Women’s basketball: Wrapping up some of 2020’s biggest moments

2020’s biggest moments for women’s basketball

As the end of the year approaches, it’s easy to shift focus onto what will hopefully be better times in 2021. But despite all the struggles and tragedies that occurred this year, there are still a few bright spots to look back on and be proud of.

COVID-19 has brought a cloud of uncertainty and change over the sports world this year. Most recently, Duke’s women’s basketball program ended its season after facing coronavirus cases of its own. Teams have also experienced a fair share of rescheduling and cancellations for pandemic-related reasons.

Sports are navigating a strange environment right now, but despite all that this year has thrown at them, they’ve still managed to do what they do best: showcase incredible athleticism and highlight the best parts of humanity.

Here are some of the ways women’s basketball made the best out of an unkind year.

1. Social activism in the WNBA. This year the WNBA was able to not only have a successful season, but they dedicated that season to social justice. In July, the league and WNBPA announced that it was launching a new platform called The Justice Movement, which would “amplify the voices and leadership of WNBA players.” Players would also wear warm-up shirts that said “Black Lives Matter” on the front and jerseys that bore Breonna Taylor’s name on the back.

Before each game this season teams honored a woman of color who had been killed by police officers. In a summer rocked by racial injustice, players worked tirelessly to organize campaigns from within the bubble that would highlight Black voices and stories.

PALMETTO, FLORIDA – SEPTEMBER 15: The Connecticut Sun take a knee during the national anthem before Game One of their First Round playoff against the Chicago Sky at Feld Entertainment Center on September 15, 2020 in Palmetto, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images)

The NBA made similar statements and allowed players to choose phrases they wanted on their jerseys. While these efforts were under a  much larger spotlight in 2020, players in both leagues have been fighting for social justice for years.

But the WNBA players? They won a Senate seat.

2. Bubble viewership. The WNBA bubble was home to 147 games in 73 days. Fans got to see Sue Bird and the Seattle Storm win their fourth title, with Breanna Stewart bouncing back after an injury year.

Beyond basketball, the bubble provided a window into these players’ lives. Fans got to know them on a more personal level thanks to things like social media, player vlogs and greater media coverage. In fact, this season the league saw an increase in support as well as viewership, which was up 68 percent across networks.

3. VanDerveer gets 1,099th win. Just a couple of weeks ago, Stanford head coach Tara VanDerveer became the winningest coach in women’s basketball history. VanDerveer passed Pat Summit after a 104-61 dub over Pacific became her 1,099th career win. The team has won two games since then.

4. Natasha Cloud, Chiney Ogwumike and A’ja Wilson named to Forbes “30 Under 30” list. These three women embody what it means to be an athlete in today’s society and excel at combining their athletic prowess with their passion to help build a better future.

Cloud is known for her activism. After opting out of the 2020 season, she channeled her efforts into the community, marching in Philadelphia after George Floyd’s murder and leading a march in D.C. on Juneteenth with Mystics and Wizards players.

Ogwumike has expanded her media presence since her move to Los Angeles, and this summer she became the first Black woman to host a daily national radio show (“Chiney and Golic Jr.”). Her activist efforts focus on voting rights and she served as a poll worker in her hometown of Houston on Election Day.

Wilson was a blast to watch in the bubble and earned herself the 2020 WNBA MVP award after leading the Las Vegas Aces to the Finals. When she’s not balling out on the court, she’s using her platform to speak out for Black girls and is also a founding member of LeBron James’ More Than a Vote team. Wilson has also racked up some notable sponsorships over the years, including Nike and Mountain Dew.

5. The orange hoodie movement. This is much more than just a cool hoodie. It became an icon this year, with players across leagues rocking it before games or in their down time. You may have heard of a few of them: LeBron James, Naomi Osaka, Devin Booker, Jayson Tatum, Michael Thomas, the list goes on! Kobe could also often be found courtside in his orange hoodie.

Why does this matter? Clothes are an expression of who we are and can be seen as a visual representation of what we support or believe in. Athletes, reporters, celebrities, and fans all coming together and repping this hoodie helps to grow the community around the the league and expand the fanbase.

This support has stretched beyond the WNBA and into leagues like the NWSL and the PWHPA, who also have their own hoodies.

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