Philadelphia needs its own WNBA team, and we have some ideas


The WNBA will celebrate its 25th season in 2021, a momentous milestone for a league too often overlooked in the pro sports landscape. 

After a quarter-century of games, the league is in a cautiously optimistic position: it saw a 39 percent increase in year-over-year June viewership, and just added its brightest young star in years in New York Liberty No. 1 overall pick Sabrina Ionescu, who promises to be the face of the league for the next decade-plus.

Which is why it's not time to go crazy, but it's definitely a good time to think about expansion. Right now, the WNBA has 12 teams, which allows for just 144 roster spots. With sports viewership and fandom booming around the world thanks to the internet and social media, this is the ideal time to put more of the league's product in front of potential fans.

And Philadelphia, a city that goes crazy for its sports teams and loves basketball something fierce, needs to be at the top of any expansion list.

Here's why.

Market size

As of October 2019, Philadelphia was the fourth-largest television market in the country, according to Nielsen's estimates. The three ahead of Philadelphia — New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago — all have WNBA teams. Six of the 10 largest markets, and 10 of the 15 largest markets, by Nielsen's estimates have WNBA teams. 

We shouldn't have to say more than that. It doesn't just make sense for Philadelphia to have a WNBA team: putting a team in such an obvious market is long overdue.

Facilities and team relationships

Adding a new pro sports team to a city could threaten to disrupt the delicate balance of facility space and available resources in a city.

That's the nice part about the WNBA's schedule. The season runs from late May — right around the time the Sixers are usually making their postseason exit — until early October, when Eagles season is just a month old and the NHL and NBA are still a week or two away. The WNBA team wouldn't be asking for too much of the city's attention at any given time.

And as far as facilities — Where would they play? Where would they practice? — the Sixers' Camden training facility would provide a top-flight place for the players and staff to house their operations, while Temple's Liacouras Center would be available for games, considering the school is out of session for the majority of the season, and college basketball season doesn't start until November.

The average attendance at WNBA games in 2019 was around 6,500, with the top two teams — the Sparks and the Mercury — pulling in just over 11,000 and 10,000, respectively. The Liacouras Center's seating capacity is 10,200.

Really, the WNBA couldn't fit any better into Philadelphia's sports landscape.

Women's basketball history

Despite not ever having a WNBA franchise, Philly has solid history in the world of women's basketball.

Dawn Staley, one of the singular voices and faces of women's pro and college basketball for the last 25 years, is a proud Philly native. Elena Delle Donne, currently the best player in the WNBA, is a proud Delaware Valley native, and Tamika Catchings, one of the WNBA's greatest players ever, grew up 15 miles from Center City in Stratford, New Jersey.

The Philadelphia Fox were one of the founding members of the Women's Pro Basketball League in 1979. The Philadelphia Rage spent 1998 playing in the Palestra, with Olympic legend Jackie Joyner-Kersee on the roster, and tried to land Lisa Leslie, who opted for the WNBA instead. And the currently active Philadelphia Reign are one of the newest additions to the Women's Basketball Development Association, playing its home games at Chestnut Hill College.

A WNBA team is the next logical step.

Team name ideas

And now we have to end here, of course, and have some fun thinking about what the team could be called. You can go in a ton of different directions, but for the first name I'm going to lean on history, as we often do in Philadelphia:

The Philadelphia Bells.

The tie-ins are manifold. "Bells" has an obvious connection to the city's famous Liberty Bell. "Bells" connects with the Sixers' current bell-themed iconography, and the team's "Ring The Bell" traditions. 

But "Bells" can be also reclaim the word "belle," which Merriam-Webster says means "a popular and attractive girl or woman," and the term "belle of the ball." Instead of focusing on cosmetic beauty, the focus can be on the Bells' game. Instead of "the belle of the ball," the team can be called "the Bells of Ball." It's a way to twist an outdated word and phrase into something current, active and exciting.

It also has its roots in a different kind of bell from Philadelphia's past: the Justice Bell, a replica of the Liberty Bell which was created in the early 20th century to promote the cause for women's suffrage in the United States. The Justice Bell, currently on display in Valley Forge National Park, just outside of Philadelphia, is a symbol of women claiming their rightful seat at the table.

The "Bells" name brings together Philadelphia history, old and new, as a central interest for the city's newest franchise.

Here's another concept:

The Philadelphia Rage.

Yep, a throwback. I think the Rage had a lot of promise, as a brand idea, back when Dawn Staley played for a Philadelphia-area basketball team, which is something we all deserved to see for more than one year.

The Rage fits with the history of women's basketball teams in Philadelphia not using -s names (Fox, Rage, Reign), instead opting for a concept in the name.

Also, if the national sporting landscape is always going to paint Philadelphia sports fans as these loud, angry people ... maybe this time we should just lean into it? Accurate narratives are good, but eventually you're not changing people's minds. You think Philly's always mad? OK, fine. Our WNBA team is now based around us being mad. It's a fun, tongue-in-cheek way to immediately give the team an identity.

Plus, adopting the Rage colors for either team name puts you extremely close to the vaunted Iverson-era uniforms that local hoops fans seem to love so much.

Whichever way we go, a WNBA team in Philly would be the ultimate victory.

Subscribe and rate Sixers Talk:
Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

Contact Us