The WNBA kicked off its 25th season this week with cinematic flair.
For starters, the league saw the return of some of its biggest stars — several of whom had elected, for various reasons, to opt out of last year’s bubble-wrapped season.
From Jonquel Jones playing her first game in 582 days for the Connecticut Sun, to seeing Elena Delle Donne, Natasha Cloud and Tina Charles suit up together for the first time for the Washington Mystics, there were plenty of highlights.
But nothing electrified the opening weekend more than Friday’s duel game-winning buzzer beaters. First, Diana Taurasi made a go-ahead trey with 1.1 seconds left to give the Phoenix Mercury a 77-75 victory over the Minnesota Lynx.
And then, Sabrina Ionescu completed a dream start in her New York debut, scoring the game-winning three, with less than a second remaining, to give the Liberty a 90-87 victory over the Indiana Fever.
The excitement left Bring It In host Morgan Campbell, as well as panellists Meghan McPeak and Dave Zirin, wondering if — and when — Canada could see its own WNBA franchise.
WATCH | Bring It In panel dicusses whether WNBA should move north of the border:
“I think it’s on the horizon,” McPeak said. “We obviously know the abundance of fans for the game of basketball in Canada. Especially on the women’s side, we’ve already seen, the emergence of the Canadian national team and the success they’ve had at FIBA America’s tournaments, world tournaments and the Olympics.
“Basketball fans are chomping at the bit to find out when the league will expand,” McPeak said. And Canada, she adds, is definitely on the list of considerations.
The luxury the WNBA has, according to Campbell, is that it can easily expand without diluting its talent pool.
The real key, however, is finding the right owner.
“We already know that there is a growing thirst for women’s basketball,” Zirin said. “So, you don’t need the billionaire, hedge fund, bond villain, Elon Musk wannabe to make this a reality.”
What you really need, Zirin said, is, “somebody who has the deep, heartfelt commitment to the game, to women’s sport, but also someone who sees the growth opportunity and potential.”
Kyrie Irving, importance of basketball
The panel also took time to applaud the way basketball star Kyrie Irving declined to answer game-related questions following the Nets’ 105-91 victory on Saturday, to focus instead on the ongoing situation between Israel and Palestine.
WATCH | Bring It In panel discusses Kyrie Irving, importance of basketball:
“There’s a lot of things going on overseas,” Irving told post-game media. “So I apologize if I’m not going to be focused on y’all’s questions.
“I focus on [basketball] most of the time, 24/7, but it’s just too much going on. It’s just sad to see this s— going on. It’s not just in Palestine, not just in Israel. It’s all over the world, and I feel it. I’m very compassionate to it — to all races, all cultures and to see it, to see a lot of people being discriminated against, based on their religion, colour of their skin, what they believe in. It’s just sad.”
The panel agreed that Irving won’t be the last to speak.
“Already, you have seen [fellow NBA player] Damian Lillard put out an Instagram post,” Zirin said. “His teammate Jusuf Nurkić has done the same. We have also seen Layshia Clarendon of the WNBA put out a statement and retweet. And we’ve also seen top soccer stars being vocal [Mesut Ozil, Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mane to name a few].”
However, what impressed McPeak about Irving’s comments was how he “spoke from his heart, from his mind and has obviously had things to say that didn’t come from a place of guessing, or unknowing.”
Campbell agreed, believing Irving’s sentiment was delivered genuinely.
“I am a firm believer — and this is one of my core tenants — that not everyone is entitled to an opinion. You’re entitled to an informed opinion.”