2021 saw the Stanford Cardinal and Chicago Sky raise trophies and the U.S. women’s 5x5 and 3x3 teams take gold. As we look forward to 2022, COVID-19 continues to impact our society and the world of women’s basketball, but here are some positive things the Swish Appeal staff is hoping for:
1. A satisfying swan song season for Sue Bird. - Cat Ariail
Bird has been coy about whether or not she will return for a final WNBA season. In a November episode of the R2C2 podcast with Ryan Rucco, she seemed to intimate that she is returning for one final go around. Let’s hope for a healthy, happy conclusion to Bird’s incredible WNBA career.
2. A Seattle-Washington WNBA Playoffs battle royale. - CA
Let’s run this 2021 wish back for 2022! Due to a season-long back injury for Elena Delle Donne and a late-season foot injury to Breanna Stewart, WNBA fans were again denied an opportunity to see the two players widely considered the best in the world face off in the crucible of the playoffs. Fingers crossed that, in 2022, we will finally get to see EDD and Stewie go head-to-head in the postseason.
3. Real progress toward WNBA expansion. - CA
Over the last year, the winds of expansion have been blowing! Former WNBA standout Alana Beard is spearheading an effort to bring a W team to Oakland, while Drake brought attention to the widespread desire to see a WNBA squad north of the border. In 2022, it is time for actionable progress toward an expanded WNBA, in Oakland, Toronto or another locale.
4. A sweeter Dream in the ATL. - CA
In 2020, WNBA players, led by members of the Atlanta Dream, helped to ensure that former Dream owner Kelly Loeffler would not retain her Senate seat, working to elect Raphael Warnock. Soon thereafter, an ownership group that included former Dream player Renee Montgomery — the first player to become an owner — took control of the franchise, seemingly setting up the Dream for better, brighter days. Instead, Atlanta’s 2021 season was spoiled by instability, injury and conduct issues inside and outside the locker room. After demonstrating the power of WNBA players’ platform off the court, it would be nice to see the Dream be an example of the best of the WNBA on the court.
5. Paige Bueckers back healthy. - Zack Ward
College basketball fans miss her and the game needs her back from her tibial plateau fracture. She had surgery and is expected back in February.
6. Asia Durr finding a role on the Liberty. - ZW
Durr recounted a brutal battle with COVID on HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel,” a battle after which she found out she was a long-hauler and dealt with debilitating fatigue. But now, Durr has been cleared to play basketball again and I hope she plays well for the New York Liberty in 2022. She averaged 9.7 points per game as a rookie in 2019.
7. Diamond DeShields playing a big role in Chicago or somewhere else - ZW
In October, I called DeShields “Kahleah Copper’s biggest fan” and DeShields’ sacrifice of personal stats for the betterment of the Chicago Sky as a team was rewarded with a championship. So now DeShields can call herself a champion, but I still want to see her become the exciting superstar she was on her way to becoming in 2019. If that doesn’t happen, at least let her play a bigger role than she did last year. She's a restricted free agent this offseason.
8. The Wings and Liberty continuing their upward trajectories - ZW
Both teams made the playoffs and both are young teams with a lot of likability. I’d like to see them both take another step forward and contend with the top teams.
9. Candace Parker playing at Crypto - ZW
We didn’t get to see her play against the Sparks last year at all, let alone in LA. As far as iconic athletes playing against their former team goes, this is up there in terms of importance. Parker meant so much to the Sparks franchise for so long. I’m hoping for the likely occurrence that we finally get to see her play at what was once the Staples Center again.
10. Destanni Henderson’s WNBA potential shining through despite Aliyah Boston and Zia Cooke being the main stars for South Carolina - ZW
Henderson showed in her 17-point, seven-assist, seven-steal performance against No. 2 Stanford just how good she is. She could be the best player on nearly any team in the country, but plays for No. 1 South Carolina and tends to be behind both Aliyah Boston and Zia Cooke in the scoring column, though she currently only trails Boston. Henderson is so much more than her 12.8 points per game. She is incredibly quick and a phenomenal distributor and defender.
11. Expanded selection of WNBA merchandise - Eric Nemchock
I know, I know. We talk about this every year. It’s still an issue, though; the stock of WNBA merchandise (jerseys, in particular) is just not meeting the increasing demand of fans worldwide. Not only is this frustrating as a consumer, it’s also frustrating as a fan who knows how far an effective merchandise rollout would go in promoting the league (orange hoodies, anyone?). Here’s hoping for better in 2022.
12. The Chicago Sky building on their momentum - EN
As a longtime Sky fan, watching Chicago go all the way in 2021 was a special experience, to say the least. While an obvious wish of mine would be for the Sky to repeat as WNBA champions, I’ll generalize a bit and wish for the franchise to carry all of its momentum into the new year — that includes ticket sales, general visibility and, of course, winning! If you’re from Chicago and reading this, let’s keep supporting our Sky!
13. An unpredictable and hectic WNBA free agency period - EN
It seems like WNBA free agency gets more and more chaotic every year, and if you’re looking for ways to drum up interest in the league, that’s a great thing. Of course, all the kudos to those who work to break the news and put together salary cap information — lots of this stuff simply wasn’t happening even just a few years ago. The more offseason excitement, the better.
14. A safe and healthy year for all athletes, coaches and staff members - EN
It’s hard to look too far into the future without acknowledging that we’re still in a pandemic, and with that in mind, I’d like to wish good health upon everyone. I know many of us (myself included) treat sports as a way to escape from our everyday lives, but let’s not forget that competitors are humans, too. We’ve already seen plenty of NCAA games this season either postponed or canceled due to COVID-19, and I don’t think it would be surprising if the forthcoming WNBA season is once again affected as well. I hope precautions continue to be taken to encourage health and safety and that those affected by COVID-19 recover fully and quickly.
15. Gabby Williams making the Sparks better - Edwin Garcia
The LA Sparks had a disappointing 2021 season. Missing the playoffs and not being a contender is not the LA way, and pressure and noise will mount on the team and coach/general manager Derek Fisher if the Sparks don’t take a step forward. So I wonder what improvement the team will make and how Gaby Williams will fit in LA? Williams was traded from Chicago to LA last season but didn’t play a game for the Sparks. She is an explosive player with tremendous promise but ultimately had an up and down career in Chicago. Perhaps a change of scenery and Fisher utilizing her point-forward talents best will bring out the good in her. If Fisher can do that and make the right free agent signings, the Sparks can again be a force.
16. A good Commissioner’s Cup - EG
The reviews on the Commissioners Cup were mixed. Fans, media, and players alike seem lukewarm at best on the execution of the in-season tournament. So I’d like to see how the Commissioner’s Cup is played this season. Do fans care a bit more? Do players? And how good will it be to have this kind of tournament during a non-Olympic year? Hopefully, it leads to a rise in intensity during the season, especially now that this WNBA season will be a record-high 36 games.
17. For the new WNBA playoff format to be successful - EG
No more single-elimination games. We will now have three rounds of games with a 3-5-5 format. Overall, people seem to be happy about this change. It means more playoff basketball, and a season will not end in just one game. On paper, I’m on board. I wonder when it happens if I’ll like it more than the excitement we got in the single-elimination games.
18. For the WNBA season to happen safely - EG
In all our lives, COVID-19 has taken over. Unfortunately, it appears the challenges we’ve had in the last two years will be here in 2022. We’ve seen the NBA and NFL struggle navigating this new COVID variant, Omicron, as it has infected a high number of players and has caused the postponement of games. The WNBA has done an incredible job keeping its players safe and having games take place as scheduled. That might change in 2022, but I hope it doesn’t. I hope players don’t get COVID. I hope we can attend games this summer. And I hope we don’t have any large outbreaks or interruptions during the season.
19. More appreciation for women’s basketball - Zachary Draves
There is a small but vocal base that seems to have a lot of contempt for women’s basketball. They use their megaphones to routinely trash the sport by claiming that “nobody watches” while also claiming to be “championing” women’s sports in order to attack trans athletes. I hope going into 2022 those voices will be outmatched by those who love and appreciate women’s basketball for what it is and all that it represents.
20. WNBA continuing social justice activism - ZD
The WNBA has always been at the forefront when it comes to social justice: racial justice, gender equality, LGBTQ+ rights, collective bargaining rights, etc. The players haven’t been the least bit shy in speaking truth to power and utilizing their resources for change, including the outcome of the Georgia runoff election this past year involving the disgraced Kelly Loeffler. I hope that sustains going into this year with another crucial election on the horizon.
21. The Chicago Sky winning the title again - ZD
As native Illinoisan who grew up with everything and anything having to do with Chicago basketball for obvious reasons, I want to see a dynasty run in the Windy City during my lifetime. If the Sky can win it for a second year in a row, we’ll have something historic in the works.
22. The NCAA treating the women’s tournament with much more respect - ZD
After it was revealed that the NCAA wasn’t prioritizing the women’s tournament this past year in terms of allocation of resources and amenities in facilities, I hope that the backlash has caused the NCAA to learn its lesson. I won’t hold my breath though. Nevertheless, the women’s tournament has gained traction over the years and has produced some great moments and it can only go up from there.