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ESPN The Magazine’s WNBA20-Themed Issue on Newsstands Friday

For more coverage of the WNBA’s 20th season, visit espnw.com/WNBA20.

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The Mag’s Steve Wulf notes that the whole WNBA thing started 20 years ago with a ball that looked like breakfast (orange and oatmeal) and a slogan that made grammarians lose theirs: “We Got Next.” But as this issue makes clear, the legacy of the WNBA lies not in what it “got” but in what it “gave.” A chance for women to play pro hoops in the U.S., for fans to see a game grow bigger, faster and stronger. A procession of role models who’ve been paid, and accepted. Yes, the league has faced harsh financial realities brought on by irregular attendance, indifferent coverage, international competition for talent and inevitable comparisons with the men. But the WNBA has survived and evolved, dragging the rest of us along with it. Women’s basketball once was confined to half court. Now it’s played end to end—and meridian to meridian—and the WNBA, which opens its 20th season May 14, has played a huge role. By opening the eyes of fans a little wider with each passing season, the league has brightened the future for all female athletes. In other words, it got the “next” part right.

ON THE COVER: Current and former players come together to celebrate the WNBA’s 20th season, including Maya Moore, Elena Delle Donne, Tina Charles, Chiney Ogwumike, Breanna Stewart, Skylar Diggins, Sue Bird, Tina Thompson, Teresa Weatherspoon, Rebecca Lobo, Tamika Catchings and Katie Smith.

Issue highlights and features:

As Good as It Gets

In the WNBA, draft night is a big deal: The glitz, glamour, national TV coverage and attention are impressive. But if history is any indication, this year’s top pick, Breanna Stewart, might never be that popular again. Several former No. 1 picks talk about the expectations, pressure and attention of draft night compared with life after the big event. By Elizabeth Merrill

Moving the Ball Forward: An oral history of the WNBA

Some of the pioneers of the WNBA, among them Val Ackerman, David Stern, Adam Silver and Rebecca Lobo, reflect on what it was like during the league’s infancy. By Mechelle Voepel

Lost and Found in Russia

Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi both play in Russia during the offseason—in part because WNBA salaries just don’t cut it. In this piece, they talk about their relationship (Taurasi has become a mentor to Griner), successes and struggles. By Kate Fagan

The Art of the Crossover

Skylar Diggins is one of just a few players who don’t have to compete overseas to make more money, in part because she’s found a way to capitalize on ad opportunities while building her personal brand. But will her success actually help the league? By Mina Kimes

Open Court

The Washington Mystics’ Stefanie Dolson tells The Mag what it’s like to be an out player in the WNBA—a league that has started to embrace its LGBT fan base and is becoming a comfortable environment for its own players.

Season preview

From the title favorites—the Minnesota Lynx, again—to the No. 12 team (sorry, San Antonio), The Mag offers a look at how the franchises stack up for 2016. By Mechelle Voepel

Infographic

The Mag provides a statistical look at some of the nuts and bolts of WNBA play. Among the findings: the best offensive rebounders and 3-point shooters and the best overall players in the league. The piece also examines how play has changed over the WNBA’s history. By Seth Partnow, Kevin Pelton and Justin Willard

Also in this issue:

MLB: In an interview of Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, the slugger dishes on life in Los Angeles, how he’s faring under his new manager and his crazy arm strength. By Marly Rivera

Indy 500: The Mag looks at the ways the 100th running of the Indy 500 could prove even more historic. Plus, ESPN’s Nicole Briscoe and Ryan McGee talk speed vs. safety in an installment of SportsCenter on the Road.

NFL: Reche Caldwell, a former New England Patriots wide receiver, opens up about his wild journey from football fame to federal prison. By David Fleming

NBA: The Mag employs some deeper metrics to help explain which of the remaining playoff teams can best survive an injury to a star player.

The Numbers: Trading up in the NFL draft to acquire a marquee quarterback rarely pays off. Most of the time, teams that try this strategy end up compromising their future. By Peter Keating

The Truth: The WNBA’s 20th anniversary is a milestone for fans, players and the cultural commitment to women’s sports. The next goal? That women’s sports be allowed to exist on their own terms, independent of comparisons to men’s sports. Such comparisons are nothing more than a sinister method of constantly delegitimizing women, their place in sports and their right to play them without harassment, condescension and qualifiers. By Howard Bryant

Pop culture: Yes, Drake is a super-annoying sports fan. But the rapper is also a front-runner and always has been. And if we could, we’d live like Drake too. By Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib