There was a lot of WNBA news in 2013, but which story out of the many was the most interesting? Since no one else is taking a stab at it, I'll give it a shot. In ascending order, here are my candidates for the top 10 WNBA news stories of the previous year.
10. Diana Taurasi and Seimone Augustus share an intimate moment (September 26, 2013)
I'll let the clip set it up.
With the Minnesota Lynx up 70-44 in the second half of Game One of the 2013 WNBA Western Conference Finals, Taurasi gives a body shove to Augustus. With Augustus unwilling to budge, it looks like things were going to heat up to a physical confrontation between the WNBA stars.
Taurasi, however, is known for thinking ouside the box. She unexpectedly kissed Augustus on the cheek, and the confrontational spell was broken.
However, the comments after the game were just as interesting.
"I was just trying to make sweet love," said the ever-witty Taurasi after the game. "That's about it."
When Augustus was asked, she said, "As far as me and Diana and the tango dance that we had, I always say she just wanted some of my deliciousness."
Taurasi and Augustus were both assessed personal fouls with 8:18 left in the game, which Minnesota won 85-62. But the final score was less important than the explosion the game caused on YouTube, where it was erroneously reported that both stars had received technicals for their smooch. People who had never paid attention to a WNBA game found themselves on YouTube looking for the moment, and all thanks to Diana Taurasi's quick wit.
9. Sun win #1 pick in 2014 WNBA Draft Lottery (December 10, 2013)
After a disappointing season, the Sun had at least one thing to look forward to - the 2014 Draft lottery. The last time the Sun had the #1 pick, they got Tina Charles who would eventually win an MVP award.
But their chances weren't guaranteed. They only had a 44.2 percent chance of getting the #1 pick. The New York Liberty and the Tulsa Shock each had a 22.7 percent chance of gettting the #1 pick, and the San Antonio Silver Stars had 10.4 percent chance.
WNBA President Laurel Richie made her picks. New York would get the unlucky first draw and receive the #4 pick in 2014. San Antonio would follow, getting the #3 pick. This left Connecticut and Tulsa still in the running, and Tulsa - which has never had a #1 pick - found itself wanting once again as they fell into the #2 slot, leaving Connecticut with the first pick in next year's draft.
It's not inconceivable that the Sun could pick Stanford's Chiney Ogwumike, which would make Nneka and Chiney the only sisters ever to both be #1 WNBA Draft picks. However, the 2014 Draft is a long way off....
8. Corey Gaines fired from Phoenix Mercury in mid-season (August 8, 2013)
After five full seasons as both the head coach (and one as general manager) of the Phoenix Mercury, after leading Phoenix to a WNBA title in 2009, after getting the #1 pick in the 2013 WNBA Draft and selecting Brittney Griner, Corey Gaines unexpectedly found himself out of a job in the middle of the 2013 season. He was let go as head coach at Phoenix on August 8th along with assistant coach Earl Cureton.
What happened? As the press release from the Mercury front office stated, "the team's performance this season has not lived up to our expectations". Phoenix's record when Gaines lost his job was a surprisingly low 10-11, and the front office decided that it was not waiting any longer to change things. He had not been successful in finding a way to fit Brittney Griner into his Phoenix "all offense" scheme, and Mechelle Voepel hinted that Gaines had simply lost the team after 5 1/2 years - and had lost the most important player on the team, Diana Taurasi.
Russ Pennell - who had never coached women's basketball before - ended up taking over for Gaines. A team that led the league in technical fouls found itself more under control. A team that had treated defense lightly began taking it seriously. The Mercury went 9-4 for the rest of the season, earned the #3 spot in the playoffs, knocked out #2 Los Angeles and made it to the Western Conference finals before being swept by the Lynx.
7. West win 2013 All-Star Game; Griner and Delle Donne are unable to play (July 27, 2013)
Chicago Sky rookie Elena Delle Donne led the 2013 All-Star voting with 35,646 votes, edging out Candace Parker and her 33,810 votes to become the first rookie player to lead the overall All-Star voting.
However, none of the (sigh) "Three to See" players saw any All-Star playing time. Delle Donne was unable to play because of a concussion suffered in a game against the Mystics on July 24th and was not cleared for air travel to the Mohegan Sun Arena. Griner was able to travel to the game but not play in it due to a knee sprain she had suffered that had kept her out of her previous five regular season games. Skylar Diggins didn't make the roster, and ABC found itself telecasting a game without any of the heralded WNBA rookies.
This left Candace Parker to pick up the slack. With the East up 49-43 at halftime, Parker led the West back on the strength of 23 total points - an All-Star points record - and 11 rebounds to give the West a 102-98 victory. What people didn't realize was that Parker was playing in her first All-Star game - she had missed All-Star games in 2009 and 2011 due to pregnancy and injury respectively - and was named the Most Valuable Player.
6. Minnesota Lynx get second title (October 6-10, 2013)
For the third straight season, the Minnesota Lynx had won the Western Conference Championship - but the previous year, the Indiana Fever beat them in the WNBA Finals three games to one, turning them from defending champs to contenders. Now, they were back in the brass ring again, facing the team that they had beaten in 2011 - the Atlanta Dream.
But this wasn't going to be a grunge match. Minnesota whipped Atlanta 84-59 in Game One, leaving many to wonder if the series was going to be competitive. With McCoughtry in foul trouble, the Lynx delivered an 88-63 trouncing in Game Two and most WNBA fans wrote off the Dream's chances in Game Three.
Atlanta didn't even get to play Game Three in its home arena. In 2009, the Dream were forced to relocate during a playoff game because Elmo had Philips Arena reserved, and this time the Dream were booted to suburban Gwinnett Arena for Game Three because of Disney on Ice. The Dream were subsequently iced by the Lynx 86-77 in Game Three as Minnesota marched to its second WNBA championship in front of a Dream "home" crowd of 5,040, the lowest Finals crowd in WNBA history.
5. Tina Charles's cryptic tweet (October 26, 2013)
On October 26, 2013, out of nowhere, Tina Charles posted the following message on Twitter:
guess ill be living in LA— Tina Charles (@tinacharles31) October 26, 2013
The tweet set off speculation from WNBA fans that the Connecticut Sun MVP might end up in a Los Angeles Sparks uniform in 2014.
Charles's team had faced multiple adverse events in 2013. Mike Thibault was let go by Connecticut and replaced by head coach Anne Donovan. Asjha Jones decided not to play for the Sun in 2013 (and an injury overseas will likely keep her out in 2014). Family illness forced Kara Lawson away from the Sun for an extended period, but rumor has it that she is unlikely to return in 2014.
Whereas the Washington Mystics made the playoffs under Connecticut's former head coach, the Donovan-led Suns finished in last place. Rumor had it that Charles and the Connecticut org didn't see eye-to-eye, and the tweet added fuel to the theory that Charles wanted to be out of Connecticut.
Charles has since clammed up, not posting anything or saying anything that could lend credence to the rumor that she'd end up in Los Angeles - but the story won't be over until we see Charles in a Sun uniform at the beginning of the 2014 season.
4. Liz Cambage goes back and forth to Tulsa (April 9, 2013 and May 16, 2013)
After the Australian team won the bronze medal in the 2012 Olympics, Tulsa center Liz Cambage declined to finish the season in Tulsa, citing exhaustion.
It looks like she recovered just in time to pick up $400,000 playing for Zheijang in China during the off-season, where she averaged 36.2 points per game. Then in April, with the WNBA season one month from its opening, the Shock issued a shocking statement.
"Elizabeth Cambage will not return to Tulsa for the 2013 season. Cambage has signed a 2013 contract to play in China.
"We learned through Liz’s agent today that Liz will not be returning to Tulsa this season," said (Tulsa Shock President) Steve Swetoha. "We’re disappointed but we wish her the best of luck in China this season. We are excited about the 2013 season and the draft on Monday."
What was going on? Was Cambage homesick? Burnt out on basketball? Not tough enough? A headcase? Whatever the reason, many speculated that she would never play in the WNBA again.
Well, never say never, because just one month later the Tulsa Shock announced that Cambage was indeed coming back. Her explanation?
"I am really looking forward to returning to Tulsa and the WNBA this season," Elizabeth Cambage said. "I am most looking forward to working with coach Kloppenburg as I have heard many great things about his coaching ability and getting the best out of his players. I wasn't sure that I would be able to return to Tulsa this season as I sustained a broken wrist while playing in China this past season. I have been given the all clear by my doctors and I am excited to return to Tulsa and the team for a great season."
After missing all of 2012, Cambage returned as a much better shooter and rebounder. However, a severe left ankle sprain limited her to just 20 games in 2013. Out for the season, she headed home early but is healthy again and putting up astronomical numbers (again) for Beijing in the WCBA. Everyone in Tulsa hopes that Cambage will return in 2014 healthy, focused, and dominant.
3. Griner throws down in debut, Elene Delle Donne shines (May 27, 2013)
The WNBA had hyped the (sigh) "Three to See" for a long time, and on May 27, 2013, the #1 and #2 WNBA Draft Picks would meet for the first time when the Chicago Sky traveled to Phoenix for a nationally televised game on ESPN.
You can't say that either disappointed. Griner threw down her first dunk with 7:54 remaining in the fourth quarter, and with 2:22 left in the game, threw down her second duck. She tied Candace Parker's career WNBA dunk record - two dunks - in just five minutes.
But it was the Chicago Sky that got the better of the Mercury, as the visitors not only won 102-80, but Delle Donne filled up the box score for her Sky teammates:
Delle Donne: 22 points, 8 rebounds, 4 blocked shots
Griner: 17 points, 8 rebounds, 4 blocked shots
There's only one downside to the whole thing - Griner and Delle Donne play in different conferences, so we only get to watch them battle twice a year. Phoenix would lose again to Chicago, this time 70-68 on the road, and Griner would be held to just six points in the rematch. The two dunks by Griner were her only dunks all year, meaning that of the two Phoenix/Chicago games this year, this one would be the classic.
2. Three team trade brings McCarville back to states (March 1, 2013)
Undoubtedly, a three team trade involving Tulsa, Minnesota and New York turned out to be the WNBA's biggest news on the trading block. The trade went like this:
Candice Wiggins given to Tulsa
Janel McCarville given to Minnesota
Nicole Powell given to Tulsa
2013 3rd round draft pick given to Tulsa
Deanna Nolan given to New York
2013 2nd round pick given to New York
2013 3rd round pick given to New York
2014 2nd round draft pick given to Minnesota
How did it work out for those involved?
Minnesota had to give up Wiggins but got McCarville. McCarville started 32 games for the Lynx and was an integral part of their 2013 championship run. Furthermore, they get an extra pick in the second round of next year's draft. (The rich get richer.)
Wiggins started 32 games for Tulsa but Powell was a part-time starter and even with Skylar Diggins they were not enough to pull the Shock out of the Western Conference cellar. However, the third round pick they got from the Liberty - Angel Goodrich of Kansas - was a nice addition to the Shock roster.
And New York? They lost the rights to McCarville, and Deanna Nolan never played a minute in a Liberty Uniform. Their two 2013 round draft picks were a) Kamiko Williams, who started 18 games for New York but only shot 32.2 percent, and b) Olcay Çakır out of the Fenerbahce team in Turkey, a real head-scratcher. Unless Nolan shows up or Çakır gets a hankering for the bright lights of the Big Apple, Trader Bill Laimbeer might have traded himself into a corner.
1. Sophia Young's homophobic tweets (August 28, 2013)
In September 2012, Sophia Young of the San Antonio Silver Stars signed a multi-year deal contract extension. However, she suffered an ACL tear in January while playing overseas with a Chinese team, and the corresponding surgery kept her off the court - and in San Antonio - for the 2013 season.
Jump to August of this year, when the San Antonio city council is debating the extension of its nondiscrimination codes to LBGT people. Young attended a protest and posted the first tweet:
Should San Antonio be a city that allows same sex marriage?? I vote NO.— Sophia Young (@sophiayoung33) August 28, 2013
After the immediate disturbance on Twitter after WNBA followers asked for clarification, she posted again.
My vote is still No... San Antonio should not allows Same sex marriages. pic.twitter.com/W5c9RMDwAF— Sophia Young (@sophiayoung33) August 28, 2013
Oddly enough, the ordinance being protested had nothing to do with gay marriage. Naturally, there was an immediate response from current (Lauren Jackson) and former (Tully Bevilaqua) WNBA players, as well as the WNBA's president, Laurel Richie. The Huffington Post reported an e-mail sent by Richie which stated:
"Sophia has the right to express her point of view, however, I do not share her view....The WNBA supports diversity and we are committed to the equal and fair treatment of all people."
Sophia Young has not posted anything on Twitter since August 30th. But even though we've heard nothing about Young playing overseas, her original tweets remain. Will this play out at training camp? This story might not be over yet.
So what were your top WNBA stories of 2013? Let us know in the comments!
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- Where Tennessee Lady Vols senior Meighan Simmons stands as a 2014 WNBA Draft prospect
- The Top 10 WNBA news stories of 2013