What To Watch: WNBA’s ‘3 To See’ Pushes Mainstream Interest To Its Tipping Point

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This story originally appeared on Forbes.com (5/27/2013)

By now (unless you’ve momentarily stepped away from the sports landscape) you’ve been introduced to the WNBA’s 3 To See rookies.

But just in case you’re in the (very small) minority, here’s a quick guide to the top three rookies:

Brittney Griner – Center – Phoenix Mercury. Griner stands 6’8” with a 7’4” wingspan. She can dunk a basketball like it’s nobody’s business (her 18 collegiate dunks account for 54.5% of the 33 by college women), and she is expected to dominate the paint just like she did in college (she’s the all-time NCAA blocks leader for women and men).

Elena Delle Donne – Guard/Forward – Chicago Sky. Delle Donne’s game is part power and finesse. When she walked away from UConn and a guaranteed national championship(s), many didn’t think her talent would ever be seen in women’s college basketball again, let alone the WNBA. But after finding her voice, Delle Donne eventually found her way back to basketball. She led the nation in scoring as a junior and finished 5th in NCAA history in career scoring.

Skylar Diggins – Guard – Tulsa Shock.Diggins was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana, so it’s safe to say she’s been a Fighting Irish her entire life. As a standout at Notre Dame, she was a four-time All-American and led her team to three straight Final Four appearances. Off the court, Diggins’ popularity has taken social media by storm; she is among the top athletes followed on Twitter (390K+).

Ok, now that you’re up to speed. Here’s something else that you might have overlooked. These world-class rookies have caught the attention of the biggest names in sports and entertainment.

Shortly before the WNBA draft, NBA MVP and All-Star, LeBron James, commented on Griner’s game. He said, “There really isn’t anyone who can match her right now. She’s too big, she’s too strong. It’s not like she’s just catching it and laying it or dunking it every time. She’s shooting turnaround jumpers. She’s drop stepping over her left shoulder, right shoulder. She’s shooting fadeaway jumpers, and she’s dunking the ball too. She’s real.”

And in the last month, Griner was spotted perfecting her skyhook with NBA legend, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar; and Delle Donne was interviewed in prime time during the Chicago Bulls’ NBA Playoff series.

These rookies have ignited interest in the WNBA that hasn’t been seen since the leagues’s inception, and the momentum and exposure should pay off in terms of viewership and attendance.

Today the rookies are going head-to-head on ESPN2 during the league’s2013 Tip-off Week (Washington @ Tulsa – 3:00 pm EST; Chicago @ Phoenix – 5:00 pm EST).

UPDATE: After this story originally posted, the WNBA released its 2013 Tip-Off statistics. The league saw its year-to-year attendance jump by 2.7 percent and arenas filled to 85 percent capacity. The second game of the Memorial Day doubleheader featuring the Chicago Sky and Phoenix Mercury was the most-viewed WNBA game on ESPN2 in nine years, delivering 455,000 viewers. The first game of the day – the Washington Mystics vs. Tulsa Shock – attracted 314,000 viewers. Overall, the WNBA experienced a 60 percent increase over last year’s opening telecast. Also, the league saw increased traffic to WNBA.com with more than 2.2 million page views, which is an increase of over 35 percent.

Good Night Sports Fans,

Alana

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