WNBA Guide | A Brief History and Overview

(Last Updated On: July 1, 2022)

 WNBA Guide | A Brief History and Overview

Women began playing collegiate basketball in the late 1890s. However, back then, women could not join a professional league. It was not until 1978 that such a feat was possible. Women could play basketball as professional athletes in the United States because Bill Byrne, a sports entrepreneur, founded the Women’s Professional Basketball League. After three years, the league dissolved, and female basketball players in America remained without a professional basketball organization. Finally, in 1996, the NBA founded the Women’s National Basketball Association. The WNBA has provided hundreds of female athletes the opportunity to continue their athletic careers beyond high school and college. Let’s see how the league has evolved over the past 25 years. 

Inaugural Season

The WNBA began its first season in June 1997 after the NBA Board of Directors approved the concept of a Women’s National Basketball League on April 24, 1996. At first, there were two divisions comprised of four teams. The Charlotte Sting, Cleveland Rockers, Houston Comets, and the New York Liberty made up the Eastern Conference, while the Western Conference consisted of the Los Angeles Sparks, Phoenix Mercury, Sacramento Monarchs, and the Utah Starzz. These eight teams played from early May through August. The postseason began in September. Ultimately, the Houston Comets became the first WNBA champion. 

Logistics

  1. The regular season runs from early May to early August. 
  2. Each team plays 36 regular-season games, 18 at home and 18 on the road. 
  3. Eight teams with the highest winning percentages make it to the postseason.
  4. There are 4 quarters that consist of 10 minutes each. 
  5. The WNBA draft occurs in April. 
  6. The WNBA All-Star Game occurs in early to mid-July. 

Current Teams

Eastern Conference Western Conference
Atlanta Dream Dallas Wings
Chicago Sky Las Vegas Aces
Connecticut Sun Los Angeles Sparks
Indiana Fever Minnesota Lynx
New York Liberty Phoenix Mercury
Washington Mystics Seattle Storm

Relocated Teams

Defunct Teams

WNBA Champions

Year Champion MVP
1997 Houston Comets Cynthia Cooper
1998 Houston Comets Cynthia Cooper
1999 Houston Comets Cynthia Cooper
2000 Houston Comets Cynthia Cooper
2001 Los Angeles Sparks Lisa Leslie
2002 Los Angeles Sparks Lisa Leslie
2003 Detroit Shock Ruth Riley
2004 Seattle Storm Betty Lennox
2005 Sacramento Monarchs Yolanda Griffith
2006 Detroit Shock Deanna Nolan
2007 Phoenix Mercury Cappie Pondexter
2008 Detroit Shock Katie Smith
2009 Phoenix Mercury Diana Taurasi
2010 Seattle Storm Lauren Jackson
2011 Minnesota Lynx Seimone Augustus
2012 Indiana Fever Tamika Catchings
2013 Minnesota Lynx Maya Moore
2014 Phoenix Mercury Diana Taurasi
2015 Minnesota Lynx Sylvia Fowles
2016 Los Angeles Sparks Candace Parker
2017 Minnesota Lynx Sylvia Fowles
2018 Seattle Storm Breanna Stewart
2019 Washington Mystics Emma Meesseman
2020 Seattle Storm Breanna Stewart
2021 Chicago Sky Kahleah Copper

WNBA Championship Leaders

Number of Championships WNBA Teams
4 Houston Comets, Minnesota Lynx, Seattle Storm
3 Detroit Shock, Los Angeles Sparks, Phoenix Mercury
1 Chicago Sky, Indiana Fever, Sacramento Monarchs, Washington Mystics

Legendary WNBA Players

Candace Parker: F/C/G | Los Angeles Sparks (2008-20); Chicago Sky (2021-present)

1st overall pick in the 2008 WNBA draft, 2x WNBA Champion, WNBA Finals MVP (2016), 2x MVP, 7x All-Star, Rookie of the Year (2008), Defensive Player of the Year (2020), 3x WNBA Rebounding Leader

Cynthia Cooper: G | Houston Comets (1997-2000, 2003)

4x WNBA Champion, 4x WNBA Finals MVP, 2x MVP, 3x All-Star

Diana Taurasi: G | Phoenix Mercury (2004-present)

1st overall pick in the 2004 WNBA draft, 3x WNBA Champion, 2x WNBA Finals MVP, MVP (2009), 10x All-Star, Rookie of the Year Award (2004), WNBA All-time Leading Scorer (9000+ points)

Lisa Leslie: C | Los Angeles Sparks (1997-2009)

2x WNBA Champion, 2x WNBA Finals MVP, 3x MVP, 8x All-Star, 2x Defensive Player of the Year

Maya Moore: F | Minnesota Lynx (2011-2018)

1st overall pick in the 2011 WNBA draft, 4x WNBA Champion, WNBA Finals MVP (2013), MVP (2014), 6x All-Star, Rookie of the Year (2011), Steals Leader (2018)

Sue Bird: G | Seattle Storm (2002-2022)

1st overall pick in the 2002 WNBA draft, 4x WNBA Champion, 13x All-Star, 3x WNBA Assists Leader, WNBA All-time Assists Leader

Tamika Catchings: F | Indiana Fever (2002-2016)

WNBA Champion (2012), WNBA Finals MVP (2012), MVP (2011), 10x All-Star, 5x Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year Award (2002)

Logo Evolution

WNBA Logo and symbol, meaning, history, PNG, brand

The original WNBA logo purposefully looks very similar to the NBA’s logo. It features a slanted shield, a feminine player dribbling a basketball, and the colors red, white, and blue to represent the American flag. 

In 2013, the league updated the design. It contains the same colors as the WNBA basketballs: white and orange. The player purposefully drives to the basket rather than dribbling the basketball because that image spotlights women as more athletic, powerful, and robust. 

The latest version of the logo looks more simplistic. It contains no background colors and only uses orange to make the logo pop. It does not represent a specific player. 


Every day, Sporcle hosts games across the country at Pub Quiz and Stump! Trivia. This blog post took inspiration from one of the questions asked on June 8, 2022. That question was: What U.S. city is home to the WNBA team nicknamed the Aces?

Test Your Knowledge: Name the top 20 WNBA players with the most career points or match the WNBA team to their logo.

About the Author:

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Lauren Booher is a content writer at Sporcle from Ann Arbor, Michigan. She is pursuing a B.A. in Sports Media at Indiana University and loves to work in production and content creation roles. Sports are a huge part of her life as she loves to spend Saturdays in the fall at the Big House and summer nights at Comerica Park.

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