Team USA will face the WNBA All-Stars in Las Vegas on July 14.
By Alex Holmes
The 2021 WNBA All-Star Game will have a slightly different and more exciting feel to it this year. Rather than playing the trademark light-hearted, offensive showcase between two evenly split teams, this year’s All-Star Game will pit the WNBA All-Stars against Tokyo-bound Team USA. Here are three reasons why you should tune in to this year’s WNBA All-Star Game (Wednesday, July 14, at 7 P.M. on ESPN).
#1. Team USA’s Send-Off
Dawn Staley’s Olympic team will actually play in two more games against Australia and Nigeria prior to departing for Tokyo, but Wednesday evening’s showdown with the WNBA All-Stars will serve as the first of Team USA’s send-off games. Team USA will face off against an All-Star squad that could give the team tougher competition than anyone they will face at the Olympics.
Relative to past Olympic teams, this edition of Team USA has the most first-time Olympians since the 2012 squad welcomed five newcomers to the Olympic Games. Six of the twelve players on this year’s roster will make their Olympic debut, including Ariel Atkins, Napheesa Collier, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Chelsea Gray, Jewell Loyd, and A’ja Wilson.
It’s hard not to talk about the veterans on Team USA. Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, Tina Charles, and Sylvia Fowles may be playing in their last Olympics, so any chance you have to watch all four play on the same team should not be wasted.
Team USA will begin the quest for a seventh-straight gold medal on July 27 against Nigeria, who is ranked No. 17 in the world. The second group-stage game will be against hosts Japan on July 30, followed by a matchup with fifth-ranked France on August 2. The knockout phase starts on August 4, with the final slated for August 8.
#2. First-Time All-Stars
Due to the fact that 12 All-Star spots opened up because Team USA players were ineligible to be named to the All-Star roster, there is a plethora of exciting new players who will join this year’s All-Star Game.
The eight players making their All-Star Game debut are Kahleah Copper, Dearica Hamby, Brionna Jones, Betnijah Laney, Arike Ogunbowale, Satou Sabally, Courtney Williams, and first-time Olympian Ariel Atkins.
Copper and Laney have asserted themselves as top players in the league over the last two seasons. Copper leads Chicago in scoring and minutes per game, while Laney, the reigning Most Improved Player of the Year, is averaging a career-best 19.7 points per game and 5.3 assists per game with the New York Liberty.
Similar to Copper and Laney, Courtney Williams is in her sixth season with the WNBA and she is averaging a career-high 17.1 points per game for the Atlanta Dream.
Hamby has won the previous two WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year awards and is currently averaging double figure scoring for the Las Vegas Aces.
Jones, a former All-American at Maryland, is playing the best basketball of her career as she is averaging 14.4 points per game and 6.7 rebounds per game while also playing the most basketball of her career at 31.1 minutes per game.
After leading the league in scoring a season ago, Ogunbowale is fourth-best in league scoring at 20.3 points per game. When you think about future Olympians, she is certainly in the conversation.
#3. The Competition
The WNBA All-Star roster includes Candace Parker, DeWanna Bonner, and Jonquel Jones, among other top players. With the exception of Liz Cambage (Australia) and Satou Sabally (Germany), you could make a case as to why each player could have made Team USA’s Olympic roster.
Think about the All-Star squad’s backcourt against Team USA’s backcourt. Ogunbowale, Copper, Bonner, and Courtney Vandersloot will take on Bird, Taurasi, Gray, and Loyd. The frontcourt battle will set All-Star teammates Candace Parker and Liz Cambage against Sylvia Fowles and Tina Charles. Not to mention matchups at the three and four spots between All-Stars Jonquel Jones and Satou Sabally and Team USA’s Breanna Stewart and Napheesa Collier, just to name a few.
If you took the 12 players representing the WNBA All-Stars and placed them in the Olympic tournament, they could very well make a run to the gold medal match.The competition level in this game is set to be unmatched from All-Star Games in the past.
You don’t have to wait for the Olympics to see the world’s best basketball players take the court—tune in on July 14.
The 2021 WNBA All-Star Game will tip-off on Wednesday, July 14, at 7 P.M. on ESPN.