For some American sports fans, August and early September are a dead zone. It’s the silent lull in between the conclusion of the NBA Finals and the lead-up to college football and the NFL, with their debaucherous tailgates and skull-crushing bro-dom. But for me, and the other nearly 1 million fans tuning into the WNBA playoffs, that dead zone is very much alive.
To whoever is somehow still complaining that the WNBA is boring? Bro, you simply must not be watching. On Thursday night, the Connecticut Sun and reigning WNBA champs Chicago Sky are set to take their semifinals series all the way down to the wire with Game 5. (The semifinals and finals are both five-game series.) The winner will head to the finals to take on the Las Vegas Aces. But it’s not just the upcoming final showdown that has every WNBA fan— regardless of team allegiance—rubbing their hands together and whispering “my precious.” The entire playoffs run thus far has been a remarkable show of strength, superstar quality, and damn good basketball. It’s the culmination of a year of historic athleticism and activism, even through the somber reality of one of their colleagues unjustly locked up abroad.
As a New York Liberty fan, watching an unflinching Sabrina Ionescu and Natasha Howard stomp all over the Chicago Sky’s three-point game in Game 1 of the quarterfinals was about as satisfying as it gets. After an improbable route to the playoffs, getting the chance to watch my team—unlikely heroes that they were—take on living legend Candace Parker and the Sky was a treat in itself. Of course, the Liberty were quickly bounced into oblivion after the Sky broke their own WNBA record for largest margin of victory in the playoffs, but no matter! Turns out, even for a deflated Liberty fan, this elite level of entertainment was far from over.
Las Vegas Aces’ Chelsea Gray, according to Just Women’s Sports, is averaging 24 points and seven assists on 63 percent shooting from 2, and 5 percent from 3 in six straight games, a playoff first in all of pro basketball. That’s right—all of basketball, including what we here at Jezebel call the MNBA. JWS called Gray’s playoffs performance a “reign of terror.” Breanna Stewart of the Seattle Storm has also been putting up career record numbers, and let’s not forget this year’s MVP, A’ja Wilson of the Aces, who rested just four minutes in the entire series against the Storm.
After the Storm’s nail-biter loss on Tuesday, icon Sue Bird also said her teary goodbye to the game of basketball after 21 years in the league. Her final game clocked 904K viewers, the second-most watched WNBA playoffs game in ABC history, according to ESPN. The 2022 WNBA season at large is its most-viewed regular season since 2008, according to the league.
To those anonymous ESPN commenters whining that only “tens and tens of fans will be tuning in” to the WNBA playoffs: Y’all are just making yourselves look dumb. The WNBA is and always has been exciting. To doubt that its players are breaking records and putting on a phenomenal show of basketball...that’s on you. It’s right there on your TV.