I remember when the WNBA was announced. It was nothing short of revolutionary. While professional sports leagues for women was not a wholly new concept, one with the major backing this received was unheard of. The WNBA has had a constant TV presence from day 1, cards on a regular basis, media coverage, etc. It was instantly seen as a legitimate sports league. And it was successful. It still is.
But I've only ever watched two games of it, despite my love for basketball and...how can I put this without seeming creepy...fondness for the female form.
The whole concept lost me when they announced the team names. Instead of being their own, separate things, with their own identity, they were mostly all knockoffs of NBA team names. At least that's what I felt like it was when I was 13 and the league was forming up. It's a notion that I can't seem to shake even though I later found out almost if not every team is owned and operated by the NBA teams that I felt they were knocking off. Once the credibility was lost, it never could get it back...and every time I hear one of the "knockoff" names it grates on me like fingernails on a chalkboard.
I know it's me, and it's probably a rather stupid reason not to watch...but that's what it is. I know I'm doing a disservice to myself, as seeing the same players in the Olympics is fun to watch- they really put on a great show- and I KNOW I'm doing a disservice to the athletes by not giving them the time of day. I can't change who I am, though, and now this far into it, I'm almost afraid to start watching because....I'm afraid I'll like it and regret the missed opportunities of watching and collecting all these years. Gotta admit, actually typing it out makes it sound really rather stupid, to be honest.
It's success has led to other successes as well...there's now a Women's Professional Hockey League, which debuted in the 2015-16 season, and there is a women's professional soccer league, though I don't know the name of it as soccer really doesn't hold my interest. Could either of these leagues have come into being without the WNBA's success? Probably...but I'm sure it didn't hurt to have the WNBA pave the way and show that women's professional sports can succeed and be popular.
The WNBA has been getting cards since day one, although I have only a handful of the sets in my collection- every single one of them arrived in my collection via the mixed boxes I prefer to build my collection with. Rittenhouse Archives has had the WNBA license for several years but I don't have a single card of any of their issues in my collection. Rittenhouse generally does non-sports cards but have ventured into sports with the WNBA, and they also had the Indycar license for several years- none of those appear in my collection (yet) either, though one day they will.
These are the WNBA sets in my collection:
1998 Pinnacle: I believe this was the first WNBA set. It was the only professional basketball set Pinnacle produced under it's own aegis, the brand made one appearance in the NBA under the Panini ownership in 2013-14. This design is totally unique- every other WNBA set in my collection uses the same basic design as the NBA set of the same name/year. I have 7 of the cards in my collection.
1999 Hoops uses the NBA's 1998-99 Hoops design. It's not a favorite design of mine, but it gets the job done. This is my only card from the set, and was the first WNBA card I scanned, in 2010. I have misplaced the actual card and it's the only one I don't have in my small WNBA snaplock case.
I could swear I had a card or two that utilized the 2000-01 Ultra NBA design, but they don't appear in my files or on my website so it's possible they are missing somewhere, waiting to appear in a Lost & Found post.
Although my WNBA collection ends in 2002, some of the newer players DO appear in my collection. Topps has produced two Olympic sets, for the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, and both of them included WNBA players, even if their jerseys were "photoshopped" to be totally blank.
And finally, one can't write an overview of WNBA cards without including this final set. It's not a WNBA set, but it IS made of up future WNBA players and in fact was the first set to include WNBA players and no one from any other league or sport. It's the 1996 Topps USA Women's Basketball Team, which I purchased two packs of when the set was new.
Thanks for reading.