Team Wilson may have defeated Team Stewart 134-112 in the 2022 WNBA All-Star Game, but the score was secondary to the event’s celebration of two eras. We got teary goodbyes to retiring legends Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles, while the next generation showed out, letting us know the league is in really good hands.
Per ESPN, All-Star MVP Kelsey Plum of the Las Vegas Aces tied Maya Moore’s All-Star Game scoring record with 30 points. Meanwhile, Sabrina Ionescu refused to let the game get close, finishing off Team Stewart with 19 points, and rookie Rhyne Howard was impressive, dropping 13 points in her first All-Star appearance.
“I think I’m getting out at the right time because they running too much. They jumping higher, they got too much energy and that’s definitely not something I’m trying to do in year 15,” Fowles said. “To see these girls flourish and think about what they’re going to be like in the next couple of years. I think it’s going to be amazing. They’re going to do really good things for our league. I just hope to see everybody flourish in their own way.”
“Rhyne is a beast. Becky [Hammon] and I were talking about Rhyne Howard and how she’s just different,” Parker added. “The way she moves, the way she pulls up. I know there’s little things that maybe the fans don’t see. But us players see the spin she puts on the ball when she’s laying it up. She’s different. I hope she’s not different against us on Tuesday, though.”
Now that I’ve spent enough time highlighting the next generation, let’s talk about that dunk from Syl. Yes, it’s her last All-Star Game, but Sylvia Fowles is still dunking. In the second quarter, as Fowles stole the ball and drove to the hoop, everyone in Wintrust Arena and those watching at home could feel it coming before Syl threw it down to a thunderous ovation from players and fans.
“I think I just heard the momentum of the crowd. I probably heard a couple of benches and seeing a couple of faces on the other team and I was like, just go for it,” Fowles said. “But it was just in the moment. I didn’t really think about it.”
Outside of the action and fireworks of the game, there were several tributes to honorary All-Star Brittney Griner. The Phoenix Mercury center has been wrongfully detained in Russia since Feb. 17, when police say they found vape cartridges containing hash oil in her luggage. The eight-time All-Star recently pleaded guilty to drug charges that could lead to a 10 year sentence. The WNBA champion would have to admit guilt for there to be any prisoner exchange or deal made for her release.
As the second half of the game began, all the players came out in jerseys with Griner’s name and No. 42 on them. They stood at center court to show united support for their teammate and friend.
“The WNBA has always done a great job of keeping what’s important…important. Obviously wearing the jersey is a small part in what we’re all doing and what we’re trying to do to bring her home,” Parker said. “Her wife sitting courtside, I can’t even imagine her family and what she’s going through. The entire weekend has been centered around how can we amplify our voices and get her back as soon as possible.”
All-Star weekend also provided news on the future of the WNBA. In a pre-game press conference on Sunday, commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced that the league will move to 40 games for the 2023 season. It will also provide charter flights for players during the finals, as well as a larger postseason bonus pool. The increase to $500,000 will “double what each player winning the championship receives,” per ESPN.
“I feel confident in how we’re doing at the league level,” Engelbert said.