For the first time in WNBA history, the Commissioner’s Cup Championship Game took place on Thursday to officially resume WNBA action out of the Olympic break.
The game, which took place at Footprint Center in Phoenix, Ariz., featured a battle between the Connecticut Sun and Seattle Storm following the two teams finishing atop the Cup standings in their respective conferences during the first half of the regular season.
Much like what we saw in the two regular-season matchups between Connecticut and Seattle in the first half of the year, the Storm came away victorious in the title game, topping the Sun 79-57 to become the first team to win the Commissioner’s Cup prize money and trophy.
The @seattlestorm take home the first-ever Commissioner’s Cup! #CountIt pic.twitter.com/LeXd5CliXR
— WNBA (@WNBA) August 13, 2021
Now with the Cup competition over, let’s reflect on the 2021 Commissioner’s Cup tournament, including Thursday’s title game, the event itself, the prizes that were handed out and some final thoughts after the conclusion of this inaugural in-season tournament.
Basically from the opening tip, Seattle jumped out in front of Connecticut and coasted to a victory to kick-start the second half of the WNBA season. Seattle’s dominance in this game was somewhat surprising, given that a handful of Storm players have seen a lot of action over the last few weeks in the Olympics while the Sun players have had more time to rest.
Seattle, which took an 11-point lead into halftime before absolutely stepping on the gas in the second half en route to a blowout win, was led by Breanna Stewart with 17 points and four rebounds, Jewell Loyd with 16 points and three assists, and Sue Bird with 10 points and five assists. The Storm also never trailed in the game.
🏆 𝘼𝙙𝙙 𝙞𝙩 𝙩𝙤 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙩𝙧𝙤𝙥𝙝𝙮 𝙘𝙖𝙨𝙚! 🏆
THE CUP IS OURS!#TakeCover pic.twitter.com/DmQw11btTQ
— Seattle Storm (@seattlestorm) August 13, 2021
For Connecticut, DeWanna Bonner and Natisha Hiedeman each finished with a team-high 11 points, followed by Jonquel Jones with a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds.
With Thursday’s title game not technically counting as a regular-season contest, statistics will not be counted towards any overall or regular season statistics and team records won’t be affected, similar to the WNBA All-Star Game.
When it comes to the entire Commissioner’s Cup Championship outside of strictly the game itself, the event altogether was entertaining to watch. Coming into the contest, it wasn’t really known if this game would be more similar to a normal regular-season matchup, a playoff-type game or a celebratory and relaxed All-Star game.
Overall, it was kind of a mixture of the three as it was a serious game, but the WNBA did incorporate some new things into the broadcast and in the arena to entertain people in unique ways.
In totality, the broadcast was well put together and well done. The Commissioner’s Cup Championship did feature various next-gen tracking technology via Kinexon Wearables and Hawk-Eye view, incorporating those features into the broadcast and showcasing some data that was taken on the players while they were playing in the game, such as distance traveled and other physical performance data. It was interesting to hear about those features and to get somewhat of a behind-the-scenes look at data we wouldn’t normally have access to, let alone learn about in the middle of a game. The broadcast team noted Thursday that the Commissioner’s Cup Championship Game was the first WNBA or NBA game to have that type of in-game technology.
Outside of the technology, other notable features in the game included a pre-game, honorary jump ball facilitated by WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert, a halftime performance by Mariah the Scientist and the league reaffirming its dedication to the “Say Her Name” campaign.
As a result of the outcome of the game, Storm players will earn $30,000 each for coming out on top. On the flip side, Sun players will end up earning $10,000 each for finishing runner-up.
Along with the prizes handed out to each player on both teams, the winner of the MVP award was given an additional $5,000 for being selected as the player of the game. That player ended up being Stewart, who finished with a game-high 17 points to come away from the contest with a grand total of $35,000.
Along with the total of $500,000 in prize money that was up for grabs in this inaugural game, Seattle was also the first team to bring home the Commissioner’s Cup trophy, a gold-plated cup with a unique look that differentiates itself from any other trophy awarded annually in the WNBA.
After somewhat of an underwhelming in-season competition in the inaugural Commissioner’s Cup over the course of the first half of the regular season, the WNBA put together an entertaining Championship Game on Thursday to cap off the first-ever competition. The league did a nice job in shaking things up a bit to try and make things more interesting for both players and fans, and there is certainly room for this competition to grow and evolve from here. But for an inaugural in-season tournament and title game to round things out, the Commissioner’s Cup was interesting to follow all year long.