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Basketball

🏀The latest in the WNBA

July 27, 2022
SOURCE: THE ATHLETIC WBB/TWITTER
SOURCE: THE ATHLETIC WBB/TWITTER

The GIST: While the Las Vegas Aces topped the Chicago Sky in last night’s second annual Commissioner's Cup battle, the league’s off-court news is grabbing all of the headlines. Never a dull day in the W.

Commissioner’s Cup: The Sky nearly overcame a 22-point first quarter deficit, but the Aces — led by 19 points, five rebounds and four assists from game MVP Chelsea Gray (definitely worthy of that $5K bonus) — held on for the 93–83 win.

  • 2020 league MVP A’ja Wilson also continued to dominate, posting a 17-point, 17-rebound double-double. Becky Hammon’s squad certainly put the league on notice.

Liz Cambage: Another day, another “contract divorce.” Cambage and the LA Sparks “agreed to part ways amicably” yesterday, just months after the team made a major splash to sign the four-time All-Star in free agency.

  • Cambage — who had a falling out with the Australian national team last summer — reportedly “quit” the Sparks partially due to locker room “chemistry issues.”

Brittney Griner: Today marks the 160th day of the Phoenix Mercury star’s wrongful detention in Russia. The latest in her case: BG’s defense team claimed yesterday that the cannabis oil found in her luggage was prescribed for medicinal use. Griner is now expected to testify during today’s hearing. Shout it from the rooftops — free BG.

🏀Parity, HEARTLENT Group partner on NFT collection in support of WNBPA, Rock the Vote

July 25, 2022
SOURCE: MELISSA TAMEZ/ICON SPORTSWIRE VIA GETTY IMAGES
SOURCE: MELISSA TAMEZ/ICON SPORTSWIRE VIA GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: Everyone’s getting in on tomorrow’s WNBA Commissioner’s Cup action, including Parity and HEARTLENT Group. On Friday, the duo announced that they’ve partnered on the 2022 Hoopers United Commissioner’s Cup NFT collection to benefit the WNBA’s Players Association (WNBPA) and Rock the Vote. Digital collectibles aren’t leaving the chat just yet.

The details: Hoopers United, the WNBPA’s mission-based digital collectible initiative, minted over 40 NFTs featuring players from the two teams still standing in the tournament — the Chicago Sky and the Las Vegas Aces. Collectors can acquire the tokens on the Parity NFT Marketplace starting today.

  • The move deepens the WNBPA’s relationship with influencer marketing platform Parity. The parties inked a multiyear partnership last August in an effort to connect WNBA players with commercial partners. Task = completed.

Zooming out: The two-year-old Commissioner's Cup isn’t only reaping rewards for the W, which locked in sponsors like U.S. Bank by expanding inventory. Players are also making bank through independent activations like NFTs. Signs of a healthy ecosystem.

🏀WNBA Commissioner's Cup tips off Tuesday

July 25, 2022
SOURCE: JONATHAN DANIEL/GETTY IMAGES
SOURCE: JONATHAN DANIEL/GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: The WNBA’s second annual Commissioner's Cup contest — an in-season battle for hardware and cold hard cash — tips off tomorrow at 8:30 p.m. ET (on Prime Video), featuring the Western Conference’s electric Las Vegas Aces and the Eastern Conference’s Chicago Sky (aka the reigning WNBA champs). Getcha popcorn ready.

How it works: As a reminder, each W team’s first home and away games against their five conference opponents count toward the Commissioner's Cup standings. Because the Aces and Sky had the best winning percentages in the West and East, respectively, they advanced to tomorrow’s tilt.

  • Back to the moola — each player from the winning team can earn up to $30K, while the runner-ups will each cash checks for up to $10K. The MVP will earn an additional $5K for their efforts. The gals are indeed getting paid.

The matchup: The Aces and Sky split their two games so far this season, making tomorrow’s clash all the more intriguing. Add Vegas’ A’ja Wilson, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young, plus Chicago’s Candace Parker and Emma Meesseman, and there’ll be no shortage of starpower.

  • The potential difference-maker? A player who might not be on the floor. Chicago spark-plug Courtney Vandersloot has missed the last four games due to concussion protocols, and it’s unknown if she’ll play tomorrow.
  • That said, the Sky are the defending champs for a reason, and they’ll have home court advantage. Can Chicago secure another dub for the Windy City, or does Becky Hammon’s squad have an, ahem, ace, up their sleeve? Only one way to find out.

🏀Twitter sees notable increase in tweets about WNBA

July 13, 2022
SOURCE: STACY REVERE/GETTY IMAGES
SOURCE: STACY REVERE/GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: The WNBA continues to pick up TV and Twitter dubs. The social media platform revealed yesterday that chatter about the league is increasing — a further example of the relationship between women’s sports and social media and, perhaps, a growth avenue worth even more W investment. Bird’s eye view.

The numbers: Twitter reported that the #WNBATwitter hashtag was used 16 times more in 2021 than 2020, ushering in buckets of tweets last season. The increased chatter means 33 million users saw W content on their timelines for the first time last year, with 676K sending their first tweets about the league in 2021.

  • And conversation boomed in languages other than English — the number of tweets in non-English languages rose by 35% last year. Multilingual love.

The campaign: To hype last weekend’s All-Star Game, the W launched the #MoreThanIncredible Twitter campaign last month to celebrate the league shattering expectations. The W issued simultaneous calls to action in English, French, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish, becoming the first women’s sports league to do so.

  • The multilingual community responded. As of July 7th, a whopping 65% of tweets using #MoreThanIncredible were in languages other than English. Leading the way? Tweets in Japanese, which comprised almost 36% of the chat.

The context: Of the social media giants, Twitter is notably the smallest. It counts 450 million monthly active users, while TikTok and Instagram boast 1 billion and 1.21 billion, respectively. Twitter’s value, though, is in its arguably unrivaled ability to drive global conversations and its impressively high user engagement.

Zooming out: Twitter may be a “small” social media player, but it is establishing itself as a credible platform to fuel the W’s rise both at home and abroad. The inclusive approach could pay off in the U.S. alone — around 20% of Americans speak a language other than English. The universal language? Sport, of course.


🏀Brittney Griner named honorary starter in WNBA All-Star Game

July 11, 2022
SOURCE: WNBA/TWITTER
SOURCE: WNBA/TWITTER

The GIST: From the Chicago Sky’s Allie Quigley winning her record fourth three-point contest, the Las Vegas Aces’ Kelsey Plum dropping a record-tying 30 points en route to All-Star Game (ASG) MVP and the Minnesota Lynx’s Sylvia Fowles dunking in her final ASG — there were plenty of wins in the Windy City during this weekend’s W ASG festivities.

The major storylines: As mentioned, Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner was the main focus of the weekend. Griner was named an honorary starter, players changed into jerseys with her name and number at halftime and Chi-Town’s own Chance the Rapper kept the focus on BG during his WNBA-hosted concert.

  • On the court, the aforementioned Fowles and Seattle Storm legend Sue Bird played in their respective eighth and 13th ASGs, with both set to retire at the end of the season. Who’s cutting onions?

Second half preview: There’ll be another party when the Sky and Aces duke it out in Chicago for the Commissioner's Cup later this month, but now all eyes are on the playoff push. The defending champion Sky boast the league’s best record and sit atop the Eastern Conference.

  • Meanwhile, MVP candidate A’ja Wilson and the Aces were high rolling in the West, but a recent surge from the Storm has tightened the standings.
  • Reminder: the eight teams with the highest winning percentage regardless of conference will make the postseason. The race is on.