WNBA

Five WNBA Expansion Teams and What They Could Look Like

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The WNBA will soon look different.

Before the All-Star Game on Sunday afternoon, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert discussed the league’s plans for growth over the next few years. Among the possible changes outlined were the regular season expanding to 40 games, increased prize pool money for the playoffs, and chartered flights for the Finals.  

But the commissioner explored another big change, one that W fans have been clamoring for for years: expansion. 

“I’m hoping that it’ll be a couple teams by no later than ’25, but I’d love it in ’24, but probably looking out to that kind of timeline, and again, lots of cities interested,” Engelbert said, “That’s the good news, and now we have to find the right ownership groups with the right commitment and financial wherewithal to really be committed to standing up a WNBA team in their city.” 

While this is exciting, it is a bit disappointing. Before the season, Engelbert told the media that the league was aiming for two new teams by the 2024 season. Now it sounds like that deadline could be pushed back. Even so, league expansion for the first time since 2008 (when the W added the Atlanta Dream) is on the horizon.  

So, what would these teams actually look like? I thought it would be fun to create my own expansion teams, complete with nicknames, colors, mascots, and jersey descriptions. This is not meant as an analysis of a city’s economic, spatial, or demographic viability; instead, this is an imaginative exercise in which I create my own franchise in a city. For this exercise, I have picked the five cities I have seen most often as possible expansion cities. 

1. Philadelphia  

Team Name: Creation 

Colors: Purple and White 

Mascot: Patti the Paintbrush 

Jerseys: Paint strokes and music notes 

The obvious solution here would have been to go with a patriotic name. Two of the other teams in the city (76ers and Eagles) certainly fall into this category. Briefly, I thought about calling them the Philadelphia Independence or Philadelphia Freedom (Phreedom?). But the New York Liberty have already cornered the market on America-inspired team names, so I had to find something different.  

Philly’s famous landmarks include the LOVE sculpture, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Rodin Art Museum, the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts, and the Academy of Music. The city is also known for its many murals throughout the city, and its thriving performing arts scene. What do these all have in common? They’re all ART! 

The paintbrush as a mascot is self-explanatory, but she’s named Patti for Patti LaBelle, the iconic singer and Philly-native. Plus, Pennsylvanians love their alliteration (see: Phillies, Flyers, Pirates, Penguins). Sticking with the paint theme, what do you get when you mix blue and red (patriotic colors)? Purple! 

2. Oakland 

Team Name: Oak 

Colors: Brown and Forest Green 

Mascot: Oakie the Oak Tree 

Jerseys: Leafy pattern 

At face value, Oak is not the most inspired team name. But if the Philadelphia Phillies can exist, so can the Oakland Oak. 

Oakland, obviously, means Land of Oaks. The oak tree has become synonymous with the city, featuring in Oakland’s coat of arms and their city flag. But there is more meaning behind this name choice. 

Oakland’s sports are struggling. The Raiders left, the Warriors left, and the Athletics could soon follow. A new team would be embraced immediately by the fans. By calling themselves the Oak, the franchise would be making it clear that they plan to stay in Oakland. The name also implies that the team is putting down roots in the city.  

The team colors and jersey design naturally come from the oak tree. And as for the mascot, with a name as simple as the Oakland Oak, it just feels wrong to call the mascot anything other than Oakie. 

3. Toronto 

Name: Tundra 

Colors: Light Blue and White 

Mascot: Wendy the Winter Spirit 

Jerseys: Snowflakes and icicles 

That’s right, the WNBA is going international! Canada’s first team should be in Toronto.  

I almost went with the Toronto Tower, named for the city’s famous CN Tower. It’s a fun name that makes sense for a team of tall athletes. But Tundra feels right for a few reasons: it sounds more menacing, it’s more “concept” than “thing,” like most other WNBA teams, and it better represents all of Canada. 

The easy solution for a mascot would be a yeti, a polar bear, or some kind of snow wolf. But I wanted to choose something with Canadian roots. I found the Wendigo, a mythical ice spirit that has roots with the early First Nation settlers in the Great Lakes regions of Canada. The Wendigo, however, is a cannibalistic creature, and that felt a little dark for a sports league, so instead of choosing the Wendigo, I chose a winter spirit like the Wendigo, named Wendy. 

4. Portland 

Name: Lava 

Colors: Bright red and orange 

Mascot: Lee the Lava Monster 

Jerseys: Flames 

Portland is the City of Roses, but Portland Rose sounds like the forgotten third child of Johnny and Moira. Portland Pioneers is a nice reference to the Oregon Trail, but it is too similar in concept to the Trail Blazers. I also thought about the Portland Brew, as the area is known for having a lot of breweries. But what would the mascot be, a beer glass? 

The city sits on a dormant volcanic field, which is where we get the name. It also pays semi-homage to Portland’s first WNBA team, the Portland Fire. The team’s colors and jersey designs stem from the name. 

The mascot is named Lee after two important women in Portland’s history: Hazel Ying Lee, the first Chinese American female military pilot, and Clara Elizabeth Chan Lee, the first Chinese American woman to be registered to vote. Both were born in Portland.

5. Nashville 

Name: Notes 

Colors: Blue and Yellow 

Mascot: Dolly the Music Note 

Jerseys: Music notes and staves 

Nashville Notes just rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? 

This one was pretty simple: Nashville is the country music capital of the world, so it makes sense that the team would have a music-inspired name. And if you couldn’t tell already, I adore alliteration. 

The city’s flag is a mixture of dark blue and yellow. That’s where the team’s colors come from. And who else could be the namesake for the mascot other than the Tennessee-native, country music legend, America’s sweetheart, Dolly Parton? 

As a fun wrinkle, let’s have a country music house band to play throughout the games. This way, attending a Notes game is not just fun from the basketball perspective, it’s fun for the live entertainment as well! 

WNBA expansion is coming. It might be two years; it might be four. But it’s coming. And when it’s here, I’ll be expecting a phone call from the league to help design the new teams.

About Jack Levenberg

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