In my first time going to a WNBA game between the New York Liberty and Las Vegas Aces, I was curious to see what the atmosphere was going to be like. For 10 years I've been going to Knicks games and even during the highest and lowest points, Madison Square Garden has always provided fan entertainment so there were lots of questions racing through my mind given that this was also my first time going to Barclays Center. By the time the final buzzer sounded, I was very impressed.
The atmosphere at Barclays was very exciting from start to finish. There were over 5,000 fans at Barclays which might not seem like a lot, but, given the nosebleed sections are usually covered up, that’s a very respectable number of fans. They also did a very good job keeping the fans engaged during breaks, and having been to a Lakers home game, the entertainment the Liberty provided was way better in my opinion. My favorite source of entertainment was when they did a Liberty chant in a style replicating the J-E-T-S chant. However, they were most engaged in the early stages of the Liberty’s rally where Sami Whitcomb had a three point barrage to conclude the third quarter.
When asked about the fans, Vice President of Communications Alesia Howard said, “People have been very receptive. If you know anything about New Yorkers, you know that they love basketball and they’ve been very supportive of the women.”
She also gave credit to Ionescu for improving the team’s marketing, noting that “It’s great when you have the talent, performance, and skill to back it up because that’s what people want to see.”
For anyone that has yet to see her play in person, I definitely recommend it. Especially after she practically couldn’t miss in the fourth quarter.
As for the long term outlook of the WNBA, there is still plenty of growth. They have already made significant progress as they are the longest standing professional league for women. Given the lack of coverage it receives however, going to a game seems to be the only way to get a true glimpse of the action in a WNBA game. Meanwhile in the NBA, you have a variety of ways to watch whether it’s your team’s channel, ESPN/ABC, or TNT. If I hadn’t gone to last night’s game, I wouldn’t have truly known how talented some of these players are.
During warmups, I got to ask Jocelyn Willoughby if she thinks NBA players have done enough to help improve the WNBA’s recognition. She replied, “I think there’s been growth in that area but more can be done. I don’t think it’s just NBA players. I think it’s valuing women more…NBA players’ engagement in the WNBA is definitely an important step.”
For the WNBA, the support from NBA players is one of many important steps toward the league’s quest to become more popular.