The festivities are underway! WNBA All-Star Weekend 2018 is upon us, and Friday was a nonstop party despite a pesky work commitment called practice. In the best setup possible for fans, it was an open practice with cameras rolling.
Hoop stars prepare to face off
Players were greeted with applause as they entered the court at Target Center before the midday Minneapolis crowd. Gone were the intense competition faces of these hoop stars. It was all smiles for this gaggle of new and legendary All-Stars.
As they exited the tunnel, Brittney Griner and Kayla McBride stopped to sign the ball of a young fan, Angel McCoughtry held a cellphone in front of her, apparently recording the moment, and Diana Taurasi blasted out of there, full-force, as if preparing to tip off at a playoff game.
Prowl gets dissed
A few mascots were there to dole out high-fives, but Chelsea Gray and Candace Parker of the LA Sparks were having none of Prowl, the mascot for the Minnesota Lynx. One theory points to the Sparks still being bitter over Minnesota playing their championship video during their practice ahead of the first game of the season. But Chiney Ogwumike of the Connecticut Sun also wasn’t fooling with Prowl.
One look into Prowl’s eyes provides all the answers anyone needs about why most would shun him. As if mascots are not creepy enough on their own, Prowl teeters on evil-eyed. Even Minnesota Lynx superstar Maya Moore hurried past him without daring let her eyes meet.
But Sylvia Fowles looks only mildly terrified of the feral beast:
Dance battle at center court
A’ja Wilson showed up in Minneapolis with one goal and one goal only: show out. Standing at center court, and at the center of the world’s attention, Wilson broke it down, dance-wise with the other All-Stars cheering her on.
And then she seemed to lure seasoned veteran Sylvia Fowles into the mix, in a type of challenge. Fowles, who stated in her WNBA #WatchMeWork 3.0 video that she was always eager to impress, Fowles put her tote bag down and showed Wilson that she has has contending dance moves of her own.
First All-Star game and A’ja Wilson is already bold as hell. But people don’t accomplish what she has by playing timid. So, hats off to her! But can we get a rap battle next? Dueling violins?
The All-Stars had a lot to say!
It wouldn’t be an All-Star Game without media availability, and here’s a roundup of the day’s best quotes:
Liz Cambage (on being selected by Candace Parker): Even before I was in the league, I loved Candace’s game. I loved her as a person. She is one of the all-around greats around this league. For her to put me on this team, it really hit my heart. I’ve always wanted to play with her and it’s going to happen tomorrow.
Cambage (on her goals for Dallas this season): I want to get a ring. That’s all I want with Dallas. I want my team to do well. I want to get a ring. That’s what everyone plays for. Everyone wants a championship. So hopefully this is our year.
Skylar Diggins-Smith (on competitiveness of the All-Star Game): It’s supposed to be entertainment. It’s for the fans, but by the third quarter, the fourth quarter, everyone here is trying to win. Don’t let none of this fool you; everyone’s trying to win. There’s still bragging rights if your team wins ... I think it will start out as fun and everyone will be doing their thing, but by the end of the third quarter, you’ll see it kick in.
Diggins-Smith (on the new All-Star format): Give me any 12 All-Stars, all of them are great. The best players are here, so give me any 12. I don’t mind it. I’m happy I’m on Team Parker with Liz, so it’s good to play with my teammate.
Candace Parker (on what the Sparks need to do after the All-Star break): I know in years past, this break has been bad for us. We were hot and we came back and we played really bad after the break. I guess I’m hoping it’s the opposite effect. We played poorly before the break and now maybe we’ll figure out how to put it together.
Parker (on her strategy for selecting an All-Star team): It was really fun for me ... For me, as with Elena [Delle Donne], there’s no bad pick. You’re picking All-Stars here. So forming a team was easy for me. Obviously, I wanted to make sure that I had my two teammates on my side because I don’t want to play against them.
Maya Moore (on the tenor of the game as a seasoned veteran): There’s always a level of competitiveness whenever you step out on the court. For whatever reason this year, I feel more celebratory and excited to be here. I want to celebrate and enjoy this. After we get on the court, it’ll be a bit more relaxed for me this year.
Moore (on her experience with the All-Star Game being in Minneapolis): It’s been great hosting, especially since we have so many beautiful things to show off. With the Target Center being renovated and having people enjoy the city, even though it’s gotten a little bit cool these last couple days — people will have to bring their jackets. It’s been fun and it’s good to be home, and be even more proud of our home now that we have guests coming.
Moore (on competing against teammates): Yeah, that’s going to be interesting. Seimone (Augustus) has been chirping a little bit. We might be cross-matched a little bit at some point, and I might have to remind Seimone about my defense. We’ll see!
Chiney Ogwumike (on being back in the All-Star Game): It means the world for me to be here. Coming off of an injury and also working a full-time job at ESPN, it’s been a very challenging year. My goal was to get back on the court somehow and contribute. However big, however small. To be here after all the ups and downs, it means the world to me. Not many people get to do what they love multiple times. I’m just really excited to be here and play with the brightest, best here in the league.
Ogwumike (on being unable to play with sister Nneka, who is out with an illness): That was a bummer. When I found out ... I was like, No! It was like back to my Stanford flashbacks. Back to my Cy-Fair High School flashbacks, AAU, because basketball has always been a “we” thing for Nneka and I, not a “me” thing. I know there’s going to be the time and place for us to play together again. So fingers crossed, that happens.
TEAM DELLE DONNE
Diana Taurasi (on approach to All-Star Game): There’s always that fine line between it being fun and an enjoyable night for the fans. But there’s always that one moment where it gets serious. Something happens, someone makes a play, score gets tight with the time winding down. There’s always that moment. You never know when it’s going to come but it’s going to come.
Taurasi (on playing so many All-Star Games with Sue Bird): It’s really been one of the fun things of my career, to share so many moments with Sue. From college to Olympic experience, All-Star teams, she’s a great person. She’s been so great for women’s basketball. She’s done it in a very classy way and she’s playing the best basketball of her career. That just shows through a lot of hard work and commitment, the sky is the limit.
Taurasi (on her key to longevity): You have to have some inner motivation, you have to want to do it. You have to want to wake up in the morning and compete. I always say, the day I step on the court and don’t feel like fighting, it’s the day I’m going to be done.
Elena Delle Donne (on being named captain and selecting a team): It was awesome. I love it. It’s humbling that fans came out and voted and wanted me to be in that position. It was really fun. I had a good time with it. And now that we’re all here hanging out, that’s what this is all about.
Delle Donne (on her favorite part of All-Star Weekend): Hanging out, that’s the best part by far. The team bonding is by far the greatest part of it.
Delle Donne (on strategy for selecting players to her team): I wanted to get versatile players that can kind of do it all. Because you know, with the All-Star game it is kind of who can handle it, who can shoot it. Definitely wanted to get some Lynx players because we need to get the home crowd behind us. Also, players that have great relationships with friends and have a good rapport.
Breanna Stewart (on whether she can steal All-Star MVP honors): You know we’ll see how the game goes. People have said that a few times but whoever knocks down shots early. That’s the one you’re going to feed to get [the award].
Stewart (on the new-look versatile player like herself): Well, I think it helps. Especially with the size, being able to be 6-4, 6-5, and being able to handle the ball, be on the perimeter, be in the post. It’s un-guardable in a sense. It’s just tough for other people to guard. Even when we (Stewart and Delle Donne) guard each other it’s still hard. Obviously we know what we like to do, but it is still hard to stop.
Sylvia Fowles (on her roles as WNBA All-Star Weekend ambassador): I’m more relaxed with the WNBA family. I get out a lot on my own while we’re in-season, so I get to explore a lot. You only can give them so much in a short amount of time. Since they’re only here for a weekend we want to make sure their hours spent here are amazing. We’re just going to try and show them a good time.
Fowles (on whether the league’s star power is at its most ever): We have a long way to go so it’s hard to say. You definitely see growth in the direction that we’re going. I’m loving the process as I’m sure many of us do. I can’t say that this is the best, as of right now. I’ve only been in this league for 11 years so I can’t speak for everyone else but we’re definitely on the up and up.
Fowles (on competing against Lynx teammate Maya Moore in the All-Star Game): I am not [looking forward to it] because Maya doesn’t play my position so I will not have to deal with Maya. That is a Seimone [Augustus] situation and I have to deal with big Liz [Cambage].
Sue Bird (on playing in her 11th All-Star Game): There are times where I’m like, here I am. I’m still playing. There’s no fancy story about it. It’s not some, in my mind, great accomplishment. At times, mostly when I’m asked questions about it, I do take a step back and I’m like OK. I’ve played in 500 games which recently broke the record. Why haven’t other people done that? I’m in my 11th All-Star Game. Why had nobody done that before? So while I’m doing it, I don’t really necessarily think I’m doing anything special. I’m just kind of trying to stay as healthy as I can so I can play as long as I can. In those moments of retrospect, I’m like OK — I guess it is pretty unique and cool that I am the first to play in 11.
A’ja Wilson (on how it feels to play in her first All-Star Game): It feels great. It really does feel great to be around all these great vets. Just to hear them, pick their brains, laugh with them — see the human side of them. Obviously, you see in a scouting report and you see it as a player, but just to be around and see them as humans. It’s good.
Wilson (on getting to experience her first All-Star Game with teammate Kayla McBride): Super exciting. I remember when I first showed her the roster [and] we were on the same team and we were like, Yes! Kayla deserves to be here more than anyone, I think. She really worked hard throughout the course of the season. She’s really helped us out and helped me out as a rookie. Just to have her alongside and be with me on my first trip here, it’s a lot of fun.
Wilson (on new All-Star format): I like it. I like this whole situation with the draft and captains. I think this is a lot of fun. We can just show a good side of it. Who gets to pick us and things like that. Takes us back to childhood days when we’re picking dodgeball teams.
2018 WNBA All-Star Game — Starting lineups
- Candace Parker
- Liz Cambage
- Maya Moore
- Chelsea Gray
- Angel McCoughtry
Team Delle Donne
- Elena Delle Donne
- Sylvia Fowles
- Breanna Stewart
- Sue Bird
- Diana Taurasi
Orange carpet looks
WNBA All-Stars strutted their stuff down the orange carpet as they made their way into the All-Star reception. From casual to poshed up, conservative to rock ‘n roll, here’s a random sampling of their orange carpet looks: