The Women’s National Basketball Association was formed in 1996 as a partner to the NBA. The league, which opened play in 1997, features two conferences, Eastern and Western, and 12 teams.
The WNBA sought to capitalize on the popularity of Olympic basketball, particularly the 1996 USA Women’s team that earned a gold medal in the 1996 Summer Games. The first player signed by the new league was Texas Tech standout Sheryl Swoopes.
Swoopes went first overall to the Houston Comets in the 1997 WNBA Draft. She led the franchise to the championship that same season and the three following it as well.
The WNBA originally had franchises in Seattle, Portland, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Tulsa, San Antonio, Houston, Minneapolis, Chicago, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Orlando, Miami, Charlotte, Washington D.C., Cleveland, New York, Detroit and Connecticut.
The teams Charlotte, Miami, Orlando, Portland, Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, Salt Lake City and Sacramento have folded. The WNBA’s current roster consists of the Liberty (New York), Sky (Chicago), Fever (Indiana), Mystics (Washington), Dream (Atlanta), Sun (Connecticut) in the East and the Lynx (Minneapolis), Mercury (Phoenix), Shock (Tulsa), Sparks (Los Angeles), Storm (Seattle) and Stars (San Antonio) in the West.
The now defunct Comets own the association lead with four WNBA Finals championships. The Minnesota Lynx, Los Angeles Sparks, Detroit Shock and Phoenix Mercury each own three titles.
The WNBA’s schedule features 34 regular season games for each team; the season opens in June and ends in September. The WNBA Playoffs is made up of four teams. Both the East and West Finals as well as the WNBA Finals are best-of-five series.