As attendance is going up in the WNBA this year, league stars recently announced plans to form a three-on-three league during the WNBA offseason.
Breanna Stewart and Napheesa Collier told ESPN on Thursday of plans to form a league called Unrivaled, which will feature 30 of the top players in the women's game. The league will consist of six teams with five players on each roster.
ESPN reported the games will be played in Miami.
The idea of the league would be to keep top domestic stars in the U.S. during their offseason. Currently, many top players head overseas in the winter as WNBA salaries fail to deliver the kinds of salaries afforded to NBA stars.
"The impetus for it is really we have women in this league that really assume and are empowered to take leadership roles and they're dynamic individuals," said Raegan Pebley, who previously played two seasons in the WNBA. "They also are thinking in a business mindset, and these are two women, Brianna and Napheesa, that are also mothers. And what we see with the WNBA is these players traditionally have to go overseas, they leave their families sometimes or have to navigate child care overseas and education for their kids overseas, and they wanna stay here."
The push to keep top stars domestically comes after Brittney Griner was detained for over nine months while playing in Russia. She was released after the Biden administration orchestrated a prisoner swap with the Russian government.
The players told ESPN they hope to raise enough money to pay players a salary similar to what they make during the WNBA season.
"I'm a homebody by nature. I love being home for the holidays," Collier told ESPN. "Being away from your family for six months, it's not easy. Then the idea of having a family trying to figure out child care overseas. That was kind of the main reason [for founding a new league]. But secondly, just the narrative around where the game is going right now. You have a lot of people, especially college players, saying that they would prefer to be in college than come to the league."
The players are also able to take advantage of the rising exposure and attendance for the league. So far this year, WNBA games are averaging 6,568 fans per game, which is up about 900 fans per game.
"There's incredible momentum and everyone's just trying to continue to ride this wave," Pebley said. "And as you can see the attendance in arena is growing, but also viewership, the eyes that are watching it. And I think just in general, the exposure is happening for this league."
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