The WNBA announced Tuesday afternoon that their 25th anniversary season will tip-off on May 14, with the New York Liberty taking on the Indiana Fever in the first game of the season. Unlike last season, which was held in a bubble down in Florida, this year all 12 teams will play inside their home arenas.
From the WNBA:
"As we tip-off this historic season with teams returning to play in their home markets, we celebrate the impact the WNBA has made on generations of young and diverse athletes and on sports and society since 1997," WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said. "Together with our fans and partners, we look ahead to how the outstanding athletes of the WNBA will continue to provide the best women's basketball in the world while also driving change, striving for justice and equality, and impacting future generations. In the game and beyond, we will continue to say, Count It, as a way to celebrate the WNBA's impact not only on the game, but culture at large."
The 2021 season will be 32 games long, instead of the typical 36, and there will be a break in the schedule from July 15 through August 11 to allow players to participate in the Olympic Games. Also new to this season will be the baseball-style series that the NBA adopted this year as a way to reduce travel. If a team is scheduled to play a team twice in one market, those games will be scheduled consecutively.
In addition to Sabrina Ionescu and the Liberty tipping off the 2021 WNBA season at Barclays Center in Brooklyn against Kelsey Mitchell and the Indiana Fever at 7 p.m. ET, three other games will be played on opening night. Those games are:
- Connecticut Sun at Atlanta Dream, 7:30 p.m. ET
- Phoenix Mercury at Minnesota Lynx, 9 p.m. ET
- Dallas Wings at Los Angeles Sparks, 10:30 p.m. ET
Candace Parker will make her Chicago Sky debut on May 15 against Elena Delle Donne and the Washington Mystics. Delle Donne and Tina Charles will share the court for the first time as teammates after both sat out last season due to safety concerns because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Mystics acquired Charles via trade with the Liberty prior to last season in hopes of bolstering their championship odds.
The Seattle Storm will begin their championship defense against reigning MVP A'ja Wilson and the Las Vegas Aces, who the Storm beat in the WNBA Finals last year. This time around, though, the Aces will have Liz Cambage back after she sat out last season, as well as Chelsea Gray as she was added to the mix in free agency.
In regards to fan attendance, the league announced that each team will make their own decision on that matter in accordance with federal, state and local health and safety protocols. The WNBA hasn't announced what health and safety protocols players and team staff will have to abide by, but it will likely involve similar guidelines as last season where daily testing will be required and social distancing and mask wearing will be executed.