Before the second half of the WNBA regular season tips off, the first-ever Commissioner’s Cup Championship Game will take place on Aug. 12 in Phoenix, Ariz.
The inaugural Commissioner’s Cup title game, marking the end of the in-season competition that took place during the first half of the season, will feature the Connecticut Sun and the Seattle Storm at Footprint Center in Arizona at 9 p.m. ET and will be available on Amazon Prime Video.
It will stream live on @PrimeVideo 💻
— WNBA (@WNBA) July 31, 2021
The Sun and Storm finished atop the Cup standings in their respective conferences to earn a spot in the game, with Connecticut representing the Eastern Conference and Seattle representing the Western Conference.
“We’re looking forward to tipping off our first ever WNBA Commissioner’s Cup Championship and setting the tone for the future of this in-season competition,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement released by the league. “Congratulations to the Seattle Storm and Connecticut Sun for clinching spots for their respective conferences in the Cup championship.”
Before the game commences, let’s take a look at the matchup, the uniqueness of the game itself and what’s at stake.
Matchup Between Two of WNBA’s Top Teams
After the first 20 or so games in the 32-game regular season, both Seattle and Connecticut are comfortably positioned towards the top of the WNBA standings. The Storm sit atop the league with a record of 16-5, and the Sun are just 1.5 games behind in third place, carrying a record of 14-6.
This season, Seattle and Connecticut have squared off two times, with Seattle coming away victorious in both contests. The Storm topped the Sun 90-87 on May 25 before taking a 2-0 series lead with an 89-66 win on June 13.
During the first half of the regular season, Connecticut finished with the best Cup record in the league with a 9-1 record in 10 games to claim the East. Seattle finished with a record of 8-2 to secure a spot in the Cup Championship for the West.
Uniqueness of the Cup Title Game
With the Commissioner’s Cup taking place for the first time in 2021, this will obviously be the first time we see the Championship Game and how it is received by fans, players and teams.
Although it has yet to be seen exactly what this game can and will evolve into in future years as it continues annually, the in-season Championship Game is a unique occurrence in the WNBA that we traditionally haven’t seen. In comparison to other distinctive WNBA events, the Commissioner’s Cup is almost as novel as the first outdoor game that was held between the New York Liberty and the Indiana Fever in 2008 at Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York City. The Cup also kind of feels like an All-Star Game type of contest.
It will be interesting to see if the WNBA decides to incorporate anything new into the structure of the Cup title game outside of housing a traditional game to see who will claim the crown, such as trialing some different in-game aspects, rules or viewership opportunities for fans tuning in. However, the Championship Game may just look like a normal game and mirror what the WNBA Finals look like, with the only exception being that it is just one game rather than a best-of-five series.
Regardless, this will be a unique occurrence that will likely evolve in the future.
What’s at Stake in the Game?
In the Cup title game, there are a few prizes at stake for both Connecticut and Seattle, most notably for players on both teams.
The first prize on the line for players is additional monetary compensation, with members of the winning team earning $30,000 per player and members of the runner-up squad claiming $10,000 each. Plus, whoever wins the MVP award in the Championship Game will get a bonus of $5,000. Altogether, there is $500,000 up for grabs in the Commissioner’s Cup prize pool.
In addition to the prize money on the line in the first-ever Cup Championship Game, the WNBA recently gave us a look at the Commissioner’s Cup trophy that will be awarded to the winning team.
Take a first look at the Commissioner's Cup trophy 😍
— WNBA (@WNBA) July 27, 2021
The trophy is a gold-plated cup that includes an 11-inch broad crown and a halved 9-inch wide basketball with engraved basketball seams. The crown and basketball rest atop a pedestal that features a recessed WNBA logo, which is supported by a trapezoid shaped base. The crown at the top of the trophy is intended to resemble both a basketball net and a traditional crown, representing the crowning of a champion.
Although Commissioner’s Cup competition over the first half of the season didn’t quite generate the excitement the WNBA likely hoped it would among fans, players and teams, the contest will give players the chance to battle for something outside of the WNBA title and earn extra compensation while providing fans with a unique game to watch during the course of the year.