On Sunday, the Chicago Sky overtook the Phoenix Mercury 80-74 to claim the 2021 WNBA Championship. In order to make the games– especially the playoffs–more accessible to viewers, Google created a partnership with the WNBA and ESPN to broadcast this season’s games. Being the 25th anniversary of the WNBA, the 2021 season marked a monumental milestone for the organization. A partnership such as this promotes viewer engagement and franchise expansion on unprecedented levels. In fact, viewership of the WNBA finals spiked by 4,500% this year.
The addition of Google as a Changemaker partner in the WNBA brings elite company. Along with AT&T, Deloitte and Nike, the Changemaker partners seek to elevate women in sports on a greater scale. A partnership with Google means big things for the league; their mastery in technology and marketing allows for reaching untapped audiences, allowing them easier access to the games the women play. Additionally, with a big name such as Google, it signals to other platforms that there is opportunity in women’s sports. With the Google partnership, competing companies could seek the potential to sponsor other women’s leagues and programs, giving them a chance to advance.
While the Google sponsorship and the anniversary of the WNBA broughr extra eyes to the season and playoffs, the playoffs themselves held plenty of important moments, not only for the basketball players themselves but for women’s sports nationally.
There are currently nine parenting mothers actively playing in the WNBA, three of whom play for the Mercury: Diana Taursai, Skylar Diggins-Smith, and Bria Hartley. Candace Parker is a parenting player on the Sky. Almost every parenting player spent at least a portion of their careers with either the Sky or the Mercury; these two teams specifically are known to help parenting players prioritize. During her career with the Dallas Wings, Diggins-Smith’s return from maternity leave prompted her transfer. The “family-first” atmosphere the Mercury cultivated was a major draw for her.
Diana Tuarsai, one of the most famous names in the WNBA, had an especially exciting playoffs with expecting wife Penny Taylor at home in Phoenix. The semifinals saw a matchup between the Mercury and the Aces. During the deciding game five win, Tuarsai had a show-stopping performance. Scoring 24 points, she helped lift the Mercury into the finals with a 87-84 win. Immediately following her interview with ESPN, she boarded a plane to help support her wife through the birth of their daughter.
Candace Parker had extra help with her to celebrate her championship win; her ten-year-old daughter, Lailaa, was there to watch her mother win her second WNBA championship. This will be the second championship Candace Parker and Ally Quigley share together. Their first encounter was in their Chicago high school.
The 2021 playoffs were special for a plethora of reasons. Alongside Google, other important names helped promote the playoffs. Chance the Rapper, a Chicago native, was sitting courtside when the last buzzer sounded. To celebrate the win, he plans on getting a Chicago Sky tattoo. During the Aces-Mercury semi-finals matchup, Trae Young, Ja Morant, and Chris Paul all tweeted about the excitement of watching the thriller. For game two of the finals, Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and Jae Crowder all sat courtside, congratulating Taursai as she stepped off the court. After game five ended, stars like Dwayne Wade, Stephen Curry, Pau Gasol, Isiah Thomas, and James Harden all took to Twitter and social media to congratulate Candace Parker and her hometown team.
Big names call for big reactions. The support of NBA stars means good things for the WNBA and its exposure. But with Google’s partnership, it is safe to say that this season has been instrumental in the growth for the league. News articles regarding WNBA have turned out faster than ever. Viewership has spiked. The women of the league have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they can play basketball. They play at such a high level while being mothers and raising children. While the spotlight from famous NBA players has helped boost interest, the fame and play will continue to elevate in coming years. When the organization celebrates its 50th anniversary, there is hope among the WNBA and its supporters that the Google partnership will be a crucial but distant memory. As the WNBA continues to expand and grow, the encouragement and assistance of parenting players will be instrumental. Sunday brought the Chicago Sky their first championship. But the other good things that came along with the season and its fitting playoffs proved that the sky’s the limit for this new and blossoming league.