NEW YORK – In honor of Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day, the WNBA has just announced it will celebrate its 15th season, which tips off on June 3, by selecting the Top 15 Players and Greatest Moments in league history. Among other season-long celebrations, ESPN2 will feature the 15th Anniversary of the league’s inaugural contest and WNBA teams will host specially-themed events and fan promotions.
“This is a significant milestone for the WNBA,” said NBA Commissioner David Stern. “The league continues to be the destination for the greatest women basketball players in the world. The WNBA has also developed into an icon and a vehicle for social change, providing extraordinary role models for young women and individuals of all ages.”
To commemorate the historical season, the WNBA will select and honor the league’s most influential players since its inception in 1997. The Top 15 Players in league history will be selected based on their overall contribution to the league. Consideration will be given to such factors as on-court performance and ability, leadership, sportsmanship and community service as well as to contributions to team success and the overall growth of women’s basketball.
A panel comprised of media members and basketball experts has developed a list of 30 past and current WNBA players that will be unveiled this spring. From that list, the Top 15 Players in WNBA history will be selected and that group will be announced during the week of the 2011 WNBA All-Star Game.
The WNBA’s 15 Greatest Moments will also be determined during the 2011 campaign with the moments being ranked from No. 15 through No. 1 and unveiled during the second half of the season and the playoffs.
Details on the voting process for both programs will be announced at a later date.
In addition to other season-long initiatives, ESPN2 will nationally televise the 15th anniversary of the league’s inaugural game on June 21, when the Sparks, led by Candace Parker and Tina Thompson, the lone remaining player from the WNBA’s first season, host fellow All-Star Cappie Pondexter and the New York Liberty at Staples Center. The match-up comes 15 years to the date of the first game in WNBA history when these same two teams squared off in The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. Led by then head coach Nancy Darsch, the Liberty defeated the Sparks, 67-57, before a crowd of 14,284. Penny Toler, who as a member of the Sparks scored the first basket in league history, went on to become the team’s general manager and joined with head coach Michael Cooper to lead the team to a pair of WNBA championships in 2001 and 2002.
WNBA teams will also celebrate the league’s historic milestone by hosting specially-themed games, fan promotions, interactive events and presentations to long-time season ticket holders throughout the season.