- ESPN Platforms to Document Brittney Griner’s Return to the Court with Phoenix Mercury’s First Two Games on ESPN & ESPN+
- ESPN’s New Regular Season WNBA Countdown Pregame Show Debuts Ahead of Saturday Doubleheader; On-Site Sunday from Mercury’s Home Opener
ESPN, which has presented the WNBA since the league’s inception in 1997, will once again feature a full slate of regular season games presented by Google during its 27th season, in addition to being the exclusive home of the entire WNBA postseason. Regular season coverage begins this week in earnest with the WNBA Tip Off Presented by CarMax weekend schedule of four games, May 19-21, across ESPN platforms, including the first-ever WNBA games on ESPN+.
WNBA Tip-Off weekend begins Friday, May 19, when six-time WNBA All-Star Brittney Griner – who missed the entire 2022 season due to her wrongful detainment in Russia – returns to the court alongside Diana Taurasi when the Phoenix Mercury travels to Los Angeles to take on the Sparks. The game will air on ESPN at 11 p.m. ET and be simulcast on ESPN+, the leading sports streaming service’s first WNBA game. Veteran play-by-play voice Mark Jones, Hall of Famer Rebecca Lobo and Curt Gowdy Award recipient Holly Rowe will be on the call.
Saturday, May 20, will feature an ABC doubleheader when 2022 Rookie of the Year Rhyne Howard and the Atlanta Dream meet the Dallas Wings lead by Natasha Howard and Arike Ogunbowale at 1 p.m., followed by reigning MVP A’ja Wilson and 2022 WNBA Champions Las Vegas facing the Seattle Storm at 3 p.m. Tiffany Greene, Monica McNutt and Ros Gold-Onwude will call the action in Dallas while Pam Ward, Sports Emmy nominee Andraya Carter and Rowe will have the call in Seattle. The first regular season edition of ESPN’s WNBA Countdown Presented by Google pre-game show will precede the doubleheader at 12:30 p.m. on ABC, hosted by LaChina Robinson alongside Hall of Famer Carolyn Peck.
On Sunday, May 21, ESPN and ESPN+ will feature the Mercury’s home opener against the Chicago Sky at 4 p.m. as Griner plays her first home game in Phoenix. ESPN’s lead WNBA team of Ryan Ruocco, Lobo and Rowe will call the game, while WNBA Countdown will be live from Footprint Arena – on-site at a WNBA regular season game for the first time – at 3 p.m. on ESPN and ESPN+ with Robinson, Peck and Carter. (Of note: Rowe will cover the sidelines for three of ESPN’s four WNBA Tip-Off weekend games.)
Additional offerings for the Phoenix Mercury games Friday and Sunday include Layup Lines (pregame feed showing teams in layup lines during warmups) and Above the Rim (in-game camera feed from above the rim) feeds on ESPN3. This will be the first time this offering is available on WNBA game telecast with additional opportunities to come throughout the season.
ESPN will utilize a WNBA Finals-level production complement – more than a dozen cameras – for both Mercury games to document Griner’s return. Coverage will include behind-the-scenes moments with her teammates before she takes the court, crowd reactions and all the in-game action.
WNBA Countdown Presented by Google, which debuted during the 2022 postseason, will be part of ESPN’s regular season coverage for the first time in 2023 with 11 planned shows – offering pregame shows for more than half of the regular season dates across ESPN platforms. As part of ESPN’s continued effort to expand its WNBA storytelling, Countdown will feature a Robinson-led segment titled Off Day Presented by Google, highlighting the lives of players on and off the court.
Throughout the season, ESPN’s in-game presentation will also lean heavily into access with live audio from mic’d players and coaches, first and third quarter player interviews and enhanced storytelling elements. In addition, ESPN’s entire WNBA presentation will be elevated by a new WNBA graphics and animation package developed by ESPN Creative Studio.
A year ago, the WNBA on ESPN Presented by Google had its best regular season in 14 years – since 2008. The 25 games across ESPN platforms in 2022 averaged 372,000 viewers, a 20 percent increase over the prior year.
Season Long Multiplatform Coverage & Support for the W
ESPN’s WNBA digital/social pregame show, WNBA Hoop Streams Presented by Google, will return for the 2023 season with the first show dropping on Friday, May 19, at 10:30 p.m., on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and the ESPN App. Sam Ravech will host this edition with Terrika Foster-Brasby and Harry Lyles. Christine Williamson will serve as the regular host throughout the season, alongside Foster-Brasby and other recurring talent.
Around the Rim, ESPN’s WNBA digital show, will launch its eighth season on Wednesday, May 17, hosted by Robinson and Foster-Brasby. The weekly video show aims to document the league while telling its stories, amplifying its voices and celebrating its history. Around the Rim is available on YouTube and in the ESPN App. New episodes will drop every Wednesday throughout the season.
NBA Today, ESPN’s weekday NBA show (3 p.m., ESPN), will continue its extensive coverage of the WNBA and Griner’s return to the game. On Thursday, May 18, host Malika Andrews will sit with WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert to discuss the league entering its 27th season. On Monday, May 22, the show will recap opening weekend while active L.A. Sparks player and NBA Today analyst Chiney Ogumike will continue to join the show throughout the season.
SportsCenter will deploy veteran reporter Michele Steele to cover Griner and the Mercury in the lead up to Friday night’s season opener. Steele will be on site in Phoenix to cover Mercury practices on Wednesday and Thursday and in Los Angeles on Friday. SportsCenter will also have coverage for Phoenix’s home opener on Sunday. In addition, ESPN’s flagship news program will run WNBA-focused segments throughout the week, including:
- Robinson will lead a WNBA season primer focused on the biggest storylines and highlights to watch in the upcoming season.
- Countdown to WNBA Opening Day, featuring Lobo, will analyze one team of interest each day leading into opening weekend (M-F: Phoenix Mercury, Indiana Fever, Las Vegas Aces, New York Liberty and Washington Mystics).
All season, ESPN Social will promote upcoming games using compelling storytelling around players, coaches and teams, while also highlighting the excitement in and around the league through live event coverage. Tip off weekend highlights will include: WNBA Duos graphic featuring all 12 WNBA teams, Brittney Griner storytelling, a WNBA Opening Day Group Chat, and a trending TikTok execution.
ESPN’s digital coverage continues to count down toward the start of the season with a number of pieces previewing 2023, including M.A. Voepel’s Power Rankings (to be updated every Monday all season), how the Atlanta Dream rebuilt a broken franchise, how good the Phoenix Mercury might be with Brittney Griner back and a healthy Diana Taurasi, as well as a look at where WNBA expansion stands.
Additional ESPN.com stories planned for opening week:
- Diana Taurasi takes reporter Josh Weinfuss inside the workout regimen that is designed to keep her on the court at almost 41 years old of age.
- Alexa Philippou writes about how the New York Liberty brought in Jonquel Jones, Breanna Stewart and Courtney Vandersloot to win the offseason and create a superteam.
- Kevin Pelton joins Voepel and Philippou in ESPN’s ranking of the top 25 players in the WNBA, which will be updated each month of the regular season.
- Last season saw an explosion in triple-doubles. Philippou and ESPN break down why the numbers are on the rise, how the league and its players have evolved and who is primed to tally them this year.
- ESPN’s experts answer the biggest questions heading into the season and make their predictions for MVP, 2023 champ, Rookie of the Year, all-league teams and more.
Additionally, Voepel will be live on site in Los Angeles when the season opens Friday, covering Griner’s first game back as the Sparks host the Mercury. Voepel will also be on hand Sunday when the Mercury host the Chicago Sky. Weinfuss will also cover Phoenix’s home opener.
Andscape, ESPN’s website devoted to sports, race, culture, HBCUs and more, will once again provide editorial coverage and features throughout the WNBA season. Award-winning writer Bill Rhoden recently wrote a column about Brittney Griner’s return to the WNBA. The site’s opening week content will include:
- Sean Hurd’s profile of Seattle Storm coach Noelle Quinn
- Ken Makin’scommentary on how the women’s basketball community has rallied around WNBA draftee Brea Beal in response to shortsighted comments directed at her by Minnesota Lynx writers.
- Aaron Dodsonand Nick DePaula update their 2021 piece on the complete history of signature sneakers in the WNBA
- A women’s basketball graduation photo diary featuring players Demi Washington (Vanderbilt), Ariel Young (UNC), Destiny Littleton (USC) and Taylor Soule (Minnesota). Hurd writes the piece, which is supplemented with narratives about the journey of each player.
- A commentary piece fromSharon Brown on the lack of Black WNBA players with signature sneaker deals.
Get in the game with Fantasy Women’s Basketball. It’s not too late to sign up! Fans can create or join a league to compete against friends, family, or coworkers and dominate with their favorite WNBA stars. Go to espn.com/fantasywomensbasketball or download the ESPN Fantasy App to get started today.
WNBA Tip Off promotion began May 8th across ESPN platforms, including placements in NBA Playoff broadcasts on ABC. This season’s marketing support will build upon ESPN’s We’re All About It creative platform, with a focus on elevating the season’s biggest storylines. With illustrations from artist WalkerTKL and Judith Hill’s Soul as the featured music, the distinctive campaign highlights the League’s emerging and current stars with an energy that matches the action to come all season long.
An additional TV spot was created to honor Brittney Griner’s return to the court. This will run in promotion of her first game on May 19th and her first home court appearance May 21st.
Notable brands continue to recognize the value of WNBA on ESPN offerings. Google returns as the presenting sponsor of the WNBA on ESPN regular season, WNBA Countdown, WNBA Hoop Streams and the WNBA Playoffs, while YouTube returns as the WNBA Finals presenting sponsor. AT&T is on board as the WNBA All-Star entitlement sponsor with KIA filling the same role for the WNBA Skills Challenge. Starry joins as the entitlement sponsor for the WNBA 3-Point contest.
WNBA on ESPN Opening Weekend Schedule (May 19-21):
|Fri, May 19
|Hoop Streams Presented by Google
Sam Ravech, Terrika Foster-Brasby, Harry Lyles
|ESPN App, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook
|Phoenix Mercury at L.A. Sparks
Mark Jones, Rebecca Lobo, Holly Rowe
|Sat, May 20
|WNBA Countdown Presented by Google
LaChina Robinson, Carolyn Peck
|Atlanta Dream at Dallas Wings
Tiffany Greene, Monica McNutt, Ros Gold Onwude
|Las Vegas Aces at Seattle Storm
Pam Ward, Andraya Carter, Holly Rowe
|Sun, May 21
|WNBA Countdown Presented by Google
LaChina Robinson, Andraya Carter, Carolyn Peck
|Chicago Sky vs. Phoenix Mercury
Ryan Ruocco, Rebecca Lobo, Holly Rowe