In the most compelling WNBA season in memory, it’s only fitting that the All-Star Game, which tips on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC) at the Target Center in Minneapolis, will be extraordinary in its own right.
The annual gathering is a showcase, a tribute to both players and fans, and an opportunity to appreciate the players who have defined this extraordinary WNBA season. It’s also an incredible amount of fun.
Before landing in Minneapolis, let’s take a look at all of the things worth looking forward to in All-Star Weekend 2018.
Minnesota. The WNBA All-Star Game is an opportunity to reward some of the league’s best fan bases with the annual showcase game and no group of fans deserves this moment more than the Minnesota Lynx fans. The Lynx play in one of the most supportive WNBA cities in the league and the team is playing in an arena that just went through a $140 million remodel. The Timberwolves have gone to great lengths to ensure that the Lynx have access to world-class practice facilities, are strongly integrated into marketing efforts around the city and the players are among the community’s most beloved athletes. And on game day, the Lynx fans created one of the biggest home-court advantages in the WNBA. Now, they will get to welcome the world’s best players for the first time. And they will do it in style.
A new format.
No more East vs. West. This year’s All-Star Game is mixed affair of teams chosen by stars Elena Delle Donne and Candace Parker. Parker, named a captain after top vote-getter Maya Moore demurred to focus on hosting duties, and Delle Donne, drafted players for their teams via conference call, setting up some great cross conference collaborations and some intriguing storylines. Some of the league’s best players will find themselves on opposite teams for this All-Star Game. Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart of Seattle will be looking across the floor at Storm teammate Jewell Loyd. Meanwhile, Maya Moore will be playing on the opposite team of Lynx teammates Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles.
The 6-foot-8 Australian star of the Dallas Wings returned to the WNBA for the first time in five years this season and she has become the talk of the league after setting the league’s single-game scoring record last week with 53 points against the New York Liberty. Her follow up was a 35-point, 17-rebound game against Washington, which gave her the best two-game scoring average in league history. As dominant as Cambage has been this season, it will be a treat to see her play next to the likes of Tina Charles, Parker and Chiney Ogwumike. Cambage, averaging 31.8 point a game over the past five games, has to be an early front-runner for MVP honors.
The hostess with the most-ess.
The season opened with a huge billboard of Lynx star Moore, arms spread wide, mounted to the side of a building in downtown Minneapolis. And who could be better to serve as the unofficial hostess of this world-class gathering than the player who has been the MVP of the last two All-Star Games and the WNBA All-Star Game record holder for career scoring average (20.2 ppg) and points in a game (30 in 2015)? Moore has been up and down this season as the Lynx have ceded their usual dominant position in the WNBA standings. But a 38-point performance against Phoenix earlier this week should serve notice that Moore is more than ready for the stretch run of the season. Can Moore become the first player in league history to win the All-Star Game MVP Award for a third straight time? Tough to bet against Maya.
Last year’s All-Star Game was riddled with first-timers, seven to be exact. This time around, there are two players making their All-Star Game debuts, but nobody is more worthy of the honor than Seattle’s Jewell Loyd, having a breakout in her fourth season in the WNBA for first-place Seattle, and Rookie of the Year front-runner A’ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces.
Loyd busted out of the gate as the league’s leading scorer and is now averaging 16.1 points a game for the league-leading Storm.
Wilson has been a dominant force from her first WNBA game in May. She has scored in double digits in every game of her pro career thus far, has collected 10 double-doubles in 25 games and is averaging 20.0 points a game to put the Aces firmly in the playoff chase.
Longtime WNBA reporter Michelle Smith writes a weekly column on WNBA.com throughout the season. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the WNBA or its clubs.