The WNBA celebrated its 25th anniversary this year with a historical, record-breaking season. Not only did they launch (incredibly fly) new jerseys for each team, but they also launched the mid-season Commissioner’s Cup tournament, and had higher viewership than ever before. With all of the buzz surrounding the league this year, the thought on every WNBA fan’s mind is expansion — and Commissioner Cathy Engelbert promises it will be on the table soon. The chatter all over the league has been which city a new WNBA team would land in, and I think I speak for every Canadian WNBA fan when I say TORONTO is the perfect destination.
We are at a perfect time in Toronto to introduce a WNBA team — with the Toronto Raptors’ 2019 championship still fresh in the minds of every Canadian, basketball culture in the city (and country) has never been stronger. It’s impossible to walk down the street and not see a couple of those iconic championship t-shirts or hats even two years after bringing the Larry O’Brien trophy home. A professional women’s basketball team in Toronto would not only continue the legacy of winning basketball in Canada, but it would give so many little girls who watched the Raptors’ 2019 championship run a team to look up to that they too could dream of one day playing for.
Speaking of homegrown talent, Canada is not lacking in the department of skilled women’s basketball players. The Canadian National Senior Women’s team is ranked #4 in the world according to FIBA, and despite a disappointing run at the Tokyo Olympics, is on an upward track. Canada currently has three players in the WNBA — Kia Nurse (Phoenix Mercury), Natalie Achonwa (Minnesota Lynx), and Bridget Carleton (Minnesota Lynx) — with more playing at the NCAA level. Any of these players coming home to play in Toronto would cause a HUGE culture shift towards women’s basketball in the city. I mean — who wouldn’t want to watch a Kia Nurse Euro-step game winner from half court, but in CANADA?! Candace Parker winning a championship her first year back home with the Chicago Sky in front of a sold-out crowd is fresh evidence of that. These players deserve a chance to play in front of their home fans.
Now if you’re worried there wouldn’t be enough fans to support this hypothetical Toronto WNBA team, I wouldn’t worry too much. #WNBAFinals was the #1 Trending Topic on Twitter in Canada during the 2021 WNBA Finals game on Sunday between the Chicago Sky and the Phoenix Mercury. This season’s WNBA opening weekend also saw a 325% increase of viewership in Canada, with the matchup between the Las Vegas Aces and the Seattle Storm on May 15th becoming the most viewed WNBA game in Canada’s history. Both TSN and Sportsnet broadcast the most games in their history, and every game of the 2021 WNBA playoffs was available to watch on Canadian national TV. The Toronto Raptors’ historic women-led broadcast in March was also met with positive reviews by fans, only showing that Toronto basketball fans want more women involved in the sport here at home.
With the WNBA gaining more and more buzz, Canadian players continuing to make their mark in women’s basketball, and the league making games more accessible to watch in Canada than ever before, the time seems right to bring the WNBA to Toronto. We have the fans, we have the culture, and you know our Toronto Raptors would be sitting courtside to support.
The only question now is: what would we name our team?!