With the creation of the WNBA there happened to be one deciding vote that had to be won-over before the very first all-female professional basketball league in the US could be born.
On April 24, 1997, the counselors of the NBA approved the proposal that kicked off the WNBA in June 1997.
While it is important to realize that the Women’s National Basketball Association was entirely created to give female basketball fans a league of their own, never was the intention that challenging and going up against Big Brother (NBA) or even the little cousin (NCAA Men’s Basketball programs) ever.
That was not the case and that would not be the case since the degrees of success, even for a female National Basketball League that was and is closely linked to the NBA, were and still are very low indeed.
Let’s Get This Started
The history of the WNBA is a relatively new but exciting and exponentially growing and fan supported from both sides of the gender bender fence line, sporting enactment.
The key marketing phrase; “Lets Get This Started”, in what seems like longer than only 13 seasons ago placed the female basketball players in the national as well as world spotlight for the first time. Collegiate ballplayers and college basketball teams for that matter already had a fair share of the market for as long as anyone can remember especially with dynasties such as Tennessee and Connecticut as well as Texas and Notre Dame grabbing attention with undefeated seasons and 60 straight wins at home and on the road runs.
What the WNBA has done for the female side of the professional basketball ranks is to elevate the game and show the world that superstars do not only have to be wearing Laker Blue or Boston Green.
NBC, ESPN, and the Lifetime Channel
When the WNBA kicked off there were three television channels that immediately saw the promise of this all-female professional basketball league and joined the cause right away. NBC, ESPN, and the Lifetime Channel immediately inked television deals that promised to air regional WNBA games with various term contract lengths.
The very first WNBA season was an enormous success, and after just two years of winning the hearts of female basketball fans, were made available in 127 international countries. While the vast majority of those attending WNBA games are definitely female, the WNBA television audience is currently almost equally divided between chicks and dudes
Please have a look below at some of the most-notable occasions during the inaugural season of the WNBA in 1997. This walk down Memory Lane might jog your memory just a bit!
• First WNBA Player Signing – Sheryl Swoopes, on October 23, 1996
• First WNBA President – Val Ackerman
• First WNBA MVP – Cynthia Cooper
• First WNBA Basket – Scored by Penny Toler L.A. Sparks
• First Four WNBA Champions – The Houston Comets
During the summer of 1997 there were 8 founding member teams of the WNBA that were set to get it on all-female style during this very warm summer. The league was divided simply into an Eastern Conference and a Western Conference.
This made perfect sense as for the teams were east of the Mississippi and four of the teams were west of the Mississippi. Most of us men would agree that females have this uncanny ability to simplify things while we men seem to complicate things with putting an Eastern Conference division team from Oregon west of the Mississippi!
You should all know that we are just pulling your leg a bit and the reason why conferences become a bit off course stems from the relocating of teams, of course.
1997 WNBA Eastern Conference
• New York Liberty
• Charlotte Sting
• Cleveland Rockers
• Houston Comets
1997 WNBA Western Conference
• Phoenix Mercury
• Los Angeles Sparks
• Utah Starzz
• Sacramento Monarchs
Ever since that inaugural first WNBA season, the number of active-teams has doubled to 16. In 1998, the marvelously coached Detroit Shock and Washington Mystics were added into the league of women ballers.
In 1999, the WNBA welcomed the Orlando Miracle and Minnesota Lynx and in 2000, the new teams were the Seattle Storm, Indiana Fever, Miami Sol and Portland Fire, with the Storm starting-off slowly but currently are reigning WNBA back-to-back Champions!