Starting Five: Thoughts on WNBA officially announcing Bay Area expansion

One can only be so flirtatious for so long. 

After a while when it is clear that there is mutual interest, one has to simply throw caution to the wind and make their move. After all, during her tenure as league president, Lisa Borders was at a NBA Finals game a few years ago between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers at Oracle (Oakland) Arena

Joe Lacob and the Warriors made that move – and the WNBA has responded today. 

Yesterday, in a press conference at San Francisco’s Chase Center, home of the Warriors, the WNBA announced that the Bay Area would indeed be the home of the league’s 13th franchise. 

It is the first time the W has expanded since 2008 when the Atlanta Dream were introduced. 

An expansion team on its way to the Bay Area means the works – an expansion draft, an expansion fee (which commissioner Cathy Engelbert would not give specifics on but only mentioning it was significant) and debate about the team’s name. 

Along with Engelbert and Lacob, there were a number of notables on hand for the occasion – including San Francisco mayor London Breed. Stanford women’s basketball coach Tara VanDerveer was also in attendance as was Peter Guber and Brandon Schneider, who are part of the Warriors ownership group. 

With the ink dry on the pact between the WNBA and Golden State, it is time for us to sling a bit of ink as well. Here are our five thoughts on the WNBA and the Bay Area. 

“Five years” 

Lacob is not playing around. He was well involved in the creation of the former ABL and the San Jose Lasers. He has a history with women’s basketball and it had to be a watershed moment for the Dubs’ boss to become officially reacquainted with professional women’s hoops. 

During the presser, Lacob made a declaration regarding the new team. 

I’m telling you right now, we will win a WNBA championship in the first five years of this franchise.

–Joe Lacob, Golden State Warriors CEO

Lacob is one known for making good on his guarantees. He bought the Warriors in 2010 and made a similar guarantee that the NBA franchise would win a ring within the first five years of that franchise. 

A Stephen Curry, a Klay Thompson, a Draymond Green and even a Kevin Durant later and the rest is history. 

Lacob gave many hints that his ownership of the WNBA franchise would be similar to how Mark Davis and Clara Wu/Joe Tsai have steered the Las Vegas Aces and New York Liberty, respectively, in the right direction. The results have been self-explanatory for the Aces and Liberty as those two teams will square off in a few days in the WNBA Finals. 

Mat Ishbia announced that he is investing over $100 million in a practice facility for the Phoenix Mercury. A grand total of $50 million will be paid over 10 years by the Warriors for the new WNBA team, according to reports. The Seattle Storm broke ground on a practice facility and the Chicago Sky are scouring their area for locations for its. The cost of doing business in the WNBA is going up and Lacob just put the other incumbent 12 franchises on notice. 

The Town

There are few fans that have suffered more heartbreak the last few seasons than Oakland fans. 

The East Bay has lost the NFL’s Raiders – also part of Davis’ portfolio – to Las Vegas. MLB’s Athletics seem to be on the verge on no longer being “Rooted in Oakland” in favor of making a similar move to Sin City. Even the Warriors themselves left the former Oracle Arena in favor of Chase Center in Mission Bay while maintaining its headquarters in Oakland. 

There were a number of references made to Oakland and the East Bay throughout the press conference. While The City’s Chase Center will be the home court for the WNBA team’s games, its practice facility and headquarters will be located in The Town. 

Much was also mentioned about how the Warriors have been heavily involved in community initiatives in Oakland since the move to San Francisco and that will be the case for the WNBA franchise. 

We also forget that while Oakland has lost teams, San Francisco also lost one as well. The NFL’s 49ers still maintain the San Francisco name but play its home games at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara. 

A report out of The Athletic indicates the team will, similar to the Warriors, go by “Golden State” as a means of outreach to the whole of the Bay Area. 

Alana Beard

Speaking of Oakland, Alana Beard was a figurehead of efforts to bring a WNBA franchise to Oakland proper. 

That team would have played its home games at Oakland Arena (the former Oracle). 

Shortly after the news broke, Beard – a WNBA great – released this statement on her Instagram account. 

Reports have suggested that the African American Sports & Entertainment Group (AASEG) led by Beard had begun to lose steam recently, clearing the lane for Lacob and co. to convert the layup. 

Golden State _________s?

So…the Bay Area has done it. It will be the home of the WNBA’s next franchise. 

Now the question that is on the minds of fans inside and outside of La Area de La Bahia is what will the team be called? 

The NBA team under the Lacob umbrella is called the Warriors. The G-League team under the Lacob umbrella is also called the Warriors. Something tell us they will try to go for something different, especially if it identifies as “Golden State” as opposed to “San Francisco” or “Bay Area.” 

It was mentioned during the press conference that said team name will be revealed “pretty soon.” That can mean months in WNBA circles, but it also must be noted that it appears the 2025 NBA All-Star weekend is slated to emanate from Chase Center. 

Something tells us that would be more than a perfect occasion for the team’s name to be revealed…

Who’s Next? 

Now that the Bay Area has been squared away, Where To (next), W?

As October 5 commenced, there were social media rumors about a second team also being added – potentially Toronto. 

Later reports then indicated that Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment – the entity that owns the NBA’s Toronto Raptors, NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs & Scotiabank Arena – was pulling out of the expansion sweepstakes. 

Rumblings have indicated that MLSE is skittish about giving up summer concert dates to a WNBA team, but this appears to be shortsighted on MLSE’s part. 

Scotiabank, which is where the W wants a Toronto team to play at, is nowhere near as booked during the summer as it is during the fall, winter and spring as it has to accommodate the Raptors and Leafs. Plus, hypothetically using 2023 which was a 40-game season for the W, MLSE would only have to allocate 20 days throughout a span of four to five months for a team. 

The WNBA Canada Game between the Minnesota Lynx and Chicago Sky was not only a success in terms of attendance, but merchandise sales. No one can deny that the market is there in Toronto for a team. The question is the ownership group.

The real issue with a Toronto team would be travel. The WNBA’s issues with commercial flights have been well documented and that would only become a lot more perilous when considering Toronto being in another country. WNBA players want charter flights – and that will likely be what causes a CBA opt-out. 

Attention then turned to another WNBA suitor in Portland. Reports have indicated that the WNBA Portland conversation has reached the Board of Governors. 

Engelbert paid a visit to Portland earlier this year. It has also gained notoriety within the women’s sports community by being the home of The Sports Bra, an all-women’s sports bar. The Sports Bra had a presence at WNBA All-Star weekend in Las Vegas. 

Sixth Woman – Sab & The Point Gawd

With the Bay Area becoming all the rage within the WNBA family, it is fitting that there will be plenty of Bay Area representation in this year’s Finals between the Aces and Liberty. 

It is only fitting that the Aces’ Chelsea Gray and the Liberty’s Sabrina Ionescu have big games to begin this year’s Finals. Gray (Hayward in Alameda County) and Ionescu (Walnut Creek in Contra Costa County) are both from the East Bay. 

Sidenote: Doesn’t “Sab & The Point Gawd” sounds like a morning radio show?