A new professional women’s basketball league is slated to debut in January 2022 and will be operated by Athletes Unlimited, which previously launched professional softball, volleyball and lacrosse leagues.
Washington Mystics goaltender Natasha Cloud and former WNBA players Sydney Colson and Ty Young have been announced as the first three players to sign with the basketball league, which is not in conflict with the WNBA based in summer.
Athletes Unlimited Basketball will have 44 players competing in a season from January 29 to February 28, 2022. All games will take place in one location in one city, yet to be named. The basketball league will have the same model as the other Athletes Unlimited leagues, which focus more on measuring the success of individual players.
There are no specific owners, general managers or teams. Instead, players start on four different teams that wear different colored uniforms and have captains assigned. Players total points based on their teams’ results and individual stats. At the end of each week, the top four players in the points standings become captains and take over their teams.
At the end of the season, there is a point total winner. In the Dallas-based volleyball league, which enjoyed its first Australian season in February and March, the winner was Jordan Larson, who went on to help the United States win their first Olympic gold in Tokyo l ‘last summer. Taylor Cummings was the inaugural lacrosse champion in August; this league was held in the Washington metro area.
In softball, which ended her second Australian season in September, the champion was pitcher Aleshia Ocasio, who is Cloud’s wife.
“I saw firsthand how awesome the format was,” Cloud said of Ocasio’s experience. “She was happy that the league is run by the players, and they feel valued and heard. These things matter.”
Most WNBA players have competed overseas during the winter months since the league was launched in 1997. The AU league should not compete with the high salaries of top foreign leagues in European countries. and Asian. But Cloud said the AU league is still a good alternative, especially for American players who would rather spend the winter in the United States.
“I think the WNBA and Athletes Unlimited will fit together perfectly,” Cloud said. “We can stay here, it will be really competitive basketball, and we don’t have to be away from our families for several months.”
The WNBA did not have a statement on the AU League, but noted that its players regularly compete in other leagues during the winter months. There are 12 WNBA teams with a maximum roster of 12, meaning 144 jobs are available each season if each team has a maximum roster. But teams can also choose to carry 11 players for salary cap reasons.
“Since we launched Athletes Unlimited in March 2020, basketball has been on our radar,” said AU co-founder Jon Patricof. “Certainly there are a lot of WNBA players who go overseas. But we also recognize that there are a lot of great players in the sport who come out of the college or international level and aren’t able to find a place in the WNBA, so that’s another potential avenue for them.
“When we identified basketball as an option for us, we reached out to the players and started talking to them conceptually about this league. And that’s when we heard a lot of people excited. “