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2018 WNBA Draft: Vegas Aces Bet on A’ja Wilson

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South Carolina forward A'ja Wilson cuts down part of the net after the team's win over Mississippi State in the final of the 2017 NCAA women's Final Four college basketball tournament in Dallas. Photo: AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

By Dr. Robelyn A. Garcia |

And with the first pick of the 2018 WNBA Draft, the Las Vegas Aces pick A’ja Wilson. NBA legend Coach Bill Laimbeer is betting on Wilson to help take Vegas from worst to first, just as he did with the Detroit Shock in 2003.

The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) is a unique sports league providing competition, sportsmanship, entertainment and a home court for the best women’s professional basketball players in the world.  From humble beginnings, the WNBA is now the most successful women’s professional sports league on the planet.  On April 24, 1996, the NBA announced, “We Got Next” as the official slogan for the WNBA, the NBA’s new sister league.  What may have started off as the little sister in the summer of 1997 has blossomed into 12 successful franchises including a 2018 team in Las Vegas and a 2018 EA Sports NBA Live WNBA video game.

Since the first 1997 WNBA game at the Forum (attendance 14,284) televising the New York Liberty vs Los Angeles Sparks, the WNBA has become a guiding light in women’s professional team sports.  This shining light does not twinkle with the Houston Comets, as they folded in 2008.  Houston Comets championship assistant coach Alisa Scott said when she was coaching she thought the Comets would last forever (personal communication, March 29, 2018).  Several other professional teams and leagues folded in their ‘Columbus Quest’ for success; the WNBA remains standing.

The American Basketball League (ABL) made a good run beginning in 1996, lasting 2 ⅓ seasons and playing in front of large crowds with high caliber players.  Ironically, the ABL’s downfall might have been paying these highly touted players too much, says two-time ABL and two-time WNBA championship coach Brian Agler (personal communication, October 27, 2017).  The WBA league, founded by Lightning Mitchell in 1992, was the first American professional women’s basketball league to be successful as a spring-summer league, like the WNBA (personal communication, April 10, 2018).  This format proved a success at the time, as the WBA lasted an all-star exhibition season and an additional 3 full seasons.  The WBCBL professional developmental league utilizes this format and has flourished for 13 seasons.  It makes perfect sense; available arenas, no competition with college or NBA fans, and taking place during the women’s overseas professional leagues’ off-season.

The All-American Red Heads are by far the longest running professional barnstorming team playing 50 glorious seasons.  The NWBL, WBL, WPBL, LBA and WABA made valiant efforts at professional leagues, but it just wasn’t time … yet.  The time was 1997; the time is now in Atlanta, Chicago, Connecticut, Dallas, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Washington, D.C.  The time is 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  The Vegas team will be playing at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in the entertainment capital of the world.  Bill Laimbeer, NBA legend, will be coaching the Las Vegas team as the WNBA looks to the future with a strong past.

Dr. Robelyn Garcia, PhD is a Former Professional Basketball Champion and All-Star Player. She is currently a Multi-Disciplinary Professor and Post-Doc Scholar at Arizona State University and Harvard University. Author email: Dr.RobelynGarcia@asu.edu  Twitter: @RGPhD   Facebook: @RGPhD  Instagram: @RGPhD

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