was named President of the Women's National Basketball Association in August 1996 and during her six years at the helm, the league has showcased the best and the brightest athletes in its realm, has doubled in size and has won over a broad and loyal fan base both at home and abroad.
The WNBA prepares to tipoff the 2002 WNBA Playoffs on Thursday, August 15. In the East, the Sting travel to Washington to battle the Mystics in first round action at 8 p.m. ET. In the West, the Storm make their first-ever playoff appearance against defending champs Los Angeles at 10 p.m. ET. Both games will be televised on ESPN2.
Ackerman chatt live on Thursday, August 15, just hours before the posteason begins. See what she had to say about the upcoming postseason, the Rookie of the Year candidates and more.
Val Ackerman: Thanks to all of our fans for your support through the regular season! Nearly 2.4 million of you came through our turnstiles this year, the most ever -- our fans in the WNBA are truly among the best in sports. Hope all of you will be tuning in when the 2002 WNBA Playoffs tip off starting at 7:30 p.m. ET tonight on ESPN2 -- it promises to be our most exciting postseason to date.
Sarah,Forest City,NC: Hi Val! Firstly, thank you for another great season. So what did you think about Lisa's dunk? Also, do you think it will eventually change the Womens game? Thanks.
Val Ackerman: I thought Lisa's dunk was tremendous, and represented another step forward in the evolution of women's basketball. We have several players in the WNBA who can dunk, and hopefully now that the ice has been broken, we'll have the opportunity to see the dunk happen again.
Sarah,Forest City,NC: Hi Val! As a diehard Sting fan I was wondering if you could comment on the state of the Sting as far as keeping them in Charlotte? Thanks. Save Our Sting!
Val Ackerman: It has been a challenge to operate the Sting in Charlotte this summer without the support of the NBA Hornets, but we have been pleased with the fan support for the Sting, and our hope is that we will be able to find a way to keep the Sting in Charlotte beyond this season. We'll know more about the prospects after the season has ended and we have the chance to explore our options.
Sarah-Indiana: Who do you think should get Rookie of the Year? Me? Catchings!!!
Val Ackerman: We've seen outstanding performances this summer from the rookie class -- we couldn't have asked for more from Tamika, Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Stacey Dales-Schuman, Nikki Teasley, Asjha Jones and the others from this truly remarkable class of newcomers. Tamika has done an incredible job, and it's very exciting for the league that both her team and Sue Bird's team have advanced to the playoffs for the first time in their respective histories. We plan to announce the Rookie of the Year tomorrow, so stay tuned.
Dr. Julian Ricks: I must say I have enjoyed the WNBA and the quality of play. Since its inception, it appears that the skill level is currently very high. What do you think the coming years will produce in terms of skill?
Val Ackerman: The rookie classes of the past two years have shown that the talent level of players coming in to the WNBA just seems to get better and better with each passing year. I believe that our game has dramatically changed since the first season, and there's no question in my mind that the WNBA and women's pro basketball will only become more competitive and more exciting with each passing year. There are some very talented new players on the horizon -- our teams are already buzzing about Nicole Powell, Alana Beard and Diana Taurasi, and the next Lisa Leslie or Tamika Catchings may still be in grammar school, for all we know! So, the prospects for the future of the league are clearly very bright.
Blake Sanger: America faces economic troubles. Does the WNBA suffer any economic problems? What team has had the most increase in attendence this year?
Val Ackerman: We were very pleased with our attendance during the regular season this year. We averaged in excess of 9,000 fans per game for the sixth straight season, and we remain hopeful that our overall attendance will continue to improve over time. We've been especially pleased with the progress we've made in L.A., Sacramento, Seattle and Washington, which are among the nine teams that posted attendance increases this season.
Sanger Holly: San Antonio wants a WNBA team, what are the odds that an existing team will relocate there, and what other cities are considering getting a team?
Val Ackerman: San Antonio is very close to achieving its required season ticket deposit benchmark (6,000), and so we are very confident that we will have a team there next summer. Our hope is that the team will be an expansion team as opposed to a relocated team, but that decision will be made some time this fall. I expect that we will have a team in the Bay Area in the near future, and there is a possibility that we will have teams in non-NBA markets at some point as well.
Indianapolis: Explain players being traded from one team to another. Does money change hands? Do the players have a choice on being traded? Do they have a choice on what cities they go to?
Val Ackerman: Trades are a very common way for professional sports teams to make roster changes, and WNBA player contracts provide our teams with these rights as well. The trades in the WNBA typically involve players, draft picks or some combination, but not cash. We had some trades in the WNBA this past year that may well have an impact in our playoffs, including the trade that brought Sonja Henning to Houston and the trade that brought Kate Starbird to Seattle.
Howell, NJ: Why are the N.Y. Liberty deemed to have the first place position in the Eastern Conference after the regular season, when the Charlotte Sting finished with the same overall record of 18-14, but Charlotte has the better conference record (NY:11-10, CHA 12-9)?
Val Ackerman: New York secured first place despite having the same record as Charlotte because our first tiebreaker is the records of the teams against each other. New York was 2-1 against Charlotte.
Jamell(Valley Stream, NY): Hi Val. I wanted to know why the WNBA playoff format is the top-seeded team starts on the road first. I don't feel its fair the teams like Charlotte, New York, Los Angeles and Houston work hard all year to start the playoffs on the road. Why doesn't the league change it to the top0-seeded team gets home court in Game 1 and the lower seeded team gets home court Game 2?
Val Ackerman: In the second and third rounds of our playoffs, Games 2 and 3 fall on back-to-back days, which makes travel between those games difficult if not impossible. The reason the games are on back-to-back days is because of the television windows that our networks have made available to us to cover the games. The most practical way to address the format has been to allow the lesser seed to start at home, and then ensure that if the series goes to a third and deciding game, the higher seed would have the home court advantage in that game. That has resulted in the higher seed getting both Games 2 and 3 at home. I think this format has created an additional level of excitement, but believe it will be changed at some point in the future as part of the process of lengthening our season and the number of available days we have to build the schedule.
CAROLYN/DC: MS. ACKERMAN...BEING AN GREAT FAN OF THE WNBA...AND NOT HAVING ACCESS TO ALL THE OTHER CABLE STATIONS, PLEASE TELL ME WHY DID THE WNBA LEAVE "LIFETIME TV"... IT WAS ALWAYS GREAT TO WATCH THE OTHER TEAMS AND BE ABLE TO ACESS THE ABILITY OF EACH PLAYER...WILL THEY BE RETURNING TO LIFETIME??????
Val Ackerman: Lifetime has been an original WNBA television partner and carried games for the first four season. Beginning last season, we and Lifetime mutually agreed that the network would no longer carry games but would instead air a weekly magazine show entitled "Player's Journal," which focuses on the off-court lives and interests of our players. The show has been very successful, and we hope to continue it going forward. We recently announced our new television arrangements that will begin with the 2003 season -- ABC will become our new network partner, and our coverage on ESPN/ESPN2 will continue, which is very good news. We are also excited to have Oxygen as a new television partner -- they televise a weekly package of games for us during the regular season and may be televising some of the Game 3's during the upcoming playoffs. Viewers of the Oxygen network are primarily female, and we believe our relationship will allow us to reach our female fans in a broader way.
Val Ackerman: Thanks for all of your questions and, most of all, your interest in the WNBA. Stay tuned for a great finish to what's already been a teriffic season!