Defending champs help open season

NEW YORK -- The WNBA's ninth season opens May 21 with five games, including ABC's broadcast of the defending WNBA champion Seattle Storm against the Los Angeles Sparks and reigning MVP Lisa Leslie at Key Arena.

Opening day also pits the 2004 WNBA runner-up Connecticut Sun vs. the Detroit Shock at the Palace of Auburn Hills and the Phoenix Mercury against the Sacramento Monarchs at America West Arena.

ABC will air six WNBA regular-season Saturday afternoon games in 2005. Early-season coverage includes a May 28 matchup featuring Diana Taurasi, the WNBA Rookie of the Year, and the Mercury at the Connecticut Sun, and a June 4 Western Conference battle between the Sparks and the Monarchs.

The 2005 WNBA All-Star Game will also be broadcast live on ABC on July 9 from Mohegan Sun Arena.

ESPN and ESPN2 will telecast 15 WNBA regular-season contests in 2005, beginning June 7 as the Connecticut Sun host the Seattle Storm on ESPN2 in a rematch of the 2004 WNBA Finals. On June 26, ESPN will air a rematch of the 2003 WNBA Finals when Los Angeles travels to Detroit to take on the Shock. On July 17, Lindsay Whalen and the Sun return to Whalen's home state to face the Minnesota Lynx.

The 2005 WNBA season concludes Aug. 27, with the playoffs scheduled to begin Aug. 30.

For the sixth consecutive season, more than 2 million fans attended WNBA games in 2004, and three consecutive WNBA Finals sellout crowds -- a league record -- witnessed the Seattle Storm defeat the Connecticut Sun to capture their first WNBA Championship.