When Teresa Weatherspoon walked onto the Madison Square Garden court 20 years ago this summer, she was part of the first New York Liberty team. Many of the women in the new WNBA were veterans of overseas professional leagues -- in fact, many spoke Italian after playing in Europe, which came in handy when they were complaining about English-speaking refs in the new league.
But on that first night of the WNBA, Weatherspoon said the players were aware of exactly where they were and what was at stake.
"We were scared," Weatherspoon said. "You're in New York City, and we wanted people to know we belong. When we got to the Garden we were looking around -- there's Patrick Ewing's locker -- but when the ball goes up, that fear goes away."
Today, the WNBA is officially starting its celebration of a 20-year history that started that day in the Garden. The league is launching a campaign called "Watch Me Work" that highlights the generational shift in that time span.
The spot will debut Saturday night during the Cavaliers-Spurs NBA game on ABC.
Chiney Ogwumike, a 23-year-old forward for the Connecticut Sun, hasn't known much of life without the WNBA. She said didn't even realize how hard it was to build and maintain a professional women's league until she attended rookie camp after being drafted No. 1 in 2014. Respected WNBA veteran Tamika Catchings, who knew Ogwumike through her older sister -- L.A. Sparks player Nneka Ogwumike -- took Chiney aside and explained.
"We are the caretakers of a legacy," Ogwumike said Catchings told her.
And it has stuck.
That's part of why Pam El, the chief marketing officer at the WNBA, decided to go with a theme to celebrate the anniversary that included veterans like Weatherspoon and Catchings and their connection to new players like Ogwumike.
"We've heard for years from our current players how much they have been inspired by the women who came before them," El said.
On Feb. 3, National Girls and Women in Sports Day, the campaign will encourage kids and adults to post videos with #WatchMeWork. Already, the league has seen some clips of little kids shooting around.
Ogwumike likes the "Watch Me Work" theme -- because it takes what players do seriously.
"I think the campaign is the closest we've come to representing the authentic female basketball player and pro hooper," Ogwumike said.