July 7th 2023.
Two current WNBA players, Napheesa Collier of the Minnesota Lynx and Breanna Stewart of the New York Liberty, have exclusively revealed to ESPN their plans for a new basketball league. The aim of the league, called Unrivaled, is to provide an opportunity for other women players to stay in the United States and make money when the WNBA season is over.
Unrivaled will be played from January to March and feature top professional women's players across six teams. They will compete in 3-on-3 basketball and one-on-one matches at a Miami venue. Stewart believes that the league will create a buzz and provide players with the choice to stay home.
“It’s the ability for players to stay home, to be in a market like Miami where we can just be the buzz and create that with the best WNBA players,” Stewart said. “We can’t keep fighting [the WNBA’s prioritization rule]. It is a rule that takes away our choices, which should never be a thing, especially as women, but it is still a rule.”
The WNBA has a rule that requires players to return to the States from overseas by the start of training camps. Unrivaled plans to use private funding and sponsorships to offer similar pay to what players make overseas. This is particularly important as the women's basketball leagues abroad typically play games until mid-May, which overlaps with the start of the WNBA season.
The idea for the league was born during a dinner conversation between Stewart, Collier, and Collier's husband, Alex Bazzell. Stewart was enticed by the idea of playing on an all-digital basketball court in 3-on-3 and one-on-one games, while also holding bragging rights and making a salary.
“We’ve all been talking and realizing that we’re missing a moment, having a lot of our players be overseas or not playing basketball [during the offseason],” Stewart said. “I think top players, they want to be playing, right? They want to be home, they want to be playing, but it has to make sense. It has to be right, and the money has to be right. And I think that’s what Unrivaled is trying to do.”
To make Unrivaled a reality, Stewart and Collier have assembled a team of business and sports industry leaders from Twitter, DAZN, the WTA, and WWE. The league is set to launch in January 2024.
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