The WNBA: Pro Basketball’s Other All-Star Weekend

By Carla Peay
Updated: July 17, 2007

WNBAWASHINGTON, D.C. – I didn’t make it to the NBA All-Star Game in Las Vegas. But judging by reports from my colleagues who did attend, it was probably just as well.

Apparently, the festivities have gone from a celebration once termed as “Black Thanksgiving” to something along the lines of a return to Sodom and Gomorrah.

Comparing those reports to the to the positive, uplifting events leading up to the WNBA All-Star game held in Washington D.C. this past weekend, I’m glad I chose to see the girls play.

The weekend kicked off on Friday morning with the unveiling of a “WNBA Cares” Reading and Learning Center at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington D.C.

The renovation project included extensive remodeling of the club’s exiting learning center, donations of furniture, television sets, books, movies and computers.

“WNBA Cares” is an initiative designed to sponsor and create program that improve quality of life, with an emphasis on promoting a healthy lifestyle, positive body image, breast health awareness, education and youth and family development.

At a luncheon held on Friday afternoon, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was presented with the 2007 WNBA Inspiration Award. The award is given to an individual who inspires others through dedication and commitment to work, family and community.

On Saturday, WNBA Cares teamed up with Nike’s “Let Me Play” to unveil a new basketball court, and held a youth basketball clinic after the Eastern and Western Conference All-Star squads held open practice sessions.

“Let Me Play” is a community service project by Nike designed to expand their commitment to sports and physical fitness for youth through product donations and grants.

Sunday morning, a special installment of the Hip Hop forum series was held, the topic being “Racism and the N-Word”, held on the campus of George Washington University.

Prior to the game, WNBA President Donna Orender held a State-of-the-League press conference where she and ESPN Executive Vice President John Skipper announced a new television deal for the league that will have ESPN televising a minimum of 18 regular season games for the next eight years.

“This deal shows the strength and growth of the WNBA due to the talent we have in our league. The goal for a lot of young girls now is to grow up and play in the WNBA,” Orender said.

“Our sport is in great shape. Scoring is up, field goal percentage is up and our players are blessed with tremendous athleticism, while still maintaining the beauty and the fundamental nature of the women’s game.”

Both Orender and Skipper said the new deal marked a long term commitment to women’s sports. Although exact financial terms were not disclosed, the deal includes enhanced digital rights for all ESPN Networks, and ABC.

“ESPN serves a diverse group of sports fans, and this deal shows that the level of commitment in women’s sports has gotten better,” Skipper said. “We wouldn’t be in this if we didn’t believe in the growth of women’s sports and the WNBA.”

As for the game itself, it did not disappoint. It was a high scoring, fast paced contest which the East won by a score of 103-99, with Cheryl Ford of the Detroit Shock being named as the game’s MVP.

Ford scored 16 points, 13 rebounds and 5 assists. Playing in her fourth All-Star game, the former Rookie of the Year said she never expected to win the game’s MVP.

“It was exciting. It was a nice achievement. I just came to play and give the fans a good show.”

Somehow, Ford’s simple statement seemed a referendum on the entire weekend that, despite a few minor technical difficulties, really was a good show.