A few years ago, the phrase “not much” may have been what one would have expected when attending All-Star weekend for the WNBA.
That answer has changed drastically since then – and the fact that three of the last four All-Star weekends have been held in Las Vegas has played a role.
Now, one can expect for the WNBA’s All-Star plans to somewhat mirror those of its men equivalent league – the NBA. All-Star throughout the W has turned from a standalone event to an entire weekend. With the number of events that are now occurring throughout whatever city has the privilege of All-Star, it is no longer something that cities are merely scoffing at.
In the past, cities that would host the WNBA All-Star Game would do so with a collective “meh” from most locals. That “meh” has turned into, “OMG, we’ve got to go! We’ve got to get tickets!”
The first thing that many can expect is for the day prior to the actual game itself to be filled with activity. The marquee activities that are surrounding the day prior to gameday are, of course, the skills challenge and the 3-point competition. Of course, these are equivalents of how the NBA does its All-Star festivities.
The WNBA may not have added a slam dunk contest to its offerings, but more and more players appear to be sounding the alarm that one should be on its way to its All-Star offerings.
To be honest, the W may not even need a dunk contest. It has become stale on the NBA side of things and it would only be giving into the voices of detractors who say the women’s game is not as exciting because of the lack of dunks.
Nneka Ogwumike, Los Angeles Sparks veteran and president of the WNBPA, spent plenty of time during her press conference on All-Star Friday calling out those “dunkers or clunkers” as we call them.
Nowadays, one can also expect for WNBA Live to be a thing. WNBA Live was relatively small last year in Chicago not to mention it was held outdoors in a small, compact area between the McCormick Convention Center and Wintrust Arena – the home of the Chicago Sky.
By moving WNBA Live to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center – and indoors – WNBA Live was able to accommodate even more fans across a larger area. Of course the WNBA had to do WNBA Live indoors in Las Vegas – who wants to walk around in 110+ degree temperatures if one does not have to.
It also allowed for even more player appearances than was the case in the past. For the All-Star Game itself, one may or may not be attending a game that will feature a halftime performance. This year, the WNBA managed to get Kehlani as its halftime performer. Teyana Taylor performed at the first WNBA All-Star event in Las Vegas back in 2019. Last season’s All-Star Game in Chicago did not include a musical number at halftime and it was also more of a somber occasion given what was happening with Brittney Griner.
As the WNBA grows bigger, one can expect for its All-Star events to be even bigger and bigger and bigger than in the past. Las Vegas has unquestionably a catalyst for the WNBA to start treating its All-Star Game like the signature event on the calendar that it is.
But it should not take Sin City for Cathy Engelbert and the WNBA to realize that All-Star is in fact a big deal. Of course, because of the Paris 2024 Olympics, the WNBA’s All-Star festivities will instead be replaced by an Olympic break. But what about 2025?
Will the WNBA return to Las Vegas? It may have made a strong case. The planning for All-Star this year certainly gives off the idea that the league was much more enthusiastic about a Vegas All-Star weekend than last year’s in Chicago – even though Chicago is not exactly a small town either that no one knows about.
Will it take a page from the WNBA Canada Game and bring All-Star to a city that has never hosted before – such as Toronto? Will it open things up for a first-time host? Time will answer these questions.
The important thing to remember is that the WNBA was not exactly throwing all of its chips toward All-Star weekend.
Now, the WNBA is taking cues from the defending champion Las Vegas Aces – it is all in on All-Star.