The future of the WNBA is very bright, just look at the sun

Sue Bird’s final regular season game at Connecticut on Thursday drew a sold-out crowd of 9,137 fans, but the Connecticut Sun stole the show.

UAlbany women’s basketball head coach Colleen Mullen loaded up two vans of players and coaches to watch the Sun play the Seattle Storm. She landed a batch of lower-tier seats earlier this summer, just days before Bird announced her retirement after 21 seasons with the Seattle Storm.

“I wanted to show them the atmosphere. A lot of them had never been to a WNBA game before. We got to see such a special game and crowd. It shows you that women’s basketball is a product that people want to watch. It’s important to show these young women that we just have to work on promoting our game,” Mullen told me at halftime.

Guard Morgan Haney, who will be a redshirt junior for the 2022-23 Danes and captain for the 2021-22 America East champions, has attended other WNBA games but said the Mohegan Sun Arena battle “had by far the best atmosphere”.

“It was such a great experience to see women compete at the highest level,” she said.

The crowd showed off plenty of UConn t-shirts and four of Storm’s five starters – Bird, Breanna Stewart, Gabby Williams and newly acquired Tina Charles – played for Geno Auriemma, who was in attendance.


Bird, in his 21st year in the league, played at UConn from 1998 to 2002, leading the Huskies to two of the program’s 11 NCAA championships.

Governor Ned Lamont declared Sue Bird Day in Connecticut on Thursday.

Bird finished 4-5 from behind the arc on his way to a 14-point night with seven assists. But Connecticut played better in the final minutes to claim an 88-83 win over the Storm. It was a big game. Both teams are battling for a third seed in the playoffs; both are guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, which begin Aug. 17.

“I’m just enjoying the moment,” Bird said in a pregame press conference about his farewell matches in different cities. “There was a lot of standout fan participation. I have lived some really special moments. »

The future of the WNBA – the most LGBTQIA+ inclusive professional sports league in the United States – is in good hands.

And it’s time for new players to be the faces of the WNBA, like reigning WNBA MVP Jonquel Jones, the Connecticut Sun center who played collegiate George Washington of the Atlantic 10 Conference. She was candid about why she is not well known.

“She deserves way more attention than she got as WNBA MVP,” Stewart told ESPN.com. “She’s a three-tier scorer and has an impact defensively. It’s hard to match her because of her size first, then her skill.”

Katie Barnes’ fabulous Jones profile on ESPN.com tells the full, untold story of Jones, who in February tweeted: “It’s all a popularity contest and politics in wbb. In mbb you just gotta be the best In wbb you have to be the best player, best looking, most marketable, most followers on IG just to sit at the sponsorship table thank goodness for the stranger because my bag would have been groped.

“Not to mention that I’m a black lesbian,” she added. “Lord the seats disappear from the table as I speak.”

Alyssa Thomas, who led the Sun in scoring 19 points and providing 11 assists, is a player to watch heading into the playoffs. Earlier this month, Thomas became the first player in Sun franchise history to record a triple-double when she had 15 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists in a win over the North Carolina Lynx. Minnesota. She also kept league leading scorer Stewart down the stretch, forcing three missed attempts. Thomas peaks at the right time for the Sun. And sun guards Courtney Williams and Natisha Hiedeman, who played in Marquette with Capital Region standout Selena Lott, are a tough starting combination. Hiedeman hit a big bucket in the stretch and played tough defense against Bird, interrupting the Storm’s offensive flow.

The Connecticut Sun celebrates 20 years as a franchise this year. To support Brittney Griner during her detention in Russia and to continue her legacy of caring for her community, WNBA teams have embraced BG’s Heart and Sole Shoe Drive. The Connecticut Sun is accepting donations of shoes and other necessities with donations benefiting the New London Homeless Hospitality Center.

Fans who wish to participate can donate new or lightly worn shoes and toiletries from the Aug. 2-4 games against Griner’s Phoenix Mercury. Collection bins will be at both entrances to the Mohegan Sun Arena lobby.

The trip to the Mohegan Sun is only two hours from Albany. We stayed overnight at a decent hotel nearby for only $125. I can’t think of a better way to spend your entertainment dollar. The casino’s Sports Book was filled with WNBA boosters after the game.

A futures bet on WNBA success is a sure thing.

[email protected] • @joyceb10bassett • timesunion.com/author/joyce-bassett

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