This year’s WNBA Finals matchup is set – and it was exactly the one that many had predicted ever since free agency concluded.
Las Vegas Aces and New York Liberty. The two so-called “super teams” that everyone correctly predicted would be the class of the WNBA for not only this season, but the next several campaigns.
Officially, per WNBA statistics, the regular season series between Aces and Liberty was tied at two games apiece. When including the Commissioner’s Cup Final that was won by New York, the series is 3-2 in favor of the Lib. When including the preseason matchup between the two teams that was on by the Aces, it is 3-3.
Needless to say – the Aces and Liberty have seen plenty of each other this year and it is exactly how the WNBA drew it up.
One thing about the W itself is it is anything but naïve. The WNBA may have its moments where it comes up short, but they knew that the results of free agency would result in a duopoly atop its standings.
When a league has two teams atop its standings duking it out for the spot atop its food chain, of course that is going to create plenty of competition.
What does competition usually breed? Rivalries. And the WNBA needs more rivalries.
Geographically, the WNBA already has enough possibilities rivalry-wise. New York Liberty vs. Connecticut Sun could be a rivalry. Chicago Sky vs. Minnesota Lynx or Chicago Sky vs. Indiana Fever could be a rivalry. Las Vegas Aces vs. Phoenix Mercury could be a rivalry.
There is increasing talk that a team could finally be on its way to the Bay (Area). That team could have a geographical rivaly with the Los Angeles Sparks.
Fans and plenty of influential people on WNBA Twitter (sorry Elon Musk, but WNBA X doesn’t roll off the tongue as easy plus it sounds a bit after-hours-ish, so it will always be Twitter to us) always clamor for media and fans to treat the W less like a charity and more like a sports league.
Sports leagues have rivalries. This is not rec league basketball we are talking about here. The WNBA is the premier women’s basketball league on this planet and many of the best players in the world wear either the red, gold and black of the Aces or the seafoam, black and copper of the Liberty.
Anyone remember the last time the WNBA was so top heavy with a duopoly atop the standings? Let us enter our time machines and head back to 2016.
That was the year that the Finals was contested between the Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks. Current Ace Chelsea Gray was part of that Sparks team. The Cheryl Reeve-coached Lynx had Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen, Sylvia Fowles, Rebekkah Brunson and Seimone Augustus. Along with Gray, the Sparks also had Nneka Ogwumike, Candace Parker, Kristi Toliver, Alana Beard and Jantel Lavender.
The Sparks won that series in five games, but the two teams knew there was a good chance the 2017 Finals would be a rematch. Lynx-Sparks became a rivalry that even created tense moments during regular season games. Minnesota got sweet revenge in 2017 where they bested Los Angeles in five games in that Finals. It was another year that the Lynx won a championship in an odd-numbered season to go alongside 2011, 2013 and 2015.
Ironically, the Liberty (who had Tina Charles at the time) were the team that was looking to break that two-team power trip at the top – similar to where the Sun appear to be currently.
Even if it is not a scenario where it produces the bad blood that Minnesota-Los Angeles had at the time, Aces-Liberty has all the makings of a real rivalry. The WNBA has not always done the best job at even manufacturing rivalries, but Las Vegas-New York has organic rivalry written all over it.
And while Aces-Liberty likely becomes the new Lynx-Sparks, the other teams in the W are looking at their rosters and how they stack up against Las Vegas and New York.
Sin City vs. Gotham. East vs. West. Original Eight team vs. Original Eight team. Original Eight team that has changed cities twice vs. Original Eight team that has stayed in the same city while changing ownership once. Let the rivalry begin.