April 14, 2017
When the WNBA announced that the 2017 draft would be held in New York City at Samsung 837, the brand’s experiential flagship and cultural hub there was much excitement around a welcomed change to the format and venue of past drafts. The venue was described as a “digital playground [that] boasts three levels of experience zones including a VR Theater and three-story multimedia screen.” Sounds pretty cool right? Yea, I thought so too. The WNBA draft had been held in Connecticut at the Mohegan Sun for the past three years. Connecticut is home to the league’s broadcast partner ESPN who provided coverage and home to a very large women’s basketball fan base who faithfully follow the UCONN Huskies. Connecticut is also home to the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun. Many didn’t know what to expect with the change in venue but the league assured us all that “Samsung 837 will provide a setting unlike any the WNBA Draft has featured before.” The league was right, this was a setting unlike any before, unfortunately, in this case, that wasn’t necessarily a good thing.
First of all, the event was not open to the public which wasn’t the greatest idea since New York City is the home of the Liberty who have one of the larger fanbases in the WNBA. But if the draft was not open to the public who were all those random people floating around in the background hardly paying attention to what was going on in front of them? From my television screen, the players seemed to be crammed into a small area where they shared high school style lunchroom tables. Come on now, can a player soon to be drafted into the greatest women’s league in the world get her own table with her family? Not only that, was there any kind of rehearsal for the players? When Kelsey Plum was drafted #1 to the San Antonio Stars she looked confused as to what to do next? Should she go somewhere like on a stage where she could take a picture with her new jersey and president of the WNBA Lisa Borders? Or should she just stand there and wait for an interview with a bunch of noisy people in the background? That didn’t look good AT ALL.
Secondly, I am a huge fan of Dawn Staley and was very excited to see her win her first National Championship but why did she announce the first pick in the draft? I mean, I get it, we want to honor her success but it just didn’t work for me. Did it work for you? Furthermore, why did Sheryl Swoopes announce the second pick? Where was the continuity? So Staley announced the first pick, she had just won the national championship, Swoops announced the second pick but why? Swoops didn’t just win a championship but maybe it was because she headlines the 2017 Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame inductees? Still don’t get it. So that was it? Two people other than the WNBA president announced the first two picks of the draft and that was it? You might as well had each and every pick announced by some former player who had recently been celebrated. I mean you could hardly see President Borders who was huddled up in some random DJ booth as she announced the picks. Where was Lisa Borders? We love Lisa! We want to see you!
When we got to the #7 pick in the draft and the Atlanta Dream selected Brittney Sykes from Syracuse, she was nowhere to be found. You know why? Because the league decided it was a good idea to only invite ten prospects to attend the draft. Your name was called #7 on the biggest day of your basketball career and you couldn’t even be there to celebrate! That’s wrong. It’s sad that these young ladies missed out on a real draft experience where they would hear their names called, walk on stage and receive their new team jersey, take a picture with the president of the league and then head over to be interviewed about their experience. They deserved that. Instead, they just stood up at their shared lunch table and were rushed through a quick interview. What did we learn about Samsung 837? Unless I missed something, I didn’t see much more than a few people seated in some sort of simulated virtual experience. Was there something else?
I welcome the change in venue for the WNBA draft, why not have it in the mecca of basketball NYC, but give these girls a better experience, give the world who’s watching something to look forward to. Please don’t go back to the Mohegan but if we have to sit through what we did last night, I’d gladly take the casino over virtual reality. Either way, congratulations to all the young ladies who were drafted last night. Welcome to the greatest women’s basketball league in the world. Despite the shortcomings of a well-intentioned draft experience you are about to embark of some of the greatest times of your lives. Cherish these moments and appreciate the process. Hoping for an even better 21st WNBA season! Let us know what you thought of the 2017 Draft? Did you enjoy the new venue? What did you like or didn’t like about it all? We would love to hear your thoughts.