August 18, 2023 

Locked on Women’s Basketball: How do the Aces and the Liberty get from budding to full-fledged rivalry?

What are the ingredients of great rivalries?

On today’s Locked on Women’s Basketball podcast episode, host Jackie Powell is joined by the one and only Michelle Smith to discuss the history of WNBA rivalries and how that informs what we are experiencing and about to experience when it comes to the Las Vegas Aces and the New York Liberty. What are the ingredients of great rivalries? Also, why after a promising start did the WNBA have a rivalry drought? How has WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert approached fixing that? And how close are the Liberty and Aces from not just being an enjoyable matchup or a budding rivalry, but a historic and full fledged WNBA rivalry?

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“I think there’s a distinction between history and rivalry. You might have a history with a team, but that doesn’t make it [a rivalry] necessarily. Rivalries are based in other things, as we talked about earlier — they’re based on moments of tension, they’re based on histories of close games, painful losses, being in another, you know, being in somebody else’s gym, and just having people and having fans build a rivalry.”

Jackie and Michelle discuss some of the league’s historic rivalries including the Houston Comets vs. the New York Liberty at the start of the league and a tense series between the Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks. They also discuss if and how the series between the Liberty and the Aces may emerge into a contemporary rivalry.

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  1. RM Williams on August 19, 2023 at 11:36 am

    Rivalries are built over time. Rivalries are built with commitment. These days, both seem to be a fleeting commodity. One also might consider that teams do not seem to be playing for the long haul. The New York Liberty is a good example of that. How long will Stewie, Slooty, and Jones stick around? Are they really interested in the building process or the search for another championship ring? I think what we will see are short-lived seasonal rivalries. Consider the Lynx and the Storm this season. Or Dallas and, the rest of the league. It is hard to determine how long a core group of players will stay together. Perhaps it is a different breed of player that takes the old school approach to the word “team.” Not just a group of players, which is what George Steinbrenner did with the Yankees, but a team. Of course players will come and go for a myriad of reasons. Some players should go, or be pushed out the door. Loyalty is often blind, and sentimentality can create a player who really is an albatross. The separation of “fan favorite” to “contributing player” is often obfuscated. It is that melange of personality, talent, and sustainability that become the building blocks of what I would consider a team. When good collections of players collide, you’ll certainly have an exciting game. But when teams collide, you have something extremely special. Maybe the Aces and the Liberty have it. Of course, as the old cliché goes, the candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long. Let’s see how big the candle is between these two teams.

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