February 28, 2024 

Sights and sounds from the WNBA at NBA All-Star weekend

Sights and sounds from the Women's basketball world at 2024 NBA All-Star weekend.

INDIANAPOLIS — The WNBA had quite the presence at 2024 NBA All-Star weekend.

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Between opportunities for fans to simulate being drafted into the league and conversations with the league’s Commissioner, there was a lot to see, and do, around Indianapolis when it came to women’s basketball. While it was NBA All-Star weekend, the fact that it was being held in a city with a WNBA team was important for the league,

It could end up being the site of a future WNBA All-Star weekend. “Absolutely, no doubt about it. Summer’s nice here, we won’t have that snow in July,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said of Indiana possibly hosting the events in the future. Earlier in the conversation, Engelbert compared Indy to Davos, Switzerland. “So yeah, absolutely. I mean, again, I just have been so impressed with the branding of the city, the support of the city.”

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Beyond important updates about the future of the league, there were many things to do and see around Indianapolis. The WNBA had its fingerprints all over the weekend.

WNBA Draft NBA All-Star
The WNBA Draft Day stage where fans could simulate being drafted into the WNBA at 2024 NBA All-Star weekend. (Mandatory Photo Credit: Tony East)

Some of it came by way of literal involvement in certain events. For example, the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game featured both Jewell Loyd (Team Shannon) and Natasha Cloud (Team Stephen A). At the event, Las Vegas Aces stars Kelsey Plum and Chelsea Gray sat courtside, and A’Ja Wilson was a coach for Team Stephen A.

Wilson was wearing an Indiana Pacers jersey — specifically a Jermaine O’Neal uniform — during the event. The Pacers play in Indianapolis, so they were represented everywhere. O’Neal made several appearances himself during All-Star weekend. Team Shannon won the celebrity game.

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Before the celebrity game, there were plenty of opportunities to see WNBA talent getting involved off the court. Thursday afternoon, Indiana Fever head coach Christie Sides — as well as guard Erica Wheeler and assistant general manager Hillary Spears — participated in the Million Meal Movement at Lucas Oil Stadium, where they helped pack one million meals for the Indiana community.

The following afternoon at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, another Aces star made an appearance. This time, it was Candace Parker. She was one of the TNT announcers for the Rising Stars action that took place on Friday. She was joined by Adam Lefkoe and Jamal Crawford on the call.

Candace Parker TNT
Las Vegas Aces forward Candace Parker working on the TNT broadcast of a 2024 Rising Stars practice in Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, IN on Feb. 16, 2024. (Photo credit: The Next)

Other WNBA players were in Indianapolis at various points throughout the weekend, including Brionna Jones, Rhyne Howard, Arike Ogunbowale, Shakira Austin, Aliyah Boston, and Jackie Young. The first five of those players made an appearance at the WNBA Draft stage in the Indiana Convention Center. There, visitors could simulate being drafted into the league, which is fitting with the Fever holding the number one overall pick in the 2024 WNBA Draft.

There, fans were able to choose which team they were being chosen to and walked across the stage. Some even had Engelbert present to add to the experience.

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Elgelbert
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert poses with a WNBA fan who is simulating being drafted into the league at NBA 2024 All-Star weekend in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo Credit: Tony East)

At the All-Star game itself, many of the aforementioned players were present in the crowd taking in the action. New York Liberty star Sabrina Ionescu was there as well. With the game being played in the same arena that the Indiana Fever play their home games, it was only fitting that Boston addressed the crowd during the game.

“Indy is a basketball state,” Boston said. “A lot of talent, especially coming in next year. And a lot of wins.”

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During the game, Ann Meyers Drysdale was honored with the Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award. Meyers Drysdale has a legendary career in many ways, both as a player and executive, and has been an advocate for the sport’s growth her entire life. Fittingly, she was the first woman to sign an NBA contract… when she joined the Pacers in Indiana back in 1979.

Annie Meyers Drysdale WNBA
Annie Meyers Drysdale receives the 2024 Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award during the 2024 NBA All-Star game. (Photo Credit: The Next)

The highlight of the weekend for just about everybody was the Stephen Curry vs. Sabrina Ionescu challenge. They were both electric in their one-on-one 3-Point contest during All-Star Saturday night, with Ionescu hitting the high mark for every shooter that performed on Saturday… except for Curry.

They were both fantastic, and the contest lived up to the hype that has been building since Ionescu challenged Curry to this contest at WNBA All-Star weekend in 2023. The Liberty star finished with 26 points while the Warriors former MVP had 29.

They were both in a great mood after the event with cheek-to-cheek smiles. They both hinted that it could be an event that sticks around in future All-Star weekends, and there could be added contestants.

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Pacers legend Reggie Miller, one of the greatest shooters in basketball history, chimed in on the event earlier in the weekend. “That’s awesome, because the game of basketball really has no gender. You’re talking to a guy who grew up in a household with the greatest Women’s Basketball Player of all time” he said, referring to his sister Cheryl. She averaged 26.8 points per game during his best scoring season at USC in 1985 and was a part of the 1984 gold medal USA Olympic team. “I am all for this. I am surprised it’s taken this long for us to merge with the WNBA and their fabulous players.”

The WNBA was everywhere during NBA All-Star festivities. The next two NBA All-Star weekends will take place in cities with a WNBA team (San Francisco in 2025 and Los Angeles in 2026), so the league will be able to continue to make a mark in future seasons.

Written by Tony East

Indiana Fever reporter based in Indianapolis. Enjoy a good statistical-based argument.

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