WNBA’s 2008 Schedule: Season Tips Off May 17

- �WNBA Tuesdays� On ESPN2 To Highlight National Broadcasts -
- Game Schedule Will Break In August For 2008 Olympics In Beijing -

Taj McWilliams-Franklin and the Sparks will tip off the 2008 WNBA regular season against Cappie Pondexter and the defending champion Mercury on May 17 in Phoenix.
Barry Gossage/NBAE/Getty Images
NEW YORK, Dec. 13, 2007 � The Women's National Basketball Association will tip off its 12th season of play on Saturday, May 17, as 12 of the league's 14 teams square off on opening day. The WNBA's 2008 season tip off will be highlighted by Lisa Leslie's much-anticipated return to the court when the Los Angeles Sparks take on Diana Taurasi and the defending champion Phoenix Mercury. The Sparks-Mercury contest will air at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC, marking the first of eight weekend telecasts on ABC during the regular season.

Earlier this year, the WNBA and ESPN announced an eight-year extension of their agreement to have ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 televise WNBA games through the 2016 season. This agreement, reached in a year when the WNBA delivered increased regular- and post-season attendance, increased postseason TV viewership, increased Web traffic on WNBA.com and strong support from business partners, reinforced ESPN's long-term commitment to the WNBA as a valuable television property. The extension -- which gives ESPN enhanced digital rights to the WNBA and also guarantees increased promotion of the WNBA on ESPN -- runs through the WNBA's 20th season.

For the third straight year, ESPN2 will feature "WNBA Tuesdays" as the appointment viewing destination for WNBA fans. ESPN2 will televise "WNBA Tuesdays" for nine weeks during the 2008 regular season, beginning with a May 20 telecast featuring a Western Conference match up between the Sacramento Monarchs and Seattle Storm. Combined WNBA coverage on ABC and ESPN2 will include 21 national telecasts in 2008, while NBA TV, the league's 24-hour television network, will offer 70 regular season contests.

"We eagerly anticipate what 2008 has in store for the WNBA, with a phenomenal draft class, stronger team rivalries, expanded coverage on ESPN2, and a global stage on which the WNBA's elite will compete in the Olympics," said WNBA President Donna Orender. "The WNBA continues to grow and showcase the best women's basketball in the world. After the excitement and competition last season and throughout the WNBA Playoffs, we can't wait to tip off the 2008 season."

With more than 25 players expected to compete for the gold during the 2008 Olympic Games held in Beijing, China (August 8-24), the league has not scheduled any games between July 28 - August 27. Instead, the WNBA season will be extended by three weeks so WNBA players can represent their home countries in the 2008 Olympic Games. Similar to the 2004 season that also saw a break in the schedule for the Olympics, WNBA teams and players will remain active in the communities while on hiatus from regular season action. Players not competing in the Olympics will participate in a variety of community-based events and activities designed to give fans a unique opportunity to interact with their favorite WNBA teams.

Following the 2008 Olympic Games, in which the United States looks to earn its fourth consecutive Olympic gold medal in women's basketball, the WNBA will tip off the second half of the season on August 28. The regular season schedule concludes on September 14 with the playoffs scheduled to begin on September 18. The complete 2008 regular season and national broadcast schedule follows.

As previously announced, a new franchise in Atlanta will begin play in 2008, bringing to 14 the total number of WNBA teams. The yet-to-be-named Atlanta team will compete in the Eastern Conference with the Connecticut Sun, Chicago Sky, Detroit Shock, Indiana Fever, New York Liberty and Washington Mystics while the Houston Comets, Los Angeles Sparks, Minnesota Lynx, Phoenix Mercury, Sacramento Monarchs, San Antonio Silver Stars and Seattle Storm square off in the Western Conference. Each team will play in-conference opponents three or four times next season and out-of-conference opponents on two occasions.

About the WNBA
The WNBA will feature 14 teams in 2008, with the Eastern and Western Conferences comprised of seven teams each. Atlanta will join the Chicago Sky, Connecticut Sun, Detroit Shock, Indiana Fever, New York Liberty and Washington Mystics in the Eastern Conference, while the Houston Comets, Los Angeles Sparks, Minnesota Lynx, Phoenix Mercury, Sacramento Monarchs, San Antonio Silver Stars and Seattle Storm will continue to comprise the Western Conference.

Including the new Atlanta franchise, six WNBA teams are owned and operated independently of the NBA. The Mohegan Tribe became the first independent ownership group when it purchased the Connecticut Sun in 2003. In February 2005, Michael Alter purchased the expansion Chicago Sky (which began play in 2006) while the Washington Mystics were sold to Sheila Johnson (Lincoln Holdings, LLC), in 2005. In December 2006, Katherine Goodman and Carla Christofferson bought the Los Angeles Sparks, while Houston businessman Hilton Koch purchased the Houston Comets in January 2007.

The WNBA enjoyed one of its most successful seasons ever in 2007 with increased regular season attendance, a new postseason attendance record and Finals viewership on ESPN2 that was up 12 percent vs. 2006. Spectacular performances from the world's best women's basketball players highlighted the WNBA's 11th season. The Storm's Lauren Jackson tied a league record for points in a game (47) and also became the youngest player ever to reach 4,000 career points en route to earning league MVP honors, while the Mercury's Diana Taurasi scored 30-or-more points per game a league-record 10 times. Led by 2007 All-Stars Taurasi, Cappie Pondexter and Penny Taylor, the Mercury capped the most exciting WNBA season ever by defeating the defending champion Detroit Shock in five games in the WNBA Finals.