As the years go by, the WNBA gets better and better. The insanely good talent that comes into this league is fantastic, but the amazing people they are is what really makes this league the best. Not only are you about to experience how much the WNBA is growing, you’re going to know just how important it is.
The WNBA is in its 23rd season, but over the last couple of years it has really blossomed more than in years past. More journalists are covering the league, more people are watching games, it’s on national tv more than ever before, and the athletes are some of the best to ever play.
Last year, the WNBA had a strong regular season with combined average viewership across ESPN2 and NBA TV up 31% over 2018. Viewership slipped to an all-time low in 2017 at just 171,000 average regular season viewers and 2018 regular season viewership increased 35% over 2017 to 231,000. With the WNBA’s recent deal with CBS before the season began in which they will broadcast 40 WNBA games in the 2019 season.
I wouldn’t be doing the league and these players justice if I didn’t show off their incredible love for the fans. The WNBA players are unlike any other when it comes to a connection with the fans. They adore their fans and it shows all the time. These videos you’re about to see, speak for themselves.
The first ones I want to show are of Dallas Wings guard/forward, Kaela Davis. As I always say when she’s with the fans after the game “Kaela luhhhh da kids!” After a recent game, she did something I hadn’t seen before. Normally I’ve seen players in the WNBA and NBA give a game worn pair of shoes signed after a game, but Kaela did one better.
She signed two pairs of previously worn game shoes and the shoes off her feet she had just finished playing in after Dallas’ first win of the season on June 13 against the Dream. The look of excitement on the kids faces when she told them she was giving them a pair was amazing to witness. They absolutely loved it! Check out the videos and photos of these moments:
The first lucky fan to walk away with a pair of signed @Daela_Kavis3 game shoes 🙌🏽 #ThisIsWhyWePlay #WNBA | @TheWinsidr pic.twitter.com/BMMddqDVMQ
— Unc (@UncleDrewWNBA) June 14, 2019
Our second lucky fan/fans to walk away with signed @Daela_Kavis3 game shoes! The two boys decided to share the shoes #ThisIsWhyWePlay #WNBA | @TheWinsidr pic.twitter.com/jBMJgZzf4s
— Unc (@UncleDrewWNBA) June 14, 2019
The generosity just didn’t stop as @Daela_Kavis3 took the ones off of her feet that she played in tonight‘s @DallasWings game and gave those away too!! The kids LOVED this and Kaela. Easily a fan favorite! #ThisIsWhyWePlay #WNBA | @TheWinsidr pic.twitter.com/iqG5aDs4ND
— Unc (@UncleDrewWNBA) June 14, 2019
Experiences like these make me just thankful that I get to witness some of these moments. Heck, I get just as excited as the kids. It’s just so awesome when Kaela and other members of the Wings hangout after game and just talk to the fans, take pictures and sign extra autographs. For example, Theresa Plaisance stayed after the Wings home game on June 13 even though she wasn’t one the two players specifically signing autographs that day. She was free to leave, but stayed anyway just for them.
The players put the fans first. They have an appreciation for all the fans who support their league and they make sure to reciprocate that love whenever they get a chance. Some people travel thousands of miles and sometimes even cross country just for a chance to watch their favorite WNBA players play in person. It’s amazing.
“Well for starters I love our fans,” said Kaela on her time with fans and how important it is to have a relationship with them. “Every one that I’ve talked to is very personable and they just feel like your friends. I think it’s important for me because I want them to know that as much as they see me as a professional basketball player, I’m also just a person like anyone else.”
“A person that wants to get to know them, and if anything just show them how appreciative myself and the Wings organization is that they come out and support us through everything,” she continued. “I always say it, but this game is so much bigger than just going to practice and playing games. It’s bigger than the 12 people on this roster and spending just a little time after games is just a part of the bigger picture to me.”
Speaking of players giving the shoes off of their feet, the Indiana Fever guard Erica Wheeler did it herself in 2018 after a couple of games. It almost just seems so regular to these players now and these kids are SO lucky! It’s an experience they will cherish forever and an awesome moment their families will never forget. Here’s a look at the moment and the reactions that came with it:
Even in the off-season, the WNBA players are still setting great examples, helping out and investing in the community. Minnesota Lynx forward Rebecca Brunson made and served waffles at Dots Gray Kitchen in Minneapolis back in December, as well as organize a winter clothing drive to help homeless teens in the area stay warm.
Rebekah Brunson (5x wnba champ) of the Minnesota Lynx served homemade waffles from her food truck and gave them to homeless teens! "This is why the #WNBA is so important!" ~@ariivory #WNBAMatters #WBBMatters and happy belated birthday Brunson! pic.twitter.com/4XJrlStMgj
— Aya Abdeen 🧡💜 #SayHerName ✊ (@ayaabdeen__) December 13, 2018
The WNBA wouldn’t have gotten the boost it has gotten without Arielle Chambers (@ariivory on Twitter) and her movement “The WNBA is SO important” that she has echoed ever since she began covering the league and before when she was a cheerleader for the New York Liberty. It’s something that has resonated around the association and supported by NBA players. Here are some of the interviews from Ari with a couple of NBA players:
Only time I talk to NBA players is when it’s in reference to the WNBA. It just is what it is. Respect the game. THE WNBA IS (still) SO IMPORTANT! pic.twitter.com/W4mRJXQvW4See Also
— Arielle (Ari) Chambers (@ariivory) June 13, 2019
Your fave @nba player knows what’s up. THE @WNBA IS SO IMPORTANT pic.twitter.com/GQdbXeVsye
— Arielle (Ari) Chambers (@ariivory) June 4, 2019
“I started the WNBA is so important initiative around 4 years ago when I was still a cheerleader for the NY Liberty,” said Ari on why she began the movement ‘The WNBA is SO important’. “Swin Cash was still an active player and was serving her team duties at a jrNBA clinic. She made the kids sing “Pay Attention” from Sister Act II and I saw how it affected them firsthand. My first thought was “wow, the impact. This moment is so special.” And then it transitioned to the WNBA is so important. Because it is. It is important.
Since then, because the W lacks exposure, I made it my mission to keep capturing and showcasing moments of players going through gameday naturally, which depict just why this league is so unique. It’s bigger than the game. The response has been tremendous and it’s grown exponentially. Shoutout to my good friend Wayne Gethers (@lwproductions on Twitter), who captured the latest viral moment: Sykes and the cutest Atlanta fan. That’s what matters. It’s bigger than us. It’s bigger than ball. It really is what it is: SO IMPORTANT.”
It’s clear Ari has a real genuine love for the WNBA and has been around it for a while. I don’t see her slowing down this push in support of the league anytime soon. It has infectiously spread throughout the WNBA community with fans, media and celebrities alike echoing how important this league is. Here’s the video she mentioned with Brittney Sykes and one with Liz Cambage and a fan:
Joy. Beautiful, #BrittneySykes. @AtlantaDream @WNBA pic.twitter.com/p0JbyJCI5j
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) June 15, 2019
“My first memory of the W was watching Lisa Leslie,” said Ari on how the WNBA has impacted her. “She was such a presence on and off the court. I saw her play-SO aggressive on the court, dunking and running the floor and posting up, but also slaying off the court. She was a model and actress and now does a thousand other things. She’s taught me I don’t have to be confined to a box.
“She’s taught me that I can be the fiercest competitor and the fiercest on the runway. And boss behavior doesn’t stop when those 40 minutes are done,” she continued. “Being a boss means paving the way for the future, leaving a legacy, being kind, being generous (including with your time), etc… I saw myself in her just as a lot of children (and even adults) see themselves in players. That’s representation. That’s why the WNBA is so important.”