The History of the WNBA

On April 24, 1996, the National Basketball Association Board of Governors approved the concept of a women's professional basketball league, the WNBA. This was a great moment in history, because a proliferation of interest in women's basketball had spurred the development of several other of several other professional leagues. However, because of timing or lack of money, none of these leagues lasted longer than three seasons. With the backing of the NBA, the WNBA had a fair chance at survival. Before a player was even signed, the league established its broadcast partnerships with NBC, ESPN and Lifetime so the games could be televised live. The league also gave the WNBA an interesting twist when it decided that the WNBA season would be played during the summer and when it teamed up with Spalding, who designed the orange-and-oatmeal colored WNBA signature ball. The league also heavily marketed its slogan, "We Got Next."

By late October of that same year, the first players were signed, and the WNBA chose eight cities to host its first charter teams. Charlotte (Sting), Cleveland (Rockers), Houston (Comets), New York (Liberty), Los Angles (Sparks), Phoenix (Mercury), Sacramento (Monarchs), and Salt Lake City (Utah Starzz) all became the homes of the first WNBA teams. On June 21, 1997, the inaugural season began when the Los Angles Sparks hosted the New York Liberty with 14,284 in attendance. The overall inaugural season captured a wide fan support, averaging 9,669 in attendance per game and more than 50 million television viewers. The WNBA had its "Next."

Because of the success of the WNBA in its first season, the league added eight more cities and teams over the last three years. Washington D.C. (Mystics) and Detroit (Shock) joined the league in 1998, Minneapolis (Minnesota Lynx) and Orlando (Miracle) joined in 1999, and Miami (Sol), Indianapolis (Indiana Fever), Portland (Fire), and Seattle (Storm) were the newest additions in 2000.

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