Wilson Sporting Goods Co. and the WNBA recently unveiled the league's new official game ball ahead of the upcoming 25th WNBA season. The league will be switching to Wilson after having Spalding as the official league ball since the WNBAs inception in 1997. With the announcement, Wilson also introduced three-time WNBA All-Star Liz Cambage as its newest member to the Wilson Advisory Staff.
Cambage is the first WNBA player selected to the group, and she will playtest, provide feedback and collaborate on Wilson basketball products. She joins renowned skills coach Chris Brickley and International Basketball Federation (FIBA) 3x3 star Dusan Bulut on the growing Wilson Basketball Advisory Staff team.
Come correct or get blocked by one of the WNBA’s best shot blockers. 💪— Wilson Basketball (@WilsonBasktball) March 15, 2021
Please join us in welcoming Liz Cambage, our newest member of the Wilson Advisory Staff!
Welcome to #TeamWilson, @ecambage! 🙌#wilsonbasketball #wnba #countit pic.twitter.com/Kg2YZDYbQT
"It means a lot to me, Cambage told CBS Sports. "Being able to be a part of this change with the new ball, it's exciting and to be the face of it all, I'm very humbled by it."
"I'm so excited to be the first WNBA player on Wilson's Advisory Staff," Cambage said in a statement. "It's beyond important for women like me to have a seat at the table to influence creative ideas and provide performance insights."
Wilson has updated the unique white and orange paneled basketball design that's become recognizable for WNBA fans. According to Wilson, the basketball is made of 100 percent composite leather and integrates Wilson's Evo NXT construction featuring an enhanced grip and a soft moisture-minimalizing feel.
Becoming the first WNBA advisor for Wilson is not unfamiliar territory for Cambage, who is used to firsts. At the 2012 London Olympics, where she led Australia to a bronze medal that year, Cambage became the first woman to dunk during an Olympic game.
Cambage first went professional at the age of 15 and moved to the U.S. at 19 to play in the WNBA. Since then, the 6-foot-8 Australian native has developed into one of the most dominant players in the league. Her growth as a player has coincided with the league's own growth. This upcoming 2021 WNBA season will celebrate the league's 25th anniversary.
"It's exciting. I got drafted 10 years ago when the league was in its 15th year and even that was a milestone," Cambage told CBS Sports. "But to still be here 10 years later and growing and getting bigger, and getting stronger, it's just proof to all the hard work, from the top to the bottom, put in to grow the women's game has been worth it.
"It's been an interesting ride coming in as a rookie 10 years ago and finally getting to such a good place right now with our league and the CBA. It's exciting to be a part of so much growth."
Cambage will be returning to the Las Vegas Aces this year after she was granted a medical exemption for the 2020 WNBA season, which was played in a one-location bubble environment at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida due to the global coronavirus pandemic.
The Aces (finished 18-4 in the shortened 22-game season) advanced to the 2020 WNBA Finals without Cambage (as well as starter Kelsey Plum who tore her Achilles tendon), but were swept in three games by the Seattle Storm.
The Aces' starting five for 2021 will include some combination of Cambage, 2020 MVP A'ja Wilson, Emma Cannon, Chelsea Gray, Plum and Jackie Young. Returning to the 2021 roster will be 2020's Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby and five-time All-Star Angel McCoughtry as well. The expectations will be high, but Cambage is just taking it one step at a time this year after her break away from the game.
"I was focusing on myself last year and what I needed to do to be my best, and being a part of the WNBA in a year of craziness was not good for me," Cambage told CBS Sports.
"I took a second to take a step back and focused on me, and work out what I needed to do for my body, mind and spirit. I improved my game a lot on and off the court, like mentally. I feel like I'm a lot stronger and sure of myself and what I can do and what I can bring. I had a great year, training hard and I've still been training hard. I'm at a point where I can't wait to get back on the court because I just want to play now.
"My goal [for 2021 with the Aces] is to just take it game by game, day by day," Cambage said. "We have a really great team and we got a good chance of winning it all, but we have to work on how to play together, how to grow together, how to be the best together. So my goal is just take it day by day and game by game."
While there's still a lot of unknowns regarding the details surrounding both the 2021 WNBA season and the Tokyo Olympics, Cambage is focusing on the task at hand and trying not to stress too much about the seemingly constant changes. As of now, the start of the WNBA season is still being finalized because of the coronavirus pandemic, but WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said that she expects it to begin in May. There will be a break for the Tokyo Olympics in July. Cambage is planning to return to play for the Australian National Team after participating in both the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.
"We live in a world where we just have to adapt. You can't sit around and cry. You've got to get a move on, that's the way the world is," Cambage told CBS Sports. "So yeah, you know it's a hard year, but everyone in the WNBA has to do it. I'm excited for it. I'm not worried. I'm not feeling any type of way about it. It is what it is and you go out and get the job done."
In December, Cambage led the Southside Flyers to the WNBL championship, while averaging a league-high 23.5 points per game. She played with many of the same teammates who will likely be with her on the Olympic team, including Australia's national team captain Jenna O'Hea.
"It was really nice to be home and play with the girls that I grew up with," Cambage told CBS Sports. "It was very intense. We played something like 15 games in 30 days, but it was great to get that win with the girls and win a championship at home."
Beyond the basketball court, Cambage is an advocate for mental health and social justice issues. Though she did not play during the WNBA's 2020 season -- one in which that was dedicated to social justice -- Cambage is no stranger for fighting for equality.
"Social issues is something I've been a part of changing and pushing for. It's embedded and ingrained in my soul," Cambage said. "It's not something that personally I try to plan. It just comes in the heat of the moment. Clearly like a lot of things came to the surface last year. Back in Australia, I know all the plans Australia is putting into place."
The WNBA formed a Social Justice Council last year with Cambage's Aces teammate, Wilson, as one of the members. According to the WNBA's website, the council works with the WNBA Justice Movement to "lead important work in the community to combat racial and gender inequality, promote advocacy for LBGTQ+ rights, and champion reform in systems where injustice persists."
"It's one of the important things I know to the players," Engelbert said of the social justice movement. "We talk to them all the time about not being one and done around social justice. Continuing the social justice efforts and integrating that in with the campaign and to lead important work with the community."
When the Aces announced Cambage would miss the 2020 WNBA season, the team applauded her impressive work surrounding social justice in Australia.
"Liz has been incredibly active this offseason in the community raising money for first responders who battled the brush fires in Australia, shining a light on mental health awareness and standing at the forefront of the peaceful protests in her country battling social and racial inequality, and I have no doubt that she will continue to do so," Aces general manager Dan Padover said in a statement at the time.
The Wilson partnership for Cambage is another opportunity of her using her platform. As the first WNBA advisor for Wilson's board, Cambage will have the chance to combine her elite basketball skills and knowledge to better the development of Wilson basketball products.
The Wilson WNBA game ball will be available exclusively on wilson.com beginning May 3, and through select retailers, including WNBAStore.com on May 17. Following the start of the 2021 WNBA season, Wilson will reveal its special, first-of-its-kind collaboration with designs from Cambage herself.