun place with lots of things to do so you can’t get bored here. That was the best part about it, people the entire weekend whether we were walking around the casino or at the hotel, people knew we were here and that was the great part of the marketing they did here.”
The WNBA All-Star Game will take a hiatus in 2020, as the Summer Olympics in Tokyo loom large. But which city could be next to experience women’s basketball euphoria come 2021?
The Windy City has, surprisingly, never hosted a WNBA All-Star weekend. With the Sky rising in the standings and in popularity (Chicago had three representatives in the Vegas edition), the timing for a league-wide visit seems perfect. The Sky also have a new arena to show off. Wintrust Arena seats just over 10,000. It is currently the youngest five-digit capacity arena in the league.
The league’s next All-Star bash will likely come in time for its 25th anniversary celebration. In which case, a return to the place where it all began could be most appropriate. The WNBA story officially began on June 21, 1997 in the City of Angels when the local Sparks battled the New York Liberty at The Great Western Forum.
For such a monumental occasion, the league could head back west and give another one of its bigger markets a chance to show itself off. The timing could be just right too, as the NBA’s Lakers were recently considering a return to the renovated Forum. What better way to welcome back basketball than inviting some of the best to play on the same court?
New York would also bring back nostalgics for WNBA die-hards. The league’s first All-Star Game was held at Madison Square Garden in 1999. With the city’s Liberty enjoying newfound stability under the ownership of Jospeh Tsai, it’s a perfect time to give the city its fourth weekend (which would tie Uncasville for the most in history).
A change of address will be required, of course, as the team’s Brooklyn assimilation has their players and fans dreaming of a full-time transition to Barclays Center. The Liberty and their fans will have a great chance to prove to new management that such a move can work on August 11, when the Liberty battle the Seattle Storm.
The Storm are going through a bit of a transition period of their own. Their longtime home of Seattle Center Arena is undergoing renovations to prepare for the arrival of NHL hockey. The Storm will return to the arena months before the unnamed team takes the ice, so the storied franchise could really enjoy a celebration of basketball by welcoming in the league to their flashy new settings. The arena and location also received positive reviews when they hosted the game’s 2017 edition. The West prevailed in the final version of the conference vs. conference competition.
The bid for a full-time Toronto team lost a bit of steam earlier this month, but the WNBA can nonetheless make a northern mark. Hosting an All-Star Game in “neutral” locales is not out of the question based on the activities of other major leagues. The NFL’s Pro Bowl, for example, has made a home in both Honolulu and Orlando despite never placing a team in the city. NBA All-Star Games have been held in Las Vegas and Arlington, Texas in the new century.
The timing to go international can’t be better, even discounting the Raptors’ NBA Finals victory. Hamilton native Nurse is one of the league’s rising stars and partook in her first All-Star Game this weekend. Canadian sports networks SportsNet and TSN recently added over 50 WNBA games to their lineups, only further confirming the international interest in the league.
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