It's time to savor the glory of the home team's blowout victory over the other Washington, sweeping the championship in three games, and the opportunity to cheer some of the world's greatest athletes.
All hail the Seattle Storm, a remarkable and inspiring team carrying the victory banner for professional sports in Washington state.
In addition to providing incredible basketball, entertainment and role models, the Storm is building excitement for the ongoing growth of professional sports in the Puget Sound region. It bodes well for the $700 million reconstruction of KeyArena that its first committed pro-sports tenant has three national titles — and potentially more — before it reopens in late 2020.
While the WNBA doesn’t yet draw as many viewers as other leagues, it’s right on pace for a 22-year-old startup league, with a fan base comparable to the NBA, MLB and NHL in their early decades, according to David Berri, an economics professor at Southern Utah University who studies sports.
“My expectation is that in 30, 40 years people will be like ‘this is a phenomenal league’ and everybody will be a WNBA fan,” he said. “That’s how these leagues progress. It just takes a really long time.”
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Seattle can bring more to this incubation than a winning team and committed ownership.
The city is a laboratory of sorts for progressive workplace values, including family-leave and minimum-wage policies, so it could play a role in advocating for WNBA players to receive better pay.
These pros earn far less than male counterparts, with a pay scale comparable to that of K-12 teachers in Washington state, from $40,000 for rookies to maximum regular-season salary of $115,500 per year. Many WNBA players support themselves by competing during the off-season in better-paying leagues in Europe and Asia, taking a toll on their bodies with year-round play.
As the WNBA grows and evolves, Seattle’s rebuilt arena should be prepared to accommodate potential changes to the WNBA season. That could include a longer season or one that more closely overlaps the NBA. The WNBA now plays 34 games per season, less than half as many as the NBA.
But for now let’s savor the glory of the home team’s blowout victory over the other Washington, sweeping the championship series in three games, and the opportunity to cheer some of the world’s greatest basketball players.