The Women’s National Basketball Association, or WNBA, played its first season in June 1997 and enters its fourteenth season this year. Although basketball is traditionally a winter/spring sport, the WNBA plays its season during the summer and fall when fewer sports are played. WNBA games are broadcasted live, and the league has had partnerships with NBC, ESPN, and Lifetime television since 1996, before the first season began.
In fourteen years, the WNBA began with eight teams—the Charlotte Sting, Cleveland Rockers, Houston Comets, New York Liberty, Los Angeles Sparks, Phoenix Mercury, Sacramento Monarchs, and the Utah Starzz. Within three years, however, the WNBA grew to sixteen teams, adding the Detroit Shock, Washington Mystics, Minnesota Lynx, Orlando Miracle, Indiana Fever, Miami Sol, Portland Fire, and the Seattle Storm.
WNBA basketball games are played in two twenty-minute halves. The basketball size and color is slightly different than the NBA basketball: it’s orange and oatmeal colored and 28.5 inches in circumference.
The WNBA has three main initiatives that display the league’s commitment to engaging with its community. In its outreach efforts, the WNBA focuses on promoting good health and fitness, breast cancer awareness, and youth reading and basketball programs. WNBA Fit encourages women of all ages to learn about the importance of good fitness for overall physical and emotional health. The WNBA’s Breast Health Awareness program educates women about breast cancer and raises funds for breast cancer research. Read to Achieve is a year-round program that encourages families to read aloud together and also includes giving books to schools and other organizations that help children learn to read.
Not surprisingly, women are the WNBA’s biggest fans, and the league reports that 70% of its millions of fans are women. Going to a WNBA game, however, can be a great family fun night or ladies’ night out. Many teams have family four-pack deals that include tickets, hotdogs, drinks, and popcorn or special ladies’ nights with swanky appetizers and goodies—a great way to beat the summer heat!