As the Shock get set to start their inaugural season in Tulsa, some fans may be wondering what the Shock and the WNBA are all about. This is part one of a three-part series taking an in depth look at the history of the WNBA and the Shock, complete with a preview of the 2010 season. Part two (on Friday) will give a detailed look at each team, while part three (on Saturday) will introduce you to the Tulsa Shock franchise.
The WNBA was founded in 1996 as the women’s counterpart to the NBA, and began play in 1997. The league began with eight teams, all owned by the NBA. Original teams included the Charlotte Sting, Cleveland Rockers, Houston Comets, New York Liberty, Los Angeles Sparks, Phoenix Mercury, Sacramento Monarchs and Utah Starzz.
In 2002 the NBA sold franchises, allowing individual ownership for teams that were not purchased by NBA teams in the same cities. That year franchises in Utah and Orlando relocated to San Antonio and Connecticut respectively. Two teams eventually folded because new ownership could not be found.
The Houston Comets won the first four league championships, defeating the New York Liberty in three out of the four championship match-ups. The Los Angeles Sparks won back-to-back titles in 2001 and 2002, before the Detroit (now Tulsa) Shock picked up three of the next six championships.
The Phoenix Mercury are the defending champions, after defeating the Indiana Fever in a best-of-five-game series. Houston’s four championships is the most of any team, while the Shock’s three ranks second. The Sparks and Mercury each have two championships to their credits.
Houston Comets- 4 (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000), Detroit Shock- 3 (2003, 2006, 2008), Los Angeles Sparks- 2 (2001, 2002), Phoenix Mercury- 2 (2007, 2009), Seattle Storm- 1 (2004), Sacramento Monarchs- 1 (2005).
Charlotte Sting 1997-2006 (folded), Cleveland Rockers 1997-2003 (folded), Detroit Shock 1998-2009 (relocated to Tulsa), Houston Comets 1997-2008 (folded), Miami Sol 2000-2002 (folded), Orlando Miracle 1999-2002 (relocated to Connecticut), Portland Fire 2000-2002 (folded), Sacramento Monarchs 1997-2009 (folded), Utah Starzz 1997-2002 (relocated to San Antonio).
Phoenix, San Antonio, Los Angeles and Seattle reached the playoffs from the Western Conference while Indiana, Washington, Detroit and Atlanta were the representatives for the Eastern Conference. Phoenix and Indiana reached the finals where the Mercury picked up their second league championship. Former University of Connecticut standout Diana Taurasi won the Finals MVP Award as she led Phoenix to the title.
The top four teams from each conference move on into the playoffs and are seeded by their regular season records. The top seeded team plays number four and second and third play each other in the opening quarter-final round. The quarter-finals are a best-of-three-games format, with the first team to win two games advancing to the conference finals.
The conference finals retain a best-of-three format with winner from each conference moving on to play a best-of-five series to determine the champion.