The Coleumn: Where should the WNBA expand to?

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Since 2010, the WNBA has had 12 teams located in markets ranging in size from Los Angeles to Eastern Connecticut. Even with two teams relocating (see the Dallas Wings and the Las Vegas Aces), the number of teams has stayed the same. 

Although WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert has not yet released the list of potential cities, that is perfectly fine because the playoffs are currently happening, and one can only imagine which markets are under consideration. As a fan of expansion across the professional leagues, I thought it would be fun to produce a list of some cities that deserve a WNBA team and why they should have one. 

Houston, Texas

A photo of Hall of Famer Sheryl Swoopes. She helped lead the Houston Comets to victory. Courtesy of Wikimedia

The Houston Comets were the WNBA’s first dynasty. Led by Hall of Famers Sheryl Swoopes and Cynthia Cooper, the Comets won the league’s first four titles and cemented themselves as the team to beat. Houston desperately needs another club as good as the Astros until the Texans and Rockets lift off to relevance, and it has the fanbase to support it. While waiting for that to happen, the WNBA should bring a franchise back to associate Texas’ Space City with something other than trash cans and JJ Watt. 

Sacramento, California 

The Sacramento Monarchs have had more championships in their existence than the Sacramento Kings have playoff appearances since 2009. That was the year the Monarchs folded, and since then, the Kings have not kept the competitive spirit alive in the Big Tomato. How do we solve this lingering issue to get fans excited for basketball in California’s capital? We bring back a WNBA team. It may be another five years at least before the Kings return to the playoffs (Why did you trade away Tyrese Haliburton?), so Sacramento needs a contending team they can get behind, just so they can experience consistent winning again. 

Detroit, Michigan 

Like the Comets, the Detroit Shock were a dynasty. Coached by Detroit Pistons legend Bill Laimbeer, the Shock won three titles in eight seasons before moving to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Since that relocation occurred in 2009, Michigan’s sports teams have gone through something that can be described as “Michipain” ( Somehow, Michigan State University is exempt from this, more on that later). Detroit’s sports teams, from the Red Wings to the Pistons to the Lions, are on the rise, and what other way for the Motor City to generate extra revenue now than having a WNBA franchise back in The Mitten? 

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 

Let me explain this like it is Major League Soccer in 2008: Philadelphia is the largest market to never have a club. The MLS added the Philadelphia Union in 2010, and now they are the best team in the league. Should the WNBA add a team, it will not be long before they are a fan-favorite force. It may require a UConn star with the first overall pick (see Andre Blake on the Union), but it will get fans on their feet and create a rivalry with the New York Liberty. With the Villanova University women’s basketball team continuing to rise, adding a team in the City of Brotherly Love only boosts the brand. Plus, it would give the wild Philly fanbase another team to passionately root for. 

Bay Area, California 

It does not necessarily matter which city in the Bay Area this team would call home. How the WNBA has never expanded there in 25 seasons remains an unsolved mystery. This is the technological capital of the United States and one of the nation’s most futuristic areas. Not only are they known for technology, but they are also known for loyal fans and a lot of winning, as proven by the San Francisco Giants and San Francisco 49ers. The Golden State Warriors are as dominant as ever and the Stanford University women’s basketball team is coming off a second straight Final Four appearance. Add another basketball franchise and Silicon Valley turns into the world’s hottest basketball hub. 

Boston, Massachusetts 

This is not too much to ask. Connecticut does have a franchise, but they are the neutral site within the hotheaded battlegrounds of New York and Massachusetts. Boston has seen its share of success since Tom Brady entered the National Football League, and a WNBA franchise will help add to that reputation as a city of champions since the turn of the millennium. Massachusetts is home to the Basketball Hall of Fame, and Bostonians have been no strangers to stardom since the Revolutionary War. The only downside is that there would be too many teams on the East Coast, almost similar to the National Hockey League with the Hartford Whalers, but having a franchise in Beantown would be wicked cool. 

Cincinnati, Ohio 

Cincinnati’s most notable nickname is the Queen City. You may be asking yourself why Cincinnati should get a team when Cleveland was the former Buckeye market, but Cincinnati shows promise. Ignoring the Cincinnati Bengals and Joe Burrow for a second, this urban area has a lot to like from the loyal fanbase to the majestic views along the Ohio River. In addition, they are less than two hours from the University of Louisville, a winning basketball school in their own right. Adding a team to southwestern Ohio would do wonders for the local economy as well as bring more relevance to an area that desperately needs it. 

Charlotte, North Carolina

A photo of Michael Jordan. North Carolina is a basketball haven partly due to the fact that Michael Jordan owns the Charlotte Hornets. Courtesy of Wikimedia

North Carolina is a basketball haven. Some of that comes from college teams such as Duke University, the University of North Carolina and North Carolina State University. Some of it comes from the National Basketball Association, as Michael Jordan owns the Charlotte Hornets. With all this popularity swarming around, there is an opportunity to bring a consistent contender back to the region. Like Cincinnati, Charlotte has a moniker as the Queen City, and one person that has been a queen in the southeast region is two-time national champion and University of South Carolina Head Coach Dawn Staley. Staley played for the Charlotte Sting back in the late 1990s, and bringing a stinging edge into the league again would make anyone, including Staley, proud. 

Portland, Oregon 

Believe it or not, Portland used to have a WNBA team called the Fire. Unlike the Comets or the Monarchs, they are not well known because they never made the playoffs in their three seasons of existence. Since they folded, the city has received multiple budding stars on the Portland Trail Blazers from LaMarcus Aldridge to Damian Lillard. Bringing a WNBA franchise back will not only give Portland more superstars, but also spearhead efforts for other leagues to have a competitive team in the Rose City. 

Toronto, Ontario, Canada 

If the NBA, Major League Baseball and MLS can expand into Canada, then so can the WNBA. It would take some time, but Toronto’s fanbase would benefit the most should the WNBA choose to explore this venture. With players such as University of Connecticut forward Aaliyah Edwards and former Husky legend Kia Nurse hailing from the Great White North, there should be no reason not to add a franchise that can play against and compete with the best teams in the United States. Canadians invented basketball (and hockey) and hosted the first ever NBA game, so it would be blasphemy if they did not get their own WNBA team to root for. 

Denver, Colorado 

Mile High madness. The Colorado Avalanche are the defending Stanley Cup champions after a powerful playoff run, and the Denver Nuggets have the most recent two-time MVP in Nikola Jokic. With the Denver Broncos picking up Russell Wilson and the state seeing an increase in population, now is the chance to add another winning team in the Rocky Mountains. 

These are some of the markets the WNBA should consider expanding into. Even if the market used to have a team, it is an amazing experience when a city gets a second chance. From Winnipeg to Washington D.C., the city embraces the team and never lets them leave. Again, this is just a hypothetical situation, but it would be nice to see the Connecticut Sun (and others) square up with teams in these cities at least once or twice a season.

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