Starting Five: Ideas for a WNBA-themed Verzuz

Photo Credit: Lamar Carter

Since 2020 at the outset of the pandemic, the Swizz Beatz and Timbaland-created Verzuz has become a phenomenon within the Black community and among aficionados of Black musicians.

The concept began with two artists using the platform of Instagram with continuous rounds where one artist would put one of her or his songs “verzuz” that of another artist and being judged by viewers as to who “won” said round.

Since then, artists have not only used songs where they were the primary vocalist, but also music they either were featured on or had a hand in producing. Verzuz has even gone on the road at live venues with those opening back up following the height of the pandemic.

Several Verzuz that have gained notoriety since its inception were those of SWV and Xscape, Jeezy and Gucci Mane and Dipset vs. The Lox as well as Earth, Wind and Fire vs. The Isley Brothers. With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, Verzuz, now under the Triller umbrella, is going R&B with its next rendition featuring Musiq Soulchild and Anthony Hamilton at Avalon Hollywood the day following V-Day.

Verzuz has even dipped its toes in the sports waters as well. Last year, the NFL linked with Verzuz for highlight battles around the Pro Bowl featuring several of its selections – including Deshaun Watson, Jamal Adams, Budda Baker, DeAndre Hopkins, Jalen Ramsey, Cameron Jordan and Myles Garrett.

Now, Verzuz is back in the sports realm for the upcoming NBA All-Star festivities in Cleveland with eyes on another highlight head-to-head with two of the league’s all-time greats in Allen Iverson and Tracy McGrady. The upcoming battle between T-Mac and the Answer is also a collaboration between Verzuz/Triller and Bleacher Report.

This got our wheels turning here at Beyond The W as we are not only about highlighting the WNBA and the entirety of the women’s sports realm, but also the excellence that is the culture and how it all intersects.

One has to think it may not be long before someone smart at the WNBA or the WNBPA gives Verzuz a call and starts brainstorming of ideas. We also thought of five ideas for WNBA Verzuz battles, so in case anyone at either the W or Verzuz is reading, remember you got the idea from reading Beyond The W first.

Also – Bleacher Report. The queen that is Ari Chambers works for Bleacher Report. Her hosting a WNBA Verzuz? Energyyyy.

And just as the NBA is smartly doing its Verzuz around All-Star weekend, the WNBA ought to do the same. WNBA All-Star is slated to take place on July 10 although no host venue has been announced yet. The WNBA needs to do more to make its All-Star festivities an event, ala the NBA’s, and doing creative things such as teaming up with Swizz, Tim and Triller is certainly a method to do just that – and broaden the W’s reaching by introducing Verzuz fans who may previously be unfamiliar with the WNBA to the league.

Without further adieu, here are five ideas we came up with for WNBA Verzuz battles.

Sue Bird-Diana Taurasi

This one is almost obvious – especially given Bird is preparing for her Last Dance and it may not be long before DT does the same.

Bird and Taurasi are two of the greatest players to come out of the UConn program and both are elder stateswomen for the WNBA. Bird has four championships and Taurasi currently has three – not to mention all of the Olympic gold medals the two have between them combined.

Ironically, both the Seattle Storm and Phoenix Mercury are slated to be contenders this 2022 season, so we may have even more noteworthy clips for a Bird-Taurasi Verzuz before all is said and done.

And if Triller is smart – and it seems like they are, they could do a live Verzuz right on the UConn campus. And that Verzuz we are sure would also include many of their memorable highlights from when they would sport Huskies navy blue and red before they ascended to WNBA glory.

Swin Cash-Lisa Leslie

We are – somewhat – going east coast vs. west coast with this one. And as we know, anything involving Tinseltown and Gotham is sure to be a hot ticket.

Lisa Leslie spent her entire WNBA career from the league’s inception in 1997 until 2009 with one of the W’s original franchises in the Los Angeles Sparks. She was responsible for leading the Sparks to the first two championships in W history for a certain team not based in southeast Texas.

Swin Cash won three championships throughout her W career – two with the Detroit Shock (now Dallas Wings) and one with the Storm. Cash also spent the latter portion of her career with three teams – the Chicago Sky, Atlanta Dream and New York Liberty.

These are two names that are WNBA royalty – especially considering the early days of the W. When one reminisces on those first few seasons of WNBA basketball, Cash and Leslie are two of the names that come to mind. It would also be east meets west when thinking that Leslie played her college ball at USC and Cash is a UConn alum. That would be one to watch.

Also interesting is that both Cash and Leslie do the “We Need to Talk” program on CBS Sports Network – which airs many a WNBA game. That Verzuz would likely be a hot topic the episode after.

Lauren Jackson-Liz Cambage

If Verzuz was looking to blend together sports and the Australian market, this one is almost a no-brainer.

Jackson and Cambage are arguably the two greatest basketball players to ever come from Down Under. And both earned notoriety internationally through what they accomplished in the WNBA as well as in Australia’s WNBL.

Jackson spent her entire WNBA career with the Storm – where she and Bird were quite the tandem over the years. It includes a pair of WNBA championships in Seattle not to mention four WNBL Grand Final MVPs. Cambage has won two WNBL championships, is a four-time WNBA All-Star not to mention being part of the Australian Opals team in 2012 at the London Olympics that won a bronze medal and the 2018 team at the FIBA World Cup in Spain that won silver.

In addition, in Cambage’s case, she is about as in tune with social media as much as any major athlete – inside or outside the women’s basketball realm – so she probably already knows the Verzuz concept backwards.

Jackson criticized Cambage following an Olympic pre-qualifying match with Japan in the build-up to the Tokyo Games that the Opals lost. Cambage responded on Twitter, but later sent a kumbaya tweet.

A’ja Wilson-Breanna Stewart

If one were to ponder who the current faces of the WNBA are, Stewie and A’ja are probably the two that would come to mind.

Both are also first overall draft picks. The current Storm great was selected out of UConn with the first overall selection in the 2016 draft – after leading the Huskies to a national championship. The current Las Vegas Aces great was selected out of South Carolina with the first overall selection in the 2018 draft – after leading the Gamecocks to a national championship.

Both were also on the same team last year at the Olympics that led Team USA to another gold medal – its seven consecutive Olympic gold.

Stewie has already won a pair of WNBA championships – and one has to believe one for Wilson is right around the corner in Las Vegas. Again – similar to Cambage, a Verzuz featuring two very social media-active superstars where its format would probably be second nature and would be case of northeast meeting southeast.

Or would it be west vs. west?

Houston Comets-Minnesota Lynx

Now – we are getting spicy.

Really, really spicy.

The WNBA’s original dynasty vs. the WNBA’s first dynasty of the 21st century. Sheryl Swoopes. Cynthia Cooper. Tina Thompson. Maya Moore. Lindsay Whalen. Sylvia Fowles. Seimone Augustus. Rebekkah Brunson.

What more has to be said? This could easily even be a multi-part Verzuz with all of the highlights that could be compiled from those Comets teams and those Lynx teams over the years.

Who could forget those memorable matchups that the Comets had with the Liberty – who were on the receiving end of three of those WNBA championship bouts that brought trophies to Houston?

Who could also forget about those noteworthy get-togethers that the Lynx had in the mid-to-late 2010s with the Sparks, particularly those in back-to-back Finals in 2016 and 2017 that went Los Angeles’ way in ’16 only for the Lynx to get sweet revenge the ensuing Finals?

How about it? Verzuz collabs with the WNBA in 2022? This calls for a manifestation session…