This WNBA season promises to be unlike any of its 23 predecessors.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the WNBA to adjust to the realities of these extraordinary times, and the world’s premier women’s basketball league has responded to the challenge like no other competition. The entire 2020 WNBA season will take place in one location, the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., with the shortened regular season beginning Saturday, July 25, and ending Sept. 12. A full playoffs and WNBA Finals will follow.
There’s much more to know about the unique campaign to come. Here are six key takeaways from the plans for the 2020 WNBA season.
1. The WNBA bubble
Each of the 12 the WNBA teams will play their home and road games on IMG Academy courts, spending at least two-plus months at the Western Florida facility. The rigors of travel and hostile crowds won’t hamper the “visitors” as they have in previous seasons, but the arrangement, in which teams reside in the bubble for an extended period will challenge players and staff, who are accustomed to home comforts familiar surroundings bring.
2. Shortened schedule
The coronavirus outbreak delayed the season for two months and forced the WNBA to shorten the regular season from 34 games to 22. The change will add importance, and presumably intensity, to each contest.
3. Full WNBA playoffs
However, the postseason will take place under the format WNBA fans have come to know and love. The semifinals and WNBA Finals will be a best-of-five series.
4. Shooting stars
Some players are in for the season. Others, including the Connecticut Sun’s Jonquel Jones and the Washington Mystics’ Elena Delle Donne, have opted out for personal, medical or any number of other reasons. Jones and Delle Donne earned All-WNBA honors in 2019, and their and others’ absences will diminish some of the WNBA’s star power.
5. No fans
The WNBA will prohibit fans from entering its bubble. Not only will games suffer without the energy supporters provide, but the coronavirus restrictions will deny fans the access and proximity to the relatable and endearing WNBA players they’ve come to enjoy over the years.
6. Social justice
WNBA players’ commitment to social justice isn’t new, as they’ve demonstrated it for years via words and action. However, the WNBA has cemented this position into its business practices for 2020, and perhaps beyond. The WNBA and WNBPA have created The Justice Movement and the WNBA WNBA/WNBPA Social Justice Council, which will be “a driving force of necessary and continuing conversations about race, voting rights, LGBTQ+ advocacy, and gun control amongst other important societal issues.”
The WNBA also will focus on Black Lives Matter during the opening weekend, with game and player outfitting affirming the burgeoning movement and honoring victims of police and racial violence.