After a long-anticipated wait, sports finally returned to the United States. Due to COVID-19, the sports world was put on pause. On the weekend of July 25, the WNBA season kicked off from Brandenton Florida at IMG Academy. 12 teams and only 22 games will take place in the bubble, or “wubble.” New and familiar faces will take the court with no fans present, but every team shares one thing in common, and that’s winning a championship.
With the season in full swing, the players will be focusing on another large issue in the nation: racism. Many players, like Natasha Cloud of the Washington Mystics, opted out of the season to continue the fight against racial injustice. Although teams will be in a bubble this season, players and league officials have joined forces to dedicate this season to social injustice and systemic racism.
“Black Lives Matter” was displayed on the court, and throughout the season players will wear the names of African Americans that have died due to police brutality and racial inequality. Players wore the name of Breonna Taylor, who was killed in her home by police, on their back. During the opening match between the Seattle Storm and New York Liberty, players walked off the court peacefully during the national anthem. Both teams then returned to the court and held a 26-second moment of silence for Taylor, who was 26 years old when she died.
Some big-name players kicked off the start of the season. Sabrina Ionescu, the first pick in the 2020 WNBA draft, made her WNBA debut with the New York Liberty. A former Oregon Duck, Ionescu was the first college basketball player to record 2,000 points, 1,000 assists and 1,000 rebounds. She will try to find her place on her new team. The Liberty would face the Seattle Storm on opening day. The biggest story for the Storm would be the return of Breanna Stewart after she missed the entire 2019 season with a torn Achilles. In addition, the veteran point guard, Sue Bird also missed 2019 with a knee injury.
Seattle Storm vs. New York Liberty: Ionescu finished her first professional game with 12 points, but she struggled from long range as she shot, 0-8 from the three-point land. Newly acquired guard, Laysha Claredon, led the way for the Liberty with 20 points. The star power of the Storm overpowered the Liberty during the first game. Stewart led the Storm to an 87-71 victory, as she finished with 18 points in her return.
Los Angeles Sparks vs. Phoenix Mercury: This match-up had many familiar faces but on different teams this time around. One of those being Seimone Augustus. Augustus spent most of her career on the Minnesota Lynx, but during the offseason was traded to the Sparks. She had 14 points for her new team. In addition, Nneka Ogwumike led the Sparks in scoring with 21 points. The Mercury added another big-name player in Skylar Diggins-Smith. Smith will play try to find the right balance as she plays alongside Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi. The team could not find their first win of the season against the Sparks, as they are still trying to work out their chemistry. That game ended in a 99-76 victory for Los Angeles.
Indiana Fever vs. Washington Mystics: This was the final game of the day to kick off the WNBA season. The big story for the Mystics is they were missing reigning MVP Elena Delle Donne because she was denied a medical opt-out after battling Lyme disease. She was shocked by the decision of the medical doctors on the panel that made the decision. The Washington Mystics still plan to pay her whether she decides to play or not.
Many Mystics players stepped up due to the absence of Delle Donne. In particular, Myisha Hines-Allen who racked up a double-double with 24 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Mystics to 101-76 team win over the Fever. Kelsey Mitchell lead Indiana in scoring with 25 points that night. Four starters for the Mystics ended the game in double-digits.
Coverage of the WNBA season can be watched on, ABC, ESPN, CBS Sports Network and NBA TV.