Every fan roots for their team to win the championship this year, but the ultimate goal is to be the greatest franchise of all time. At Swish Appeal we decided to rank all the WNBA teams that have ever existed in order of greatness.
For franchises that have moved to between two or three different cities, I counted them as two or three different teams. You may want to see these franchises ranked as one, but I considered them separately because their fan bases are different — in some cases very different (Detroit Shock/Dallas Wings and Orlando Miracle/Connecticut Sun).
This is our article on teams 11 through 1 (the teams with championships). Instead of dividing number of championships won by number of years played and basing the standings on success rate at winning the championship, I put the teams with more championships overall higher. However, to break the tie between teams with the same amount of championships, I gave the edge to the team that collected theirs in the least amount of years.
On this list, there was only one instance of two teams with the same amount of championships AND the same amount of years of existence (the Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury). To break that tie, I used the same formula used in the first part of our list (No. 23 through No. 12):
- Lost Finals — 50 points
- Lost semis — 35 points
- Lost final 6 — 25 points
- Lost final 8 — 15 points
- Missed playoffs — Winning percentage x 10
I applied this system to every season of the teams’ existence and then divided by the number of non-championship-winning seasons to get an average success number. I did this for every team, not just the Sparks and Mercury, so you can see how successful each team has been in their non-championship-winning seasons.
Here are teams 11 through 1:
11) Washington Mystics
Tiebreaker point average: 12.65375
Of the teams with one championship, the Mystics have had the most opportunities to win, so they come in at the bottom of that tier. Even if I had done the tiebreaker by tiebreaker points instead of number of seasons played, the Mystics would have finished last among the teams with one title. Their tiebreaker score of 12.65375 is on the weaker side, but they have been to the Finals one other time in addition to the year they won it all. Two other times they made semifinal exits and they’ve made the playoffs a total of 14 times. Mike Thibault becoming the team’s head coach in 2013 and Elena Delle Donne coming over in 2017 laid the foundation for the 2019 championship.
10) Indiana Fever
Tiebreaker point average: 17.2404545
The Fever didn’t take as long as the Mystics to get the monkey of their back, winning it all for the first time in 2012. But it was a big deal when they did because they had been a good team for a long stretch leading up to 2012; they just hadn’t achieved that ultimate goal. 2012 was their eighth straight year in the playoffs with a Finals loss coming in 2009 and semifinal exits coming in 2005, 2007 and 2011. Their best player throughout all of it was the legendary Tamika Catchings, who was ranked as the No. 2 player in WNBA history by ESPN in 2021. The Fever returned to the Finals in 2015, but fell to the team they upset in 2012 (the Minnesota Lynx). They haven’t been to the playoffs since 2016, but hope to turn things around with 2023 No. 1 pick Aliyah Boston.
9) Chicago Sky
Tiebreaker point average: 13.97125
The Sky have not been as successful historically as the Fever, but here’s where winning a championship with fewer opportunities benefited Chicago. The Sky’s tiebreaker score of 13.97125 is on the weaker side, but they’ve only been around since 2006 and have that one championship, won with Candace Parker, Courtney Vandersloot, Kahleah Copper and Allie Quigley in 2021. In Chicago’s second season after drafting Elena Delle Donne at No. 2 overall, it went to the Finals. The great Sylvia Fowles was also a superstar on that team, which was swept by the Mercury in the 2014 Finals. The Sky also have two semifinal exits, including last year after a franchise-record .722 winning percentage in the regular season. They have been to the playoffs eight times.
8) Sacramento Monarchs
Tiebreaker point average: 19.9291667
Sacramento was once a proud WNBA and NBA city. The Kings of the NBA finished 48-34 this regular season for their best record since 2005 and earned the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference. Unfortunately, a Sacramento renaissance on the women’s side isn’t possible at the moment because the Monarchs are defunct. But they, unlike the Sacramento men, who were very successful in the early 2000s, once finished the job and actually brought a championship to California’s capital city (in 2005). They returned to the Finals in 2006 and lost a hard-fought series to the Detroit Shock. Since they only existed for 13 seasons (from the beginning of the league in 1997 to 2009), they come in second place among teams with one title. They would be second by tiebreaker points as well, with a strong 19.9291667 success number.
7) Las Vegas Aces
Tiebreaker point average: 31.03
We’re not counting the Utah and San Antonio years of the Aces franchise. So this ranking system is very kind to the Aces, though it would be kinder if I was doing it by championships per year. Just before their first season in Vegas began, the Aces drafted A’ja Wilson at No. 1 in the 2018 draft. The rest has been history. Vegas went 14-20 and missed the playoffs in 2018, but has been to at least the semis every year since. They took a game from the eventual champion Mystics in the 2019 semis before appearing in the Finals in Wilson’s first MVP season (2020). 2021 saw them lose in devastating fashion to the Mercury in five games in the semis, but they turned around and won it all last year under first-year head coach Becky Hammon, while Wilson won her second MVP award. With a league-high 31.03 success number in non-championship years, Vegas is in seventh place with an exclamation mark. It’s also in position to see a lot more success in the coming years.
6) Phoenix Mercury
Tiebreaker point average: 21.143913
WNBA GOAT Diana Taurasi has been leading the Mercury for most of their history. She has delivered three championships (2007, 2009 and 2014). The 2014 championship she won with the help of 2013 No. 1 pick Brittney Griner. Taurasi and Griner returned to the Finals in 2021 with both performing phenomenally in the playoffs, but the Mercury fell to the Sky in four games. Phoenix is one of the original eight that is still going and saw some pretty good success right off the bat before drafting Taurasi in 2004. It went 16-12 in the WNBA’s inaugural season and lost in the semis. In the second WNBA season (1998), it went 19-11 and made it to the Finals. The Mercury made it to at least the semifinals six years in a row from 2013 to 2018 and their two Finals losses combined with eight semifinal exits gives them a very good 21.143913 success score in non-championship-winning years.
5) Los Angeles Sparks
Tiebreaker point average: 22.1178261
The Mercury have been good in their non-championship-winning years, but the Sparks have been just a little bit better. After the Houston Comets’ four championships in a row to open the WNBA’s existence, LA won the next two (in 2001 and 2002). Michael Cooper was the coach and Lisa Leslie was the star player. In 2008, the Sparks would draft another star player in Candace Parker, who got the monkey off her back with a first championship for her and a third for the franchise in 2016. It was a difficult championship to win, with the Lynx, who were at the time winners of three of the previous five titles, taking LA to five games and only losing by one point in the clincher. Like the Mercury, the Sparks have lost two Finals. Both times they were the defending champs. They fell to the Detroit Shock, two games to one, in 2003 and in 2017 faced a rematch against the Lynx, with Minnesota getting revenge in another five-game series. The Sparks have exited at the semifinal stage seven times in their history and have made the playoffs a league-high 20 times (three more times than the Mercury have made it). That’s a 76.9 percent success rate when it comes to making the postseason.
4) Detroit Shock
Tiebreaker point average: 17.3322222
The Shock moved to Tulsa in 2010 and then became the Dallas Wings in 2016. Tulsa wasn’t very successful and the Wings haven’t been either, but the Detroit years are legendary. Detroit Pistons legend Bill Laimbeer coached the team from 2003 to 2008 (and for three games in 2009), winning the championship in 2003, 2006 and 2008. Great players such as Swin Cash, Cheryl Ford, Deanna Nolan and Katie Smith defined the run. Detroit went to the Finals in 2007 as well and to the semifinals in 2009, but all of its other seasons resulted in either a first-round exit or a missed postseason. So its tiebreaker score isn’t as good as that of the Sparks and Mercury. But the fact that they won three championships in just 12 years puts them at No. 4.
3) Minnesota Lynx
Tiebreaker point average: 14.89
There have been 26 WNBA seasons. Over the most recent 12, the Lynx have four championships and the next closest team, the Seattle Storm. has two. Minnesota loves odd-numbered years, having won the title in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017. It drafted Maya Moore at No. 1 in the 2011 draft and won it all in Moore’s rookie season. It was the big four of Seimone Augustus, Moore, Lindsay Whalen and Rebekkah Brunson leading the way that year; Augustus won Finals MVP. Moore won Finals MVP when the same big four claimed the crown again in 2013. Then, the big four added Sylvia Fowles to become the big five and won two more championships, with Fowles earning Finals MVP in 2015 and 2017. The Lynx have two Finals losses, but just two semifinal exits. Their success rate in making the playoffs is 52 percent. So their tiebreaker score is lower than that of the Sparks, Mercury and Detroit Shock, but it is higher than the two teams ahead of them on this list.
2) Seattle Storm
Tiebreaker point average: 14.0405264
The Storm were able to win two championships with the Lauren Jackson/Sue Bird duo (2004 and 2010) and two more with the Breanna Stewart/Sue Bird duo (2018 and 2020). Because they have existed one less year than the Lynx, they come in ahead of Minnesota and at No. 2. Just like the Lynx, they have been a class organization, with Bird setting the tone in that regard. Meanwhile, the versatility of both Jackson and Stewart makes them two of the best players in WNBA history. Seattle fans have been spoiled, getting to root for those two superstars. Of course, they don’t feel spoiled right now, with Stewart having signed with the New York Liberty this offseason. The Storm have a very good success rate in making the playoffs (75 percent), but outside of their four championship-winning seasons they have never been to the Finals and have only been to the semis once (2022).
1) Houston Comets
Tiebreaker point average: 13.455
The Comets have the best success rate at winning the championship (33.3 percent), so they would be first even if I based it on that, ahead of the Shock (25 percent) and Aces (20 percent). After all these years, their four championships in just 12 years of existence still stands as the greatest accomplishment in WNBA history. It was the big three of Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson leading the way to the four straight championships from 1997 to 2000. Van Chancellor was the legendary coach at the helm for all four titles, as well as the six years after that. Like the Storm, the Comets never lost in the Finals and only went to the semifinals once outside of their championship-winning seasons. So their tiebreaker score is a weak 13.455. But until a team reaches five championships (or four in less than 12 years), they will reign at No. 1 in my all-time standings.