Athletes Unlimited league arrives for women’s rings with new model

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A new league of professional women’s basketball kicked off in Las Vegas last night with WNBA stars Lexie Brown, Mercedes Russell and Odyssey Sims on the field. Athletes Unlimited hopes to change the game in the US in more ways than one – the question is whether its unusual size and small start will make it succeed or whether it will be just a flash in the pan.

In a 44-person competition that includes a combination of current and former WNBA players alongside non-WNBA players, Athletes Unlimited will not designate a team as champions at the end of the season – instead, it’s all about the individual players, which is certainly a unique approach to a team sport. There is another caveat that the composition of the teams changes every week of the five-week season, with each team being drafted by a captain. The captains can also change each week if the four players who accumulated the most points in the last week of play.

Scoring points isn’t the only way to AU. to get points – players can gain or lose points with assists, turnovers, steals, fouls and more. The members of the winning team get extra points for winning, and members of the Unlimited Club also vote for MVPs every week.

Athletes Unlimited starts small on purpose, because they’ve learned from the mistakes of past startup competitions, according to the athletic. They’ve been around since 2020 and they have existing women’s professional volleyball, softball, and lacrosse leagues that operate on a similar model to the new basketball league. AU offers American female athletes an option to the state that didn’t really exist before — for example, professional volleyball players have been forced to go abroad and play for competitions in other countries because there are no paid professional opportunities in the U.S.

However, the small start means the athletes involved aren’t exactly making a living from the AU competition, especially due to the shorter season. Athletes who play women’s basketball abroad during the WNBA outdoor season earn well, especially when compared to WNBA salaries. This new league hopes eventually to provide a legitimate alternative to that, allowing athletes to stay in the country and still play off-season, but for now they’re only making an average of $20,000 each, with bonuses available.

The WNBA benefits from its partnership with the NBA, a luxury many women’s professional leagues have not been given when trying to get off the ground. While this league offers players not drafted for any of the 12 WNBA teams the opportunity to play professionally, getting it off the ground as a legitimate option for athletes likely to decide between making a life by playing professionally or choosing to forego the professional life and take up a non-athletic career. The Athletes Unlimited competition runs the space between those lives as it exists today, counting on athletes to take a chance. It’s not a development competition because part of its appeal now is the great WNBA players who are participate in it.

Sponsored by the likes of Gatorade, Geico, and Nike, and with a broadcast deal with Fox and CBS, they’re not exactly bush league here. But there are certain expectations that come with such partnerships, and with an open mind I must say I’m interested, if a little skeptical, to see if this model will find success and fandom. The individual points system is the most fascinating and, in my opinion, related to part of this model – the AU website reads: “We believe that the traditional model of professional sports is not built to bring out the best in athletes.” , or to provide the most for his fans.” That is certainly an interesting view, as the traditional model of professional sports is not only traditional, but above all successful.Perhaps for volleyball and lacrosse, which had no existing competitions, this will add a new twist that will bring more athletes, fans and viewers , but while AU doesn’t compete with the WNBA, they can face the challenge of being compared to the competition that has been around for more than 25 years.

The good thing about deviating from the traditional model is that much of the power is put in the hands of the players – with no owners, GMs, long-term contracts, or even coaches, there’s a certain appeal to the almost free-for-all nature of the game. new competition. And several current and former WNBA players have publicly expressed their excitement about, and trust in, the potential of the competition, opinions that certainly outweigh mine.

Giving more women the chance to stay in the United States and playing their sport at the highest level is always positive, and it’s really exciting to see players and sponsors willing to invest in something like this. A lot has changed in the past two or three decades: The WNBA was founded in 1996, the first professional women’s soccer league (a predecessor to the NWSL) began in 2001, and we’re only now seeing the field expand into more predominantly women’s soccer leagues. sport. If you’d like to tune in, this week’s next Athletes Unlimited matchups take place tomorrow night at 7pm EST on FS2.

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