The 2022 WNBA season will hold a special place in my heart as my first full season covering the league. It’s hard to realize that the year is over today, and sooner, free agency and the throes of another start to the league season will be upon us sooner than we can comprehend.
Free agency is going to be a whirlwind. March Madness and the Draft will strike quickly. After that, training camp will be here, and the games have begun!
Scaling down to the top 5 moments of the season seems impossible, given the abundance of excitement and intrigue that the 26th season of league play has brought.
The league champion was crowned for the first time as the Aces won the Finals in a packed season Endearing moments. Few teams in professional sports have the gravitas and gravitas that Las Vegas conjures without even trying.
Game Legends delivered incredibly impactful final seasons; Sylvia Fowles was an All-Star and Defensive Player candidate. Sue Bird And Briann January has been an integral part of one of the best guard courses in the W.
The timeless three-man game that has defined the league for the past decade or more will never be forgotten.
Without further ado, here are my top 5 moments from the WNBA season, in no particular order!
The Chicago Sky’s record-breaking comeback
The aces were in the midst of an unreal opening month of the season. The sky was still finding its way after the incorporation of new pieces, players coming in from international play and the restoration of the tournament format.
This was slated to be one of the standout games in the middle of the season, and it looked like a dominant blowout for Vegas by the end of the first quarter. But, as has been the case for the entire season, Sky vs. Each game brought passion, excitement, and tremendous play between two of WWE’s elite teams.
Courtney Vandersloot sliced the Aces defense with motors, midrange linemen, and dynamic pick-and-roll play. Candace Parker’s defense was a deciding factor in the evening of the game. Azura Stevens beat the Aces bench by single-handedly with an incredible 19 effective points. This game had it all as Sky erased a 28-point deficit and almost ended up winning by double digits.
Here’s to another year of great series in the season between the aces and the sky.
Two weeks into the 2022 draft cycle
The opening two weeks of playing in the league were important for a plethora of reasons, but perhaps my favorite was establishing the next wave of youngsters.
You can project and think about a lot based on pre-pro data and observations, but to some extent, you don’t know who a pro player will be until they play in the league. The first few weeks of the season gave great cause for optimism about the ’22 preseason.
The first overall pick, Ryan Howard, hit a home run and never looked back. She turned out the lights and scored in double figures in her first five games as she looked like an instant All-Star, including a 21-point blast against the Sparks in an early upset win and a 33-point blast against the Fever a few games later in one of her most complete games of the season ( her highest points too).
The second overall pick, NaLyssa Smith, has gone a bit under the radar this season, but it’s been an incredibly fun and exciting season. After snagging, she shot confidently and effectively from deep, including a 3/5 outing against Dream in the same game Howard emerged. One of the most interesting tackles and adept scoring prospects in recent memory, adding that three-point jumper early and often a catch given how little Smith shoots from deep from Baylor.
Don’t forget Nalissa Smith! Team Fever is coming.
Third overall, Shakira Austin stepped into the starting lineup during her second match in W… starting with Sylvia Fowles. In Washington’s win, Austin legitimately held her own against Fowles while stumbling into the first double of her young career. I immediately felt her defense and influence as a cylinder, sifter and release valve for the Mystics guards. Austin would go on to start 32 games her rookie year after initially looking like she would be the first big off the bench for a team that had deep playoff aspirations.
Elena Delle Donne First Back To Back
Former MVP and franchise pitcher Elena Delle Donne has only played three games in the last two years due to a back injury and bubble loss due to COVID concerns (because of Lyme disease, the COVID risks were of much greater importance).
In the short time she played last season, you could see flashes of greatness, but understandably, she wasn’t all the way back or ready physically. There have been questions heading into this season about what level she will return to.
I tried to approach it from the perspective of hoping she would stay healthy, and anything extra would be great.
Well, Delle Donne is back as one of the best players in the league, arguably playing at the All-WNBA level.
There was no more special moment for me in Delle Donne’s season than when she played her first game of the season, playing in one of the most entertaining series of the year as the Mystics and Storm traded blows before the impending home run. playoff series.
Delle Donne was a star in both games, and the Mystics came away with a win in the second game of the series. While things did not go as well as the Mystics wanted in the post-season, seeing Delle Donne return to this level was one of the moments I will cherish the most this season.
Connecticut 5 Go game
Down 63-54 with less than 5 minutes left in the fourth quarter in the deciding game of the 2022 WNBA Semifinals, the Sun was in trouble. They struggled to get stops while Sky pushed the pace of the game, each possession that ended in a miss or turnover felt earth shattering.
I was getting ready to write my “That Was a Fun Run” column on The Sun.
And then, the switch just flipped. In the literal and figurative sense.
The Sun went on to an 18-0 final run, the longest game shutout scoring streak in W playoff history. Not only was the sheer suddenness and change of momentum unexpected, it felt impossible. It wasn’t even an idea in the back of my head.
Playing against the dominant champions, not just the reigning champions, the champions who sent you packing in the last one-seed qualifiers, are you piled together after playing a pretty shaky game? I am not a proponent of miraculous talk, but if there were miracles, the Sun’s Final Series would go down in the annals of history when the word miraculous was mentioned.
It seems like every player on The Sun has done something vital to move the lead forward. Connecticut ultimately didn’t win the Finals they sought with this core group, and that’s no doubt touching for the fans and the organization, but this playoff run I’ll never forget.
Postseason run for Chelsea Gray
If you thought this didn’t make the list, shame on you!
Just kidding, but in all honesty, there’s no legit way to commemorate an all-encompassing, all-encompassing 2022 season without mentioning it and applauding it. Chelsea Gray.
I took a few extra hours to write this just because I got down the rabbit hole of re-watching Gray’s shots and passes from the playoffs again.
We may never see beyond one season work that way again in my life. Statistically, one of the greatest runs we’ve seen in the sport at any level and in any capacity.
In one game in all, Gray averaged 21.7 points and seven assists. She hit her shots with a real shooting percentage of 72.7%, which accounted for triples and free throws. His real league shooting average for the 2022 W season was 54.1%.
She shoots 54.4% from depth (nearly 6 per game), and the majority of her shots are self-made and off the mark. She shot 63.2% from 3-10 feet, 62.9% from 10-16 feet, and 69.2% from 16 feet to the arc. 12.3% of her 2 pointers were assisted, which means she made nearly 90% of her baskets herself.
When you factor in the difficulty of her diet, the way those shots were created, and the way she deflected defenses, it’s mind-boggling.
The Aces’ victories were undoubtedly team efforts, but Gray permeated it all.
The last game of the semi-finals against Seattle was one of those moments as someone covering sports where you stop taking notes and smile while watching. The Storm pulled out literally every cover in the book to throw at Gray, but she was a supercomputer, set to mark every side of the court with every counter closed at exactly the right moment against some of the best individual and team defenses in the league.
A very special offer from a special player.
Although this is not a moment in and of itself, I want to take a little time to thank you. Thank you for reading my work. Thank you for supporting me as I covered the league this year. Thank you for helping me grow in enjoyment and coverage of an amazing match.
It is difficult to comprehend the end of 2022, but this only opens the doors to another incredibly exciting year with new opportunities and possibilities.
I hope you have a great day, have a great year, and head into a new calendar cycle full of hope and passion.
WNBA reporter Mark Schindler writes a column for WNBA WNBA.com All season long and can be reached on Twitter at @employee. The opinions expressed on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the WNBA or its clubs.