Feb 7, 2023 - Sports

The WNBA's superteam era

Aces and Liberty logos

Graphic: Axios Visuals

The WNBA season doesn't begin for 101 days, but it's already looking like a two-horse race between new superteams in Las Vegas and New York.

State of play: The Liberty added three stars (including two former MVPs) in free agency to a squad that already boasted Sabrina Ionescu, while the defending champion Aces added league legend Candace Parker.

  • New York now has four of the top 10 players from ESPN's 2022 midseason rankings: Breanna Stewart (1), Jonquel Jones (3), Courtney Vandersloot (8) and Ionescu (10).
  • Las Vegas has five of the top 20: A'ja Wilson (2), Parker (5), Kelsey Plum (6), Jackie Young (13) and Chelsea Gray (20).

Why it matters: This new era of WNBA superteams should drive TV ratings and aid in the growth of the increasingly popular league — especially since one team is the reigning champion and the other plays in The Big Apple.

  • Remember when the NBA Finals were a Warriors-Cavs invitational from 2015-18? That four-year run featured the highest NBA viewership of any four years since MJ's run in the late '90s.
  • The Aces and Liberty may or may not enjoy that level of success, or build that kind of rivalry. But watching them try should be great for business.
  • It will also be an exciting change of pace for a league that has long been defined by parity: Eight of the WNBA's 12 teams have won a title since 2012, and there hasn't been a repeat champ since 2002.

The intrigue: These aren't the first WNBA superteams, but they're the first built (or strengthened) through free agency — proof that the NBA's player empowerment era has bled into its sister league.

The bottom line: Whether you're rooting for them to succeed or fail, superteams are must-see TV. For a league still in its growth stage, having two of them can only be a good thing.

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