The 2021 WNBA season came to a close on October 17 when the Chicago Sky defeated the Phoenix Mercury by the score of 80-74 to win the WNBA championship. With the win, Chicago, who has been a part of the WNBA for 16 seasons, took home its first WNBA crown. The Mercury, who has three WNBA titles to its name (2007, 2009 and 2014), finished in the runner-up spot for the second time. The Mercury was one of eight teams to play during the WNBA’s first season in 1997.
As the 2021 season neared its close, the Sky was +1200 to win the title, while Phoenix faced even longer odds at +1800. Both teams got through single elimination games to make it to the semifinal round of the playoffs. The Sky bested the Connecticut Sun, who were the No. 1 seed in the playoffs and the Mercury topped the No. 2 Las Vegas Aces in the round of four.
The Sky opened the 2021 WNBA season as +800 to win the title. Phoenix checked in at +900 in the preseason.
WNBA Championship Odds
A Chicago repeat?
It’s been a long time since a WNBA team repeated as champion. One has to go back to the 2001-02 season to find the last time that happened. The Los Angeles Sparks pulled that off. Los Angeles won in 2001, 2002 and made the finals in 2003. The Detroit Shock beat them in 2003.
If the Sky hopes to repeat, the first order of business for the team will be to get unrestricted free agent and finals MVP Kahleah Copper under contract. Two other important pieces of the team, Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley, are also unrestricted free agents.
The WNBA season viewership was up 49 percent over 2020. Regular season games averaged 306,000 viewers according to ESPN. The most watched regular season game was the August 15 battle between the Seattle Storm and the Sky, which saw 755,000 viewers.
As for the finals, they saw the most viewers since 2017, despite the final game coming on a Sunday afternoon during the NFL season.
With the popularity of the WNBA climbing, there has been talk of expansion from 12 teams. WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert recently told ESPN, “I suspect by next summer or this time next year, in our 26th season, we’ll be talking about the number of teams and a list of where.”
Possible destinations for an expansion club include Oakland, Nashville, Toronto, Philadelphia, Houston and Charlotte. With the viewing numbers rising, expect expansion talk to be a hot topic.
One problem with the WNBA playoff format is the use of single-elimination games. The current format has been in place since 2016, but it might be time for a change. With the television ratings high and interest in the WNBA increasing, the chances of a different look for the WNBA playoffs are good.
Our pick for 2022 WNBA Champion
The Minnesota Lynx and Dallas Wings are both trending up, but I think one of the two teams who fell short in the 2021 playoffs will win the title next season. Those two teams are the Las Vegas Aces and the Connecticut Sun. My early pick for the next WNBA season is the Sun.
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