WNBA fantasy basketball leagues would not only be fun for fans – they’d be good for the league as well.
“So I was watching the Knicks last night and – no, of course I don’t like them, but I have Julius Randle on my fantasy team, and…”
Stop me if you’ve ever had a conversation about hoops veer in a direction like that.
I know how annoying fantasy basketball nerds can be, and yes, I admit to being one myself. I’m fully aware the last thing a fan wants to hear from their friend after a heartbreaking last-second loss is “So-and-so got me 48.70 fantasy points, though!”
Here’s the thing, though: fantasy basketball nerds are good for the NBA. Fantasy basketball itself is good for the NBA. The discussion and analysis fantasy basketball encourages – no matter how trite, boring, or tiresome it might be to some– are good for the NBA.
Fantasy basketball would be good for the WNBA, too.
Now, fantasy basketball already exists for the WNBA in some capacity! Austin Kent recently integrated the WNBA into his fantasy basketball platform at Sports.WS (as pictured above), and it’s probably as close to a traditional WNBA fantasy basketball league as you can get right now, including drafts, trades, custom scoring and roster sizes, and head-to-head matchups between users.
There are also daily fantasy (DFS) platforms DraftKings and FanDuel, which have been open for WNBA action since 2017. Both have actually been marquee jersey sponsors of the New York Liberty – DraftKings from 2015 through 2018 and FanDuel from 2020 onward – and the WNBA itself has been partnered with FanDuel for several years now. This is a good thing!
DFS isn’t for everyone, though. For the average fantasy basketball player who takes things kind of seriously but not that seriously, more options would be awesome.
I’m looking at you, ESPN and Yahoo!
I think it’s just a bit sketchy that ESPN – an official broadcasting partner of the WNBA and a self-proclaimed champion of women’s sports – has still not found a way to include the WNBA in its massive fantasy basketball platform. This is immensely frustrating, not only as an avid fantasy basketball fan, but as an avid WNBA fan, too.
Put simply, online fantasy sports platforms are missing out on a massive opportunity. According to the Fantasy Sports & Gaming Association, an estimated 59.3 million people played fantasy sports in 2017 – a figure that, while out of date and not predictive of how many people would play WNBA fantasy basketball if given the opportunity, suggests there is a large enough market to at least try it, especially when considering the yearly rise in fantasy sports participation dating back to 2009.
So why is this important? Because 59.3 million people is a whole lot, and even a small fraction of that number participating in basic, risk-free WNBA fantasy basketball would be a significant step forward in the league’s fight for mainstream appeal – one that would require minimal effort on the WNBA’s part.
Think back to that fantasy basketball nerd for a second. Use me as an example if you want. Fantasy basketball is a way for me to stay connected to the NBA. Some leagues I play in are for money and some aren’t, but all of them are a reason to get together with like-minded fans and geek out over basketball. Do I follow all 30 NBA teams? Absolutely not, but I’ll certainly follow some of them more closely if I have a vested interest in watching one or more of their players.
The WNBA would benefit from appealing to the fantasy basketball nerd. Remember, there are people who take fantasy sports very seriously, and many of them consume lots of fantasy-based content on a daily basis.
Basically, appealing to the fantasy basketball nerd would not only make the WNBA more accessible to a population of basketball fans it currently doesn’t have much of a connection to, but doing so would further churn the content mill and create new avenues for covering the league. Such coverage would then make its way onto social media, encouraging more and more people to sign up for WNBA fantasy basketball, and before you know it you’ve got a self-sustaining method of growing your fanbase.
So please, ESPN and Yahoo!: integrate the WNBA into your fantasy sports platforms. It’s what the people want.
Eric Nemchock is a season ticket holder for the Chicago Sky. For more thoughts and opinions from Eric, check out his Twitter, his blog, his author page here, or visit Swish Appeal or Hashtag Basketball.