The 2021 WNBA All-Star Game will be like none before. In a new format, the 12 players who are set to compete for Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics will play against the 12 All-Stars, who were selected by WNBA head coaches from a pool of 36 following media, player, and fan votes. The game will tip on July 14 at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN in Las Vegas, which is the site of Team USA’s men’s and women’s basketball exhibition tours.
Team USA’s roster includes Ariel Atkins, Sue Bird, Tina Charles, Napheesa Collier, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Chelsea Gray, Sylvia Fowles, Brittney Griner, Jewell Loyd, Breanna Stewart, Diana Taurasi, and A’ja Wilson. They will be coached by Dawn Staley.
The WNBA All-Star roster: DeWanna Bonner, Liz Cambage, Kahleah Copper, Dearica Hamby, Brionna Jones, Jonquel Jones, Betnijah Laney, Arike Ogunbowale, Candace Parker, Satou Sabally, Courtney Vandersloot, and Courtney Williams. They will be co-head coached by Lisa Leslie and Tina Thompson.
Here’s a few reasons why you should be excited for Wednesday’s game.
1. This is probably the best competition Team USA will have all summer
Team USA’s women’s basketball team is super stacked. Like absurdly loaded. There’s a reason they’re pursuing a seventh consecutive gold medal. Who has the size, talent, and range to contain Griner, Stewart, Wilson, Charles, Fowles, and Taurasi?
The answer might only be the All-Star team, which is stocked with a couple players who could give Team USA serious trouble, including Parker, Cambage, Jones and Bonner. There’s an argument to be made for the All-Star’s starting five as a better group than the Olympic team’s five depending on how the coaches decide to stagger players.
Regardless of who starts, if the players take this game seriously, it should be one hell of a competition.
2. Candace Parker gets to play against Team USA
Parker, who won gold medals in 2008 and 2012 with Team USA, two WNBA MVPs, and a WNBA championship has nothing left to prove. But it’s no secret she shares no love for USA Basketball after she was inexplicably cut from the roster in 2016.
Though she has no beef with the players on the team, she recently spoke against the program after another controversial decision was made to cut her former Sparks teammate, Nneka Ogwumike, who is now the only WNBA MVP to not play in the Olympics.
— Chris Williamson (@CWilliamson44) June 23, 2021
It’ll be fun to see if Parker treats this opportunity as something more than an All-Star Game.
3. This is an audition for several Team USA hopefuls
While Parker’s interest in competing for Team USA is long gone, some of her teammates will be hoping their game is recognized.
Arike Ogunbowale, Betnijah Laney, Kahleah Copper, Brionna Jones and more could be in competition to make the cut in 2024. With this year’s version of Team USA set to be one of the oldest, there could be a couple of openings in three years.
4. We get to see MVP frontrunner Jonquel Jones play against the best team in the world
There’s no pressure for Jones to do anything other-worldly against Team USA, but it’d be a real statement if she’s able to stand-out. Jones is having a ridiculously great season, averaging 21.1 points on 54.2 percent shooting from the field and 44.8 percent shooting from 3-point range with 10.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.2 blocks with just 2.9 turnovers. That’s after she dominated at EuroBasket in June.
This is a massive stage for one of the game’s quickest risers. Remember she was the WNBA’s Most Improved Player just four years ago.
5. We get to watch Breanna Stewart and A’ja Wilson play on the same team
The last two WNBA MVPs on the floor at the same time! Heck yeah!
Stewart and Wilson have quickly risen as the faces of the league and the stars of the two best teams in the WNBA, and now we’ll get to see them shred competition together. Cherish opportunities to watch greatness like this, because it won’t happen often. Though hopefully, this is just the first of many Olympic showings for the pair.