Column: 2021 All-Star Game – No sleep til Brooklyn?

Photo Credit: David Dow/Getty Images

Last year, Beyond The W covered every aspect of 2018 All-Star weekend from start to finish as the WNBA’s best and brightest shined at Target Center in Minneapolis.

It was also last year, where we penned a piece predicting where a suitable location for the 2019 All-Star festivities would be. We figured that given what MGM Resorts had done with the Las Vegas Aces since purchasing the former San Antonio Stars and relocating them to Sin City that Vegas would be perfect for the WNBA All-Star Game.

It made sense because of the fact that the WNBA needed to do more to make the game a weekend-long event instead of simply a standalone game. It made sense because of the time, effort and money MGM Resorts had invested in making the Aces a success. It made sense because of the star power the team has built since then from A’ja Wilson to Liz Cambage to Bill Laimbeer as coach. It made sense because …Vegas.

Then, low and behold at what would be former W president Lisa Borders’ final All-Star presser, she announced that the 2019 All-Star Game would indeed be in Las Vegas.

This one serves as (admittedly) part self-congratulatory and part going for two in a row, but with us having correctly predicted the location for this year’s All-Star Game, we figured it would be fitting to take a gander at where the 2021 festivities ought to take place. Of course, because of next year’s Olympics in Tokyo, there will be no All-Star Game and it is still up in the air as to if there will even be a season because of CBA negotiations.

Where will the WNBA’s queens of the court gather for its midsummer exhibition two Julys from this one? How about Kings County, New York?
There have been three All-Star Games held in Gotham in WNBA history in addition to one WNBA vs. USA Basketball exhibition at Radio City Music Hall. Those three All-Star Games all occurred at Madison Square Garden in its previous life as the home court of the New York Liberty.

The Liberty are (thankfully, if you ask many a Lib Loyal) no longer under the James Dolan/MSG umbrella and were sold to Brooklyn Nets minority owner Joe Tsai. This season will likely be the Liberty’s final season at Westchester County Center and it is possible the team will relocate full-time to Barclays Center (a venue Tsai is looking to buy out) in Brooklyn.

When one looks at what has happened with the Liberty since the Tsai purchase was made official, the Nets-Liberty connections are becoming more and more pronounced. New York is slated to face the Seattle Storm on Aug. 11 at Barclays and the team now has a local television deal with YES Network – also the Nets’ regional sports partner.

Yes, the WNBA has had the three previous All-Star Games at the Mecca, but Barclays Center is different. While a Liberty move to Barclays Center would be a great opportunity for the team and the venue to become well acquainted, having the All-Star Game at Atlantic and Flatbush would be a great opportunity for New York City to become reacquainted with the WNBA as a whole.

And it would let everyone know that the WNBA is firmly planted in New York via its headquarters and via the Libs and that it intends to stay in Gotham for a very long time. Remember, there was a lot of much-warranted concern that the Liberty would relocate from the Big Apple if MSG sold the team to a Joe Lacob (Bay Area) or another owner.

From a WNBA perspective, it makes the most sense because it would be the W’s newest arena – and one that is continuing to gain notoriety thanks to the growing success of the Brooklyn Nets as opposed to that other New York NBA team.

And while it would be better long term for the WNBA to continue the path for All-Star Games established in the Borders presidency (placing them in cities that had never previously hosted), that can be bent this time to accommodate a fourth All-Star weekend in New York because … New York.

After all, this is Barclays Center instead of Madison Square Garden we are talking about, and to this generation of basketball fans given how the Knicks just take more Ls than the Washington Generals, MSG might as well be Westchester County Center when compared to Barclays.

And then there is that whole thing about continuing the trend of making the All-Star Game an event instead of a standalone game. The disadvantage is New York City is “The City that never Sleeps,” so there is the potential that so much will be happening that All-Star will simply get lost in the shuffle.

But there is also the advantage the WNBA can play off of by placing the game in Gotham. One thing New York provides that isn’t the case with Las Vegas (or another U.S. city that isn’t Los Angeles or perhaps Washington, D.C.) is access to national and international media, so with many WNBA luminaries doing interviews around the game, it provides an opportunity for everyone to know the game is in town.

Las Vegas automatically makes the All-Star Game an event and New York City provides that same chance to continue the trajectory of putting All-Star on the same footing as its NBA equivalent.

We still do not know which venue will host the Liberty beyond this season. That could be either Barclays or Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. At this same time next year, women’s basketball fans will be fixated on one global city whose central business district has a lot of skyscrapers.

At this same time in two years, we will see if women’s basketball fans will turn their attention to another global city whose central business district has lots of skyscrapers.