WNBA 20th anniversary coverage

ESPN The Magazine's WNBA20-themed issue hit newsstands Friday, May 13. ESPN

On June 21, 1997, Los Angeles hosted New York at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, California, in the first game in WNBA history, a 67-57 Liberty victory.

Since then, the WNBA has grown from "We Got Next" to the best women's professional basketball league in the world. And now, the WNBA is turning 20.

As the 2016 season nears, espnW will continue to look back at the league's history and focus on the current stars and storylines.

Check back for all the latest profiles, and be sure to pick up the WNBA20-themed issue of ESPN The Magazine, on sale May 13. The season tips off May 14 (ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET).

WNBA20 content

Watch: 20 years of excellence
As the league celebrates its 20th season, current and former stars look back at the WNBA's history and reflect on the impact it continues to make.

Mechelle Voepel: Preseason power rankings, picks
Which teams will challenge Minnesota at the top of the WNBA? Which eight look poised to reach the postseason? And who is the preseason pick for MVP?

Stefanie Dolson: 'I just am who I am'
Stefanie Dolson tells Katie Barnes what she learned in her first two seasons, both about herself as an LGBT athlete and what it means to feel accepted.

Elizabeth Merrill: In the WNBA, is it all downhill from the draft?
On draft night, Breanna Stewart was the toast of the sports world. But in a league that struggles for relevance, will she ever reach those heights again?

Kate Fagan: Why are these WNBA stars in Russia?
Unlikely comrades Brittney Griner and Diana Taurasi play overseas for the money. Turns out, they also simplify their lives.

Jane McManus: Swin Cash on the state of the WNBA
Swin Cash talks with Jane McManus about the progress the league has and hasn't made in terms of public recognition in her 15 years as a player.


ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo, a former WNBA star and Olympic gold medalist, sat down with several former WNBA MVPs to go inside 20 years of the WNBA.

Tina Charles: Listen
Growing up in Queens, New York, Charles rooted for and was inspired by the Liberty from a young age. Now Lobo's own 9-year-old daughter likes to wear a Tina Charles jersey when shooting hoops in her driveway.
Memorable quote: "The WNBA is about opportunity. It's not only about basketball, but it definitely helped shape me into the woman I am today."

Elena Delle Donne: Listen
The reigning MVP recalls being in awe when Diana Taurasi spoke to her before the first WNBA game Delle Donne saw in person. But getting her first pair of Sheryl Swoopes signature sneakers made Delle Done feel like women's basketball had arrived.
Memorable quote: "It was pretty intimidating the first time [she played some of her idols], especially Tamika Catchings. ... She just gave me one hit running down the court, and I was like, 'Oh boy, I gotta get stronger in the offseason.'"

Lisa Leslie: Listen
The three-time MVP and two-time WNBA champ discusses what it felt like being considered "an original" as the No. 7 pick in the inaugural draft. She admits not understanding the platform the WNBA would provide her as a player, but quickly embraced the role of ambassador for the league.
Memorable quote: "We really had been put in a position that we could be successful in. The key was the product, which was us. So we had to come and learn to be at our best and be able to perform."

ESPN analyst Carolyn Peck interviewed some of the WNBA's pioneer players about the impact of the league and more.

Sue Bird: Listen
The two-time WNBA champ, who has won Olympic gold medals and NCAA titles, discusses how playing at UConn prepares players for the next level and what made Storm teammate Lauren Jackson a one-of-a-kind talent.
Memorable quote: "People always ask [me] to compare [championships] ... There is something about bringing a championship to a city. ... [Seattle] thrives off its sports teams. To do that (win in 2004) and have the parade that we had, to see the turnout that we had, and to truly feel the love from the city, that's up there for sure."

Candace Parker: Listen
The only player in WNBA history to win Rookie of the Year and MVP honors in the same season, Parker is one of the most versatile players in the world. But her most special WNBA memories have nothing to do with huge scoring performances or even big wins. Parker, who counts Cynthia Cooper among her favorite players, details her favorite moments and also recalls the day she learned the league was forming.
Memorable quote: "I was laying on my couch and heard they were starting this league, and I remember thinking how excited I was that when I went out to my driveway and shot, I didn't have to pretend to play in the NBA; now I could pretend to play in the WNBA."

Dawn Staley: Listen
Staley is a Naismith Hall of Famer, but she finds herself sometimes questioning whether she could play in the WNBA today with all the talent in the league. Staley, who also played in the ABL, acknowledges that without the NBA's support, the WNBA would not have lasted 20 years.
Memorable quote: "There's not enough jobs overseas because that market is drying up. [The WNBA] is the most fruitful and the best opportunity for women to continue to play basketball as a profession. So we need to really take care of that."

Tina Thompson: Listen
The league's all-time leading scorer never expected to be able to play pro ball in the United States. Nor did Thompson expect to be the No. 1 overall pick in the inaugural WNBA draft -- which meant she'd have to leave her California roots for Houston.
Memorable quote: "I'm kind of embarrassed about my immediate thoughts when I found out Houston was very interested in picking me. ... I was a little down when I initially found out, because it meant I wouldn't go to Los Angeles. I wanted to stay home. In hindsight, it was probably the best thing that ever happened to me."

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