Candace Parker Put Chicago, the WNBA on Her Back and Delivered a Win For Both
Parker and the Chicago Sky won the city's first-ever WNBA championship on Sunday night.EntertainmentEntertainment
The Chicago Sky closed out a four-game series against the Phoenix Mercury on Sunday night, denying the Mercury their fourth championship in franchise history. It was a history-making moment for Candace Parker, who returned to her hometown of Chicago for the sole purpose of winning this championship. Chicago has now won a championship in every major sporting league in the US, becoming the third city to ever do so according to The Gist. But the series that led to this win, and its aftermath, has more significant implications for the WNBA at large which could potentially lead to the league finally getting the respect and financial investment it deserves.
The 2021 season, the WNBA’s 25th year in existence, saw huge improvements in viewership as well as in-person attendance despite the ongoing pandemic. Sports Media Watch reported that Game 2 of the finals was the largest audience the league has seen in four years, an incredible achievement considering that this year didn’t feature league favorites, the Seattle Storm. What made all of the difference in the viewership of that game, other than the players’ incredible skill, was that it was aired during the primetime block on ESPN as opposed to ESPN2, where women’s sports often get ignored. The league was given prime television real estate and, as is usually the case, they delivered.
There are still those who would argue that the WNBA product is subpar to the NBA, which is why women receive fewer resources than men. To that, I must point everyone in the direction of Diana Taurasi, who was benched with an ankle injury in early September but ended up netting 37-points in a single game by the end of the month. A career-high for the literal GOAT.
What Parker, Taurasi, Brittney Griner, Kahleah Copper, Allison Quigley, Courtney Vandersloot, Skylar Diggins-Smith, and every woman at the WNBA delivers is a fast-paced, high octane performance comparable to their male counterparts. The key difference is that women have managed to elevate the sport.
The WNBA has blazed the trail regarding athlete activism and even gives the fans that particular brand of drama that can only be attained by watching sports. As the Sky celebrated their historic win, the Mercury made a bit of history of their own when the team declined to attend the post-game press conference after their loss, a move that has drawn praise and criticism in equal amounts. The decision has both been likened to tennis star Naomi Osaka’s decision to not attend press conferences for the sake of her own mental health and poor sportsmanship by people who just discovered women’s basketball on Twitter.
The ultimate winner here is the league, which finds itself at the center of a collective dialogue over the fascinating narrative that is women’s professional basketball. As per their most recent collective bargaining agreement negotiation, the ratings and revenue intake during the 2021 season was set to be a significant factor for the WNBA’s earning structure. As I previously detailed on Jezebel, “By 2021, if the league reaches certain revenue markers in broadcast agreements, marketing partnerships, and licensing deals, the WNBA and its players could be splitting revenue equally.”
Increased revenues sharing could mean that the Mercury, who has the highest combined salaries in the league at $1.35 million could see an increase across the board. At the same time, the Sky could potentially get their payroll closer to that of the top three teams if all the numbers add up favorably in the end. And, after this Finals series, how could they not?