Game 1 of the 2015 WNBA Finals, which aired Sunday, Oct. 9, on ABC, delivered a 0.5 overnight rating, the best since 2010. The matchup between the Minnesota Lynx and the Los Angeles Sparks resulted in a +25% increase from last year’s Game 1.
ESPN’s exclusive coverage of the 2016 WNBA Finals presented by Verizon featuring the top two teams in the league – defending WNBA champions Minnesota Lynx and the Los Angeles Sparks — will tip off Sunday, Oct. 9, at 3 p.m. ET on ABC. All other games in the best-of-five series will be played on ESPN or ESPN2.
Four teams remain as the 2016 WNBA Playoffs semifinals tip off Wednesday, Sept. 28, with a doubleheader on ESPN2 beginning at 8 p.m. as the eighth-seeded Phoenix Mercury visit the top-seeded Minnesota Lynx in the best-of-five series.
ESPN’s live presentation of every game of the WNBA Playoffs 2016 presented by Verizon will begin Wednesday, Sept. 21, with a first-round, single-elimination doubleheader on ESPNEWS. The Phoenix Mercury will visit the Indiana Fever in the first matchup at 6 p.m. ET, followed by the Seattle Storm visiting the Atlanta Dream at 8 p.m. Commentator Pam Ward and analyst LaChina Robinson will call the early game, with play-by-play commentator Ryan Ruocco, analyst Rebecca Lobo and reporter Holly Rowe calling the second tilt.
ESPN’s Saturday tip-off of the 2016 WNBA season delivered the best audience for a WNBA regular-season game on the ESPN networks (excluding ABC) since 2001, with an average of 505,000 viewers. The 7:30 p.m. ET telecast between the Minnesota Lynx and Phoenix Mercury posted a 0.3 household rating.
The Lynx defeated the Mercury at home, 95-76, led by a double-double from Maya Moore, who scored 27 points and had 10 assists. ESPN’s coverage of the historic 20th season of the WNBA will continue Tuesday, May 24, as the Chicago Sky host the Los Angeles Sparks at 7 p.m. on ESPN2. Full Schedule
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ESPN’s Saturday tip-off of the 2016 WNBA season was the highest-rated, regular-season WNBA game on the ESPN networks (excluding ABC) since 2011, and the highest-rated, regular-season weekend WNBA game on the ESPN networks (excluding ABC) since 2005. The 7:30 p.m. ET telecast between the Minnesota Lynx and Phoenix Mercury delivered a 0.4 overnight rating.
The top 5 markets were Minneapolis-St. Paul (1.6), Memphis (1.4), New Orleans (1.1), Albuquerque-Santa Fe (0.9) and Dayton, Ohio (0.8).
The Lynx defeated the Mercury at home, 95-76, led by a double-double from Maya Moore, who scored 27 points and had 10 rebounds. ESPN’s coverage of the historic 20th season of the WNBA will continue Tuesday, May 24, as the Chicago Sky host the Los Angeles Sparks at 7 p.m. on ESPN2. Full Schedule
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ESPN3 will present 18 WNBA regular-season games live during the historic 20th season of the league, beginning with four games on Opening Weekend on Saturday, May 14 – Dallas Wings at Indiana Fever (6 p.m. ET); New York Liberty at Washington Mystics (7 p.m.); Connecticut Sun at Chicago Sky (8 p.m.); and Atlanta Dream at San Antonio Stars (8 p.m.).
ESPN networks will showcase 32 regular-season games in total this year, with every team in the league appearing at least three times on the ESPN schedule. In addition, for the first time, ESPN networks will combine to televise the entire postseason including the WNBA Finals.
ESPN will tip off its 14-game regular-season television schedule of the WNBA’s historic 20th year on Saturday, May 14, at 7:30 p.m. when the defending champion Minnesota Lynx and four-time WNBA All-Star Maya Moore host the Phoenix Mercury and nine-time All-Star Diana Taurasi. Ryan Ruocco will return as the lead play-by-play voice alongside analyst Carolyn Peck and reporter Holly Rowe. Full Details
ESPN3 is accessible on computers, smartphones, tablets and connected devices through WatchESPN. The network is currently available to more than 99 million homes at no additional cost to fans who receive their high-speed Internet connection or video subscription from an affiliated service provider.
ESPN3 Schedule (subject to change):
|Sat, May 14||6 p.m.||Dallas Wings at Indiana Fever||ESPN3|
|Sat, May 14||7 p.m.||New York Liberty at Washington Mystics||ESPN3|
|Sat, May 14||8 p.m.||Connecticut Sun at Chicago Sky||ESPN3|
|Sat, May 14||8 p.m.||Atlanta Dream at San Antonio Stars||ESPN3|
|Tue, Jun 14||7 p.m.||Washington Mystics at Connecticut Sun||ESPN3|
|Tue, Jun 14||7 p.m.||Dallas Wings at New York Liberty||ESPN3|
|Tue, Jun 14||8 p.m.||Seattle Storm at San Antonio Stars||ESPN3|
|Tue, Jun 21||8 p.m.||San Antonio Stars at Chicago Sky||ESPN3|
|Tue, Jun 28||10 p.m.||Atlanta Dream at Seattle Storm||ESPN3|
|Tue, Jul 5||7 p.m.||Seattle Storm at Atlanta Dream||ESPN3|
|Tue, Jul 5||8:30 p.m.||Phoenix Mercury at Dallas Wings||ESPN3|
|Sun, Aug 28||7 p.m.||San Antonio Stars at Washington Mystic||ESPN3|
|Tue, Sep 6||8 p.m.||Indiana Fever at San Antonio Stars||ESPN3|
|Tue, Sep 13||7 p.m.||Indiana Fever at Connecticut Sun||ESPN3|
|Tue, Sep 13||7 p.m.||Washington Mystic at New York Liberty||ESPN3|
|Tue, Sep 13||7 p.m.||San Antonio Stars at Atlanta Dream||ESPN3|
|Sun, Sep 18||4 p.m.||Connecticut Sun at Washington Mystic||ESPN3|
|Sun, Sep 18||4:30 p.m.||Phoenix Mercury at San Antonio Stars||ESPN3|
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- 10-Time WNBA All-Star Tamika Catchings to Play Final Season with Indiana Fever
- Dallas Wings Make Franchise Debut, Two-time All-Star Skylar Diggins Returns
- No. 1-Overall WNBA Draft Pick Breanna Stewart Tips off WNBA Career with Seattle Storm
ESPN will tip off its 14-game regular-season schedule of the WNBA’s historic 20th year on Saturday, May 14, at 7:30 p.m. ET when the defending champion Minnesota Lynx and four-time WNBA All-Star Maya Moore host the Phoenix Mercury and nine-time All-Star Diana Taurasi. Ryan Ruocco will return as the lead play-by-play voice alongside analyst Carolyn Peck and reporter Holly Rowe.
The schedule will include six games featuring the 2015 champion Lynx, four games showcasing Taurasi, two-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year Brittney Griner and the Mercury, and three appearances by reigning WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne and the Chicago Sky. The Dallas Wings (formerly the Tulsa Shock) will be led by two-time All-Star Skylar Diggins, who is returning from injury, and will also feature three times in the schedule.
Following the Olympic breaks, ESPN2 will have a doubleheader Sunday, Aug. 28, featuring the Seattle Storm and Breanna Stewart, the 2016 WNBA Draft No.-1 overall draft selection, will face the Lynx in Minnesota (7 p.m.), followed by two-time WNBA MVP Candace Parker and the Los Angeles Sparks against the Mercury. The schedule will close with the final regular-season game in the decorated career of Indiana’s five-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year Tamika Catchings, when the Fever face the visiting Wings on Sunday, Sept. 18, on ESPN2 at 4 p.m.
ESPN has telecast games each year of the WNBA’s history. ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo is one of the founding players of the league, along with fellow Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famers Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes. The network will offer comprehensive coverage of the landmark 20th season, including:
ESPN Production Highlights
- Analyst and former WNBA All-Star Lobo will return this season as an analyst, alongside Ruocco
- Veteran play-by-play commentator Pam Ward will team with analyst Peck.
- LaChina Robinson will work as a reporter on select games.
- On Saturday, June 7, ESPN will debut a three-person booth with Ruocco, Lobo and Peck teaming with reporter Rowe as the New York Liberty visit the Los Angeles Sparks – a rematch of the historic first game in WNBA history. Lobo played in that inaugural game as a member of the Liberty.
- Throughout the season, ESPN will look back at great moments in WNBA history, including year-by-year flashbacks.
- During the second half of the season, ESPN will highlight the league’s new playoff format with “Playoff Push” segments that will delve into the specifics of the format with graphics and video.
- espnW will run a season-long series that looks back at the WNBA’s 20-year history, with a focus on current stars and storylines including upcoming features on Cynthia Cooper and a flashback to the first game in WNBA history.
- espnW and ESPN The Magazine have collaborated on several preseason profiles, which will appear in the WNBA20 issue of The Magazine.
- espnW’s 2016 season preview will include preseason power rankings, expert picks and player and team analysis of what the season holds.
- Columnist Mechelle Voepel will write weekly throughout the season, with additional coverage from Michelle Smith, Kate Fagan and other espnW voices.
ESPN The Magazine
ESPN The Magazine has published a WNBA20-themed issue that takes a look at the history of the league and where it can still go. From The Mag’s Steve Wulf: “The whole WNBA thing started 20 years ago with a ball that looked like breakfast (orange and oatmeal) and a slogan that made grammarians lose theirs: “We Got Next.” But as this issue makes clear, the legacy of the WNBA lies not in what it “got” but in what it “gave.”” The issue will hit newsstands Friday, May 13, and story highlights include (see release for full details):
- As Good as It Gets — In the WNBA, draft night is a big deal: The glitz, glamour, national TV coverage and attention are impressive. But if history is any indication, this year’s top pick, Breanna Stewart, might never be that popular again. Several former No. 1 picks talk about the expectations, pressure and attention of draft night compared with life after the big event. By Elizabeth Merrill
- Moving the Ball Forward: An oral history of the WNBA — Some of the pioneers of the WNBA, among them Val Ackerman, David Stern, Adam Silver and Rebecca Lobo, reflect on what it was like during the league’s infancy. By Mechelle Voepel
- Lost and Found in Russia — Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi both play in Russia during the offseason—in part because WNBA salaries just don’t cut it. In this piece, they talk about their relationship (Taurasi has become a mentor to Griner), successes and struggles. By Kate Fagan
2016 WNBA ESPN/ESPN2 Schedule (subject to change):
|Sat, May 14||7:30 p.m.||Phoenix Mercury at Minnesota Lynx||ESPN|
|Tue, May 24||7 p.m.||Los Angeles Sparks at Chicago Sky||ESPN2|
|Tue, May 31||8 p.m.||Minnesota Lynx at New York Liberty||ESPN2|
|Tue, Jun 7||10 p.m.||New York Liberty at Los Angeles Sparks||ESPN2|
|Tue, Jun 14||8 p.m.||Indiana Fever at Minnesota Lynx||ESPN2|
|Tue, Jun 21||8 p.m.||Phoenix Mercury at Dallas Wings||ESPN2|
|Tue, Jun 28||10 p.m.||Dallas Wings at Los Angeles Sparks||ESPN2|
|Tue, Jul 5||8 p.m.||Chicago Sky at Minnesota Lynx||ESPN2|
|Tue, Jul 19||8 p.m.||Los Angeles Sparks at Indiana Fever||ESPN2|
|Sun, Aug 28||7 p.m.||Seattle Storm at Minnesota Lynx||ESPN2|
|9 p.m.||Los Angeles Sparks at Phoenix Mercury||ESPN2|
|Tue, Sep 6||8 p.m.||Phoenix Mercury at Atlanta Dream||ESPN2|
|Tue, Sep 13||8 p.m.||Minnesota Lynx at Chicago Sky||ESPN2|
|Sun, Sep 18||4 p.m.||Dallas Wings at Indiana Fever||ESPN2|
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To download cover: http://bit.ly/21SgSYd
For more coverage of the WNBA’s 20th season, visit espnw.com/WNBA20.
The Mag’s Steve Wulf notes that the whole WNBA thing started 20 years ago with a ball that looked like breakfast (orange and oatmeal) and a slogan that made grammarians lose theirs: “We Got Next.” But as this issue makes clear, the legacy of the WNBA lies not in what it “got” but in what it “gave.” A chance for women to play pro hoops in the U.S., for fans to see a game grow bigger, faster and stronger. A procession of role models who’ve been paid, and accepted. Yes, the league has faced harsh financial realities brought on by irregular attendance, indifferent coverage, international competition for talent and inevitable comparisons with the men. But the WNBA has survived and evolved, dragging the rest of us along with it. Women’s basketball once was confined to half court. Now it’s played end to end—and meridian to meridian—and the WNBA, which opens its 20th season May 14, has played a huge role. By opening the eyes of fans a little wider with each passing season, the league has brightened the future for all female athletes. In other words, it got the “next” part right.
ON THE COVER: Current and former players come together to celebrate the WNBA’s 20th season, including Maya Moore, Elena Delle Donne, Tina Charles, Chiney Ogwumike, Breanna Stewart, Skylar Diggins, Sue Bird, Tina Thompson, Teresa Weatherspoon, Rebecca Lobo, Tamika Catchings and Katie Smith.
Issue highlights and features:
As Good as It Gets
In the WNBA, draft night is a big deal: The glitz, glamour, national TV coverage and attention are impressive. But if history is any indication, this year’s top pick, Breanna Stewart, might never be that popular again. Several former No. 1 picks talk about the expectations, pressure and attention of draft night compared with life after the big event. By Elizabeth Merrill
Moving the Ball Forward: An oral history of the WNBA
Some of the pioneers of the WNBA, among them Val Ackerman, David Stern, Adam Silver and Rebecca Lobo, reflect on what it was like during the league’s infancy. By Mechelle Voepel
Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi both play in Russia during the offseason—in part because WNBA salaries just don’t cut it. In this piece, they talk about their relationship (Taurasi has become a mentor to Griner), successes and struggles. By Kate Fagan
The Art of the Crossover
Skylar Diggins is one of just a few players who don’t have to compete overseas to make more money, in part because she’s found a way to capitalize on ad opportunities while building her personal brand. But will her success actually help the league? By Mina Kimes
The Washington Mystics’ Stefanie Dolson tells The Mag what it’s like to be an out player in the WNBA—a league that has started to embrace its LGBT fan base and is becoming a comfortable environment for its own players.
From the title favorites—the Minnesota Lynx, again—to the No. 12 team (sorry, San Antonio), The Mag offers a look at how the franchises stack up for 2016. By Mechelle Voepel
The Mag provides a statistical look at some of the nuts and bolts of WNBA play. Among the findings: the best offensive rebounders and 3-point shooters and the best overall players in the league. The piece also examines how play has changed over the WNBA’s history. By Seth Partnow, Kevin Pelton and Justin Willard
Also in this issue:
MLB: In an interview of Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, the slugger dishes on life in Los Angeles, how he’s faring under his new manager and his crazy arm strength. By Marly Rivera
Indy 500: The Mag looks at the ways the 100th running of the Indy 500 could prove even more historic. Plus, ESPN’s Nicole Briscoe and Ryan McGee talk speed vs. safety in an installment of SportsCenter on the Road.
NFL: Reche Caldwell, a former New England Patriots wide receiver, opens up about his wild journey from football fame to federal prison. By David Fleming
NBA: The Mag employs some deeper metrics to help explain which of the remaining playoff teams can best survive an injury to a star player.
The Numbers: Trading up in the NFL draft to acquire a marquee quarterback rarely pays off. Most of the time, teams that try this strategy end up compromising their future. By Peter Keating
The Truth: The WNBA’s 20th anniversary is a milestone for fans, players and the cultural commitment to women’s sports. The next goal? That women’s sports be allowed to exist on their own terms, independent of comparisons to men’s sports. Such comparisons are nothing more than a sinister method of constantly delegitimizing women, their place in sports and their right to play them without harassment, condescension and qualifiers. By Howard Bryant
Pop culture: Yes, Drake is a super-annoying sports fan. But the rapper is also a front-runner and always has been. And if we could, we’d live like Drake too. By Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib
Carrie Kreiswirth, ESPN PR at email@example.com
Draft to be held for third-straight year at Mohegan Sun Arena – home of the Connecticut Sun
The top female college basketball prospects – including Connecticut’s Breanna Stewart, Moriah Jefferson and Morgan Tuck, who enter the WNBA Draft after winning four consecutive NCAA Championships – will gather at Mohegan Sun Arena, home of the Connecticut Sun, for the 2016 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm on Thursday, April 14. Airing in prime time for the fourth-straight year, coverage and analysis of the first round will begin at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2, followed by coverage of the second and third rounds on ESPNU starting at 8 p.m. WNBA Draft host Ryan Ruocco will be joined by analysts Rebecca Lobo and Carolyn Peck, and reporter Holly Rowe. In addition, current Connecticut Sun forward Chiney Ogwumike will serve as ESPN’s War Room reporter, offering live news and interviews from the three onsite War Rooms for the Seattle Storm, San Antonio Stars and Connecticut Sun.
The Seattle Storm holds the top pick in the draft for the second straight year, fourth time in franchise history, after winning the WNBA Draft Lottery presented by State Farm. The rest of the top five – No. 2 San Antonio Spurs; No. 3 Connecticut Sun; No. 4 Connecticut Sun (from Atlanta); No. 5 Dallas Wings (from Los Angeles).
Content will also be offered throughout the day across ESPN platforms, including SportsCenter and espnW.com.
- ESPN will have cameras in three War Rooms at Mohegan Sun Arena (Seattle, San Antonio, Connecticut)
- War Room Reporter Chiney Ogwumike
- “All-Access” pieces – ESPN will follow all invited draft prospects with a camera through the day
- Breanna Stewart – live interview on the set
- Geno Auriemma interview with Holly Rowe, discussing all of his drafted players and what’s in store for USA Basketball
- Segment on WNBA’s 20th Anniversary with Sheryl Swoopes joining the set (with fellow founding member Rebecca Lobo as our analyst already on set)
- Preview of upcoming season focusing on the return of Diana Taurasi and which team is most likely to contend with the Minnesota Lynx, who have won 3 of the last 5 WNBA titles
- Mock Draft: Mechelle Voepel gives first-round predictions
- Pre-draft profile on Minnesota scoring phenom Rachel Banham
- Exclusive post-pick interviews by ESPN analyst LaChina Robinson, including video with many of the top picks
- Top prospects in the WNBA draft answer funny, odd-ball questions edited into a video montage
- DraftCast: Live chat, pick-by-pick analysis of each selection and video player of WatchESPN Draft feed
- Mechelle Voepel’s team-by-team draft grades
ESPN’s coverage of the historic 20th anniversary season of the WNBA will tip off Saturday, May 14, with the defending champion Minnesota Lynx and Maya Moore hosting the Phoenix Mercury and Diana Taurasi at 7:30 p.m., on ESPN.