Starting Five: Takeaways from this year’s WNBA All-Star Game

Photo Credit: Lamar Carter

When WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert first announced that this year, despite being an Olympic season, would still feature an All-Star Game, it jogged the minds of many given in typical W campaigns All-Star is usually postponed during years of the Games.

Of course, the pandemic threw everything off its axis given this year’s Olympiad in Tokyo were supposed to occur last year but Covid wanted to be ashy.

But there was an All-Star Game this year and it was back in Las Vegas as was the previous All-Star rendition in 2019 when the W’s best converged on Sin City for its midsummer festivities for the first time.

What also helped the WNBA be able to stage All-Star despite the Olympics was locating its final pre-Olympic tune-up events in Las Vegas (both the women’s and men’s sides, even though the men’s side has been hampered by defeats, departures and Covid cases).

This year’s WNBA All-Star Game went off without a hitch at the Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas. The Aces were not official hosts of this year’s All-Star as was the case in 2019 in Vegas as it was practically a purely WNBA-USA Basketball event. Lisa Leslie and Tina Thompson were coaches for Team WNBA and Dawn Staley, of course, was at the helm for Team USA.

Here are our starting five takeaways from what was an exciting All-Star 2021.

That’s All, Folks!

For all intents and purposes, the 3-point contest at halftime of All-Star has practically become the Allie Quigley (Chicago Sky) invitational. She won it at the 2017 All-Star in Seattle and again the following season in Minnesota. Shekinna Stricklen (who was with the Connecticut Sun at the time) won it in 2019 in Vegas.

This year’s rendition featured Quigley once again in addition to Jewell Loyd (Seattle Storm), Jonquel Jones (Connecticut Sun) and Sami Whitcomb (New York Liberty).

Quigley posted a 27 and Jones finished with a 27 to advance to the 3-Point Contest Finals after hitting some clutch shots on the moneyball rack. And in those Finals, Quigs went full Quigs.

She bested Jones 28-24 – including going five for five on her moneyball rack in the finals. Quigley then declared that this 3-point contest would be her last as future 3-point competitors breathed a major sigh of relief.

I Got Next!

While Quigley may have established herself as a noteworthy name in the WNBA, the star of the Dallas Wings’ Arike Ogunbowale continues to be on the rise.

As everyone knows, Ogunbowale first became a household name in women’s basketball because of her heroics in the Final Four when she hit a pair of game-winners to lift her Fighting Irish to a national championship. She then was a Rookie of the Year candidate in 2019 and was in the MVP conversation in 2020 in the bubble.

Ogunbowale was on Team USA’s pool for the upcoming Olympics but did not make Dawn Staley’s final roster for Tokyo. She was selected as part of Team WNBA for All-Star as one of the five starters along with DeWanna Bonner and Jonquel Jones (Connecticut Sun) as well as Candace Parker and Courtney Vandersloot (Chicago Sky) and had herself a banner game.

Ogunbowale scored 26 points for Team WNBA – and took home MVP honors to boot. Our guess is this will not be the last time the letters M, V and P are mentioned beside Ogunbowale’s name.

Socials for the Win!

As entertaining as the game was, what was equally as entertaining were the moments and tweets from the game that were every bit as enjoyable.

Defense?! Defense?!

On a typical basis, one will watch either a WNBA or NBA All-Star Game completely expecting that the amount of defense that gets played will amount to zero. After all, the 2019 concluded with the final score being 129-126 in favor of Team (A’ja) Wilson.

This rendition, though, was different. Team WNBA defeated Team USA by a final of 93-85 with a major reason for the competition potentially being Team WNBA having lots of players (including the eventual MVP in Ogunbowale) who were on the USA Basketball pool but without making the final 12.

It was only a 44-43 game at the half and finished with the eight-point win for Team WNBA.

Atlanta

When one thinks about it, it is very fitting that one of the WNBA’s franchises resides in Atlanta. Because in a lot of ways, it was the 1996 USA Women’s Basketball team that laid the groundwork for the eventual establishment of the W.

That 1996 team that won gold on its USA home court was honored given their well-earned flowers at the All-Star Game. That rendition of Team USA would be the first of six consecutive gold medal-winning basketball teams dating forward to the last Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016. This year’s team will hope to make it seven consecutive golds.

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