The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) does not get the attention it deserves, but that is starting to change. With the most recent WNBA Finals going to five games, there has been more attention than ever for the the WNBA.
In a thrilling game five of the WNBA Finals, the Minnesota Lynx won their fourth title since 2011 over the Los Angeles Sparks, 85-76. This proved to be a historic game for the league and its viewership. With a championship on the line, Game 5 averaged 902,000 viewers, which included people live streaming the game, to become the fifth most-watched WNBA postseason game in history.
This is an incredible jump in coverage in just a year and is hopefully an indicator of a higher viewership for the WNBA. A down-to-the-wire championship repeat matchup from the Lynx and Sparks has helped the WNBA gain more exposure, and they are in a position to build off it.
What many people don’t realize is that the WNBA is a young league. It is only 21 years old, which is an infant compared to the 71 year old NBA. It is also doing incredibly well for a young league as well. The WNBA had an average attendance of 7,716 in its 21st season, while the NBA, in it’s 21st season, only had an average attendance of 6,749.
The WNBA, compared to a more mature NBA, seems to be behind, but in the long run is right on track. It takes time to build an entire league full of teams with interesting histories and exciting rivalries. Just ask the NBA.
The WNBA has more ways of creating a large fanbase than the NBA ever did. With the emergence of technology and social media, the WNBA has the ability to easily connect with viewers and market their brand.
There were 20 WNBA games aired live on Twitter in 2017, which helped increase viewership. Using social media to increase the WNBA’s presence is an advantage that the league has already begun utilizing and will need to continue to use going forward.
The league is also an incredibly progressive one. In the first four games of the Finals, the Sparks stayed in their locker room during the National Anthem as a protest to social injustices in the USA.
The WNBA commissioner, Lisa Borders, supports players being socially engaged, saying in an interview “there are still social justice issues that need to be addressed in this country. I don’t presume the players will take a step back. I expect them to remain fully and completely engaged.”
A progressive league and commissioner will draw a younger crowd to games, one that will help set the culture and legacy of the WNBA in years to come.
In the next 20 years, the WNBA will increase its attendance, viewership and overall attention through a strong social media presence and a progressive stance on important issues. They will also have the chance to establish player legacies, team identities and rivalries that will help people become invested in the league. Give the WNBA time. Their amazing journey has only just begun.