WNBA League History
The WNBA is the Unites States' pre-eminent professional women's basketball league that played its inaugural regular season back in 1997, starting things up with eight total teams, including four in Charlotte, Cleveland, Houston, and New York to form the league's Eastern Conference, and Los Angeles, Phoenix, Sacramento, and Utah forming the Western Conference. The league was dominated in the early goings by the Houston Comets, the team that won the first four WNBA championships while being led by the fantastic Big Three of WNBA players Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes, and Tina Thompson. While the Houston franchise no longer exists, they still lead the league in all-time championships, followed by the Detroit/Tulsa Shock, who won three. The league has since grown to twelve franchises that play in Atlanta, Chicago, Connecticut, Indiana, New York, and Washington to form the current Eastern Conference, and Dallas, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minnesota, Phoenix, and Seattle combining to form the West.
Rule Differences Between the WNBA and NBA
While the vast majority of WNBA game rules are the same as a standard NBA basketball game, there are a few key differences that any WNBA fan should expect when they attend a game. The most notable ones are the differences in timing, as the WNBA has teams play games over two separate 20-minute halves, rather than the NBA's four 12-minute quarters. Additionally, the WNBA shot clock originally counted down from 30 seconds, as opposed to the 24-second shot clock that's used in the NBA, but it was changed to 24 seconds back in 2006. One less noticeable difference in details between the women's and men's game is that the ball itself that's used by WNBA players is a bit smaller in the women's game than it is for NBA players.
When Does the WNBA Season Take Place?
The 2021 WNBA season is shortened a bit from its regular 36-game slate this year due to the Summer Olympics, so there will be a total of 32 regular season women's basketball games played by each WNBA team. The league's regular season will tip-off on Friday, May 14th and will conclude on September 19th, with a break between July 15th and August 11th as players compete in the Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. The WNBA Playoffs will begin on 23rd, and will continue through no later than October 19th, which is the last possible date on which a WNBA Finals game would be played.
What is the WNBA's Playoff Format?
As of the 2016 WNBA season, the WNBA has implemented a postseason structure where the league's eight women's basketball teams with the highest winning percentage in the league qualify for the playoffs, regardless of conference. There are four total rounds in the playoffs, and the top two seeds with the best overall records from the regular season receive a bye to the semifinals (third round), with the third and fourth seeds receiving a bye to the quarterfinals (second round). These WNBA teams are re-seeded after each playoff round, and the first and second rounds are a single elimination game, with the 5-seed hosting the 8-seed, and the 6-seed hosting the 7-seed. In the second round, the 3-seed hosts the lower-seeded winner in the first round, and the 4-seed hosts the other winner of the first round that was a higher seed. The semifinals are then a best-of-five format with the higher-seeded WNBA team hosting games 1, 2, and 5 (if necessary), and the WNBA Finals follow that same best-of-five format.