Rookies Brittney Griner, the 6-foot-8 Phoenix center, and Elena Delle Donne, the 6-5 Chicago forward, did their job in drawing more fans to WNBA seats and telecasts for the 2013 season. Delle Donne’s Sky saw a 17 percent increase in attendance from the averaged 5,573 fans Chicago drew in 2012.
Phoenix saw a 9 percent bump from its 7,815 in 2012 while the Indiana Fever was third in increased attendance, up 8 percent from its 7,582 average in 2012. The WNBA conveniently stopped providing the hardcore averages for its attendance this season — percentages without reference to actual numbers does look better in print, you know — so it surmised its total attendance saw a 1 percent increase overall. The league averaged 7,457 fans in 2012, an all-time low.
Because I have a calculator and time, the Storm, sans All-Stars Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson, averaged 6,980 fans in 2013. In Seattle, where KeyArena’s environment and fans are the envy of the WNBA, the figure is a dramatic dip from the 7,489 fans in 2012 – which ranked seventh in the WNBA. The Storm’s best season remains its inaugural one in 2000 when it averaged 8,912. But since Force 10 Hoops purchased the team in 2008, the Storm has averaged more than 8,000 fans in three seasons (2008, 2010, 2011).
I blame this season’s dip more on a failure to market more than Bird and Jackson in the past, fans not knowing players like G Tanisha Wright, F Camille Little and the addition of F Tina Thompson are worth seeing, too, hence the 10th consecutive playoff berth. But I digress.
It’s not doom and gloom for the Internet is here! Again without reference, the league said its WNBA.com site experienced double-digit growth in daily visits, total visits and total page views. The bargain price of $10 bucks for a whole season of live and on-demand games, news releases and interviews online via WNBA LiveAccess saw a 24 percent increase in unique viewers and each team’s Twitter and Instagram sites saw significant bumps in followers — I monitored that one because I’m a voyeur like that (right, Temeka Johnson?!).
So, you’re all in and want to link up with others like you but live in Barcelona? Well, hop on America’s best gift to the world — Twitter. The postseason begins Thursday with a best-of-three opening round series in No. 3 seed Washington at No. 2 seed Atlanta at 5pm (PT) on ESPN2. It’ll be followed by No. 3 seed Phoenix at No. 2 seed Los Angeles at 7pm (PT) on the station.
The fourth-seeded Storm kicks off its best-of-three opening round series against top-seeded Minnesota on Friday at 6pm (PT) on NBA-TV. No. 4 seed Indiana, the 2012 WNBA champions, play at No. 1 seed Chicago at 4pm (PT) on NBA-TV.
ESPN and ESPN2 will air up to 17 playoff games, including exclusive coverage of the Eastern and Western Conference Finals and the WNBA Finals 2013 Presented by Boost Mobile. Overall, NBA-TV will air up to six games with Game 3, if necessary, between No. 4 seed Indiana and No. 1 seed Chicago being assigned when needed.
If watching the various telecasts, to join the virtual conversation with your favorite team (or harass the opponent, a personal fave of mine), use the following hastags with your tweets. I’ve also provided the eight playoff teams’ Twitter accounts for updates. You can also follow the league (@WNBA) for a broader picture and use #WNBAPlayoffs or #WNBAFinals for those conversations.
Last season #FeverFinals was trending nationally during periods of Indiana’s 3-1 series win against Minnesota to win its first WNBA title.
The hastags work the same on Instagram. The accounts there are often the same, too, in @IndianaFever, @seattlestorm, @chicagosky, @atlantadream, @losangelessparks, @minnesotalynx, @phoenixmercury and @officialwashingtonmystics.
Here are you conversation starters:
@MinnesotaLynx: #LosLynx (the coolest hastag in sports. They even have t-shirts)
@PhoenixMercury: #RunWithUs and #BeatLA (this one goes for all of us, doesn’t it?)
@LA_Sparks: #GoSparks and #BeatPHX (LA shares it already plans to change this for later rounds. Read: They’ve already won the first-round. Fightin’ words!)
@AtlantaDream: #RWTD (a welcomed acronym for “Run With The Dream,” which gobbled up Twitter’s allotted 140-characters)
@IndianaFever: #FeverPlayoffs and #BeThere
@WNBAChicagoSky: #FightFocusFinish (Sky F Swin Cash, a social-media maven who already dubbed Storm fans “StormCrazies,” which can be used to talk amongst them at #StormCrazies, is also getting #SkyHigh trending among Chicago fans. Does her talent end? #Nope)