WNBA is back! Brittney Griner returns in Phoenix, Las Vegas looks to repeat amid coach Becky Hammon’s ban, and women’s basketball sees a surge in popularity following Final Four
- Last season had the highest average viewership of any WNBA season in 14 years
- Becky Hammond was suspended for the first two games of the season for Vegas
- DailyMail.com provides all the latest international sports news
The WNBA season starting Friday amid a spike in anticipation due to record viewership for women’s basketball at both the professional and collegiate levels, not to mention the return of Brittney Griner in Phoenix.
Following last the end of the 2022 season, it was announced that the WNBA saw a 16-percent increase in viewership from the 2021 season, averaging 379,000 viewers across ESPN’s family of networks and CBS. It would turn out to be the most watched WNBA season in 14 years.
The WNBA All-Star Game also was the most viewed game in the last 6 years averaging 734,000 viewers, which was a 53 percent increase from the previous year, and the draft saw a 20 percent increase making it the most watched since 2004.
It was also announced that traffic on the WNBA’s website and social media platforms as also skyrocketed, along with a increase to the amount of WNBA league pass subscriptions.
The popularity of women’s hoops was only enhanced by March Madness. This year’s final between LSU and Iowa averaged 9.9 million viewers and more than doubled the previous year’s championship between South Carolina and UConn.
Britnney Griner’s regular season return has been long awaited by legions of fans this season
Aces head coach Becky Hammon was suspended for the first two games of the season
The amount of attention played to Women’s March Madness this year has helped the WNBA
This year’s WNBA season already features a storyline that seems fit for a Hollywood blockbuster, thanks to the highly anticipated return of Griner following her detainment in Russia.
As if her return in itself wasn’t a big enough deal, Griner will have her hands full as she faces off against the Indiana Fever and No. 1 overall draft pick Aliyah Boston.
In a separate situation in worth keeping an eye on the reigning holders of last year’s Commissioner’s Cup the Las Vegas Aces are also set to start the season without head coach Becky Hammon.
Hammon was suspended due to her role in a player-mistreatment issue.
WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert also told ESPN that the league plans to hold talks with all teams around the league to discuss workplace policies in the aftermath of Aces situation.
‘We’ll be talking with all of our teams, all of our coaches, with our respect in the workplace policies around the sensitivity, especially in a women’s league,’ Engelbert said while making an appearance on ESPN’s ‘NBA Today.’
‘Really important to tailor those trainings to make sure everybody understands discussions that are held one-on-one with players or with a player group have to be in compliance with our policies.’
No. 1 overall draft pick Aliyah Boston is set to matchup with Griner early on this season
Las Vegas is a slight favorite over New York to repeat as champions, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. The Aces and New York are also in the preseason AP WNBA power poll. Washington, Connecticut and Phoenix round out the top five teams. Atlanta, Dallas, Chicago and Minnesota follow, while Los Angeles, Seattle and Indiana finish off the poll.
The last time a team repeated as WNBA champions was in 2001-02, when the Sparks won consecutive titles to end the Comets’ four-year run.
Standing in Las Vegas’ way could be the Liberty, who are looking for their first title in franchise history. The Liberty made several moves, adding former MVPs Jonquel Jones through a trade and Breanna Stewart as a free agent. New York also signed all-star point guard Courtney Vandersloot to join a young core led by Sabrina Ionescu and Betnijah Laney.
The group aims to bring New York its first pro basketball championship since 1973, when the Knicks won the NBA title.