Why 2018 WNBA season was one for the record books
With a 3-0 sweep by the Seattle Storm over the Washington Mystics, the WNBA Finals, which ended this week in decisive yet rather anticlimactic fashion, didn't do the rest of the playoffs, or the 2018 season, justice.
The good news is that television viewership still managed to go up, 33 percent better for the Finals this year than one year ago, and the best ratings for the Finals since 2010.
However, Seattle took care of business so methodically against Washington that there wasn't much room for the drama, intrigue and storylines in the Finals that made 2018 so special for the WNBA.
Here's a quick recap:
Two winner-take-alls: The semifinals of the WNBA playoffs were definitely worth the price of admission. Both series (Seattle vs. Phoenix and Washington vs. Atlanta) went to a fifth and final game. The games in both series were competitive and fun to watch and a great table-setter for the Finals.
Hot-lanta: Cheers to the Atlanta Dream, which played much of the season without all-star Angel McCoughtry yet still managed to finish with one of the best records in the league and was just one win short of making the WNBA Finals.
From worst to ...: Seattle is quite a success story. This season, the Storm was the top team in the league pretty much from wire-to-wire. But in the previous two seasons (2016 and 2017) Seattle finished with losing records and no better than seventh out of 12 teams. The Storm got lucky with draft positioning to be able to get players of the caliber of Breanna Stewart, the 2018 WNBA MVP, and star Jewell Loyd, who hails from the Chicago suburbs.
Point guard pillars: Three of the best point guards of this era, and quite likely of all time, made headlines this season.
Sue Bird: Bird, the oldest player in the WNBA at age 37, just led Seattle to the WNBA championship. And she wasn't just along for the ride. Bird, who has now won three titles with the Storm, not only captained the ship from the point, she had some crucial performances for Seattle, including a huge fourth quarter in the decisive Game 5 of the semifinals against Phoenix. With a broken nose, Bird scored 14 of her 22 points, including three 3-pointers, in the decisive moments of a tight game.
Lindsay Whalen: Before the playoffs began, Minnesota veteran point guard Whalen announced that she would be retiring from the WNBA at the end of the season. Whalen is a four-time WNBA champion and a five-time WNBA all-star. She will now focus on her other job: head coach of the University of Minnesota women's basketball team
Courtney Vandersloot: Although she couldn't carry the Chicago Sky to the playoffs, Vandersloot did have one of the best seasons in WNBA history for a point guard.
Vandersloot set or tied multiple WNBA records, including setting the single-season assist record and becoming the first player in WNBA history to record 20 points and 15 assists in a single game.
Nifty 50+: Dallas 6-foot-8 center Liz Cambage had her way with the New York Liberty in July by scoring a WNBA-record 53 points in a wonderful display of efficiency. Cambage let the game come to her and didn't force anything. She hit 17 of 22 field goals. She also had 10 rebounds and 5 blocks.
Some other impressive records were also set this season:
Rebekkah Brunson of Minnesota became the league's all-time leading rebounder. Diana Taurasi of Phoenix became the WNBA's all-time field goals leader and Washington coach Mike Thibault became the first WNBA coach to reach 300 career wins.
First impressions: Las Vegas rookie A'ja Wilson, the top pick in the 2018 WNBA draft, lived up to the billing. In fact, she may have exceeded it in putting together one of the best rookie seasons in WNBA history.
Wilson, the WNBA's rookie of the year (surprise, surprise), was one of only two players in the league this season to average at least 20 points, 8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. The other was Dallas center Liz Cambage, who finished second in the voting for the WNBA's most valuable player.
Bombs away: Chicago Sky guard Allie Quigley, a DePaul graduate and a Chicago area native, not only was named an all-star for the second straight season, but she won the 3-point shooting contest for the second straight season as well. And Quigley did so by setting a record for points with 29 out of a possible 39. That point total is better than any WNBA player or NBA player in the history of the contest.
Final goodbye: A sad note, but a notable one in league circles was the death of former WNBA coach Anne Donovan, one of the best centers of all time in the women's game. The 6-foot-8 Donovan, who was a star at Old Dominion in the early 1980s and coached five WNBA teams and three college teams, died suddenly in June of heart failure. She was 56.
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