“When I took this job not even two years ago, I knew the players had such a strong voice, but I think, in the last year, millions and millions of people know who they are (now) and what they stand for,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said by phone on Friday.

“I’m so impressed with the players and proud of them and we continue the important work.”

From sneakers and cosmetics to automobiles and more, players’ profiles are on the rise as they snatch up brand deals, and Engelbert is banking on this surge in popularity to steer a successful 2021 season. The players’ activism during the 2020 season of pandemic and social justice protest brought increased interest to the league that many never would have considered possible given the conditions.

It is powerful momentum Engelbert and the league seek to ride.

The goals of the 2021 WNBA season are simple: pay homage to the league’s rich history and give it steam to ride another 25 seasons. And just how will Engelbert measure the season’s success?

“We have a high level of competition, players emerge as stars, we build household names and we build these rivalries,” she said. To get there, the health and safety of players, staff and fans top the league’s priority list. Yes, fans are expected to be in arenas during the 2021 season, though in limited capacity, and the historic season features initiatives befitting the moment.

All things new and celebratory for the 2021 WNBA season

Commemorative logo

With a nod to Title IX, the 25th-anniversary logo signifies a tallying of the league’s successes in the face of adversity. “I’m really proud that this is future-facing but it’s to signify the tallies won’t stop coming,” Engelbert said. “It’s a look back at the league’s history while counting on the future.”

Photo courtesy of the WNBA

Game ball

The NBA, WNBA, G League and Africa League all moved from Spaulding to Wilson. Here’s a look at the new game ball. Liz Cambage, center for the Las Vegas Aces, represents the WNBA on an advisory committing that is responsible for testing and providing feedback on the league’s latest rock.

Photo courtesy of the WNBA

Count It

Who better than bona fide legend and Hall of Famer Lisa Leslie to narrate the WNBA’s new brand ad, tallying the myriad achievements the women of the league have overcome on the path to continued existence?

The 2021 season is expected to tip off on time, in mid-May, and pause from mid-July to mid-August for the Tokyo Olympics, where the USA Basketball Women’s National Team will compete for a seventh-consecutive gold medal.

After the Olympic break, the Commissioner’s Cup Championship Game will tip off the second half of the season.

For more of my interview with Commissioner Engelbert — plus additional details on the Commissioner’s Cup and the variety of initiatives planned to commemorate the league’s historic 25th-anniversary season — CLICK HERE.

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