SAN FRANCISCO – Steph Curry and Klay Thompson both have fathers who played in the NBA, but the Warriors’ superstar backcourt also remembers the WNBA being a fond part of their childhoods.
Curry still can feel the energy around Charlotte as a kid when the Sting showed up in 1997 as one of the WNBA’s original eight teams. For Thompson, it was all about 2001 WNBA Rookie of the Year Jackie Stiles and the Portland Fire before he moved to Southern California in time for the dominance of Lisa Leslie and the Los Angeles Sparks. The Sting folded in 2007, and the Fire’s tenure was short-lived, ceasing to exist after the 2002 season.
The Sparks remain one of the WNBA’s 12 teams, though that number soon will increase to 13, and Curry and Thompson will have a new team for which to root. The Warriors’ ownership group officially was awarded the WNBA’s first expansion franchise since 2008 on Thursday, an unnamed team that will begin play at Chase Center in 2025 and be based out of the Warriors’ former practice facility in Oakland.
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“There’s no better time for growing women’s basketball, women’s sports in general, and the investment in the game,” Curry said. “The fact that it’s growing, it’s expanding and it’s here is awesome.”
Golden State’s ownership group is taking this new journey head-on, and nobody was surprised by Warriors owner and CEO Joe Lacob guaranteeing a WNBA championship within the first five years of the franchise.
“Of course he did,” Curry said. “You got to be bold with your vision, I guess, and that’s just a way to plant your flag. He’s got a good track record right now.”
Lacob emphasized Thursday that the timing couldn’t have been better for the Warriors to take on this kind of challenge. He became a major fan of the women’s game during the 1996 Summer Olympics, where Stanford women’s basketball coach Tara VanDerveer led Team USA to a gold medal. VanDerveer was in attendance at Chase Center for Thursday’s announcement, and Lacob lavished on what an impact she has made on him and the game as a whole.
Golden State Warriors
Owning a WNBA team is a full-circle moment for Lacob, who owned the San Jose Lasers of the American Basketball League beginning in 1996 and was an early investor in the ABL, until the league folded during the 1998 season in large part because of the WNBA’s emergence.
Steve Kerr has seen how Lacob has transformed the Warriors into the NBA’s most-valuable franchise as perennial title contenders and believes he can have the same kind of effectiveness for a WNBA team.
“The Warriors’ fortunes changed the second Joe bought the team and said we’re going to win in five years,” Kerr said. “He delivered every resource to strengthen the organization at every level. So, the commitment he’s going to make for the WNBA team, obviously there are guidelines as to how much you can spend on payroll, but he’s going to make sure this is a first-class operation because that’s what Joe does.
“That’s really exciting. I think fans are going to love it, and I think we will enjoy it, too, organizationally just having a new group of people coming in with similar goals but maybe a different way of doing things, I think, is a good learning opportunity, a good growth opportunity for our organization.”
The WNBA Finals begin this Sunday between the New York Liberty and Las Vegas Aces, and Kerr, Curry and Thompson are sure to have their eyes set on the five-game series. Kerr has formed a friendship with Liberty coach Sandy Brondello, and the two have shared coaching notes before. Curry chose A’ja Wilson, Breanna Stewart and Sabrina Ionescu as the three players he would start an expansion team with, and all three will star in the Finals.
Thompson went with Ionescu as the player who most resembles his game, giving himself a humorous reality check in his answer.
“Gosh, I mean, I would say Sabrina, but she does much more than I do,” Thompson said. “She is a triple-double threat every night. I love watching Caitlin Clark play. I know she's not in the league yet, but she's obviously going there, just her ability to pull out from anywhere and score from anywhere. Rhyne Howard for the Atlanta Dream, she's one of the better young players.
“Maya Moore was my favorite. I got to spend time with her at the Olympics, and she's one of the best basketball players I've ever seen. There's just so many, I could always keep going."
As for finding the perfect team name, Thompson agrees it should be something that encapsulates the whole Bay Area, and Kerr admitted players and coaches already were talking about the decision at practice. Curry has thoughts there while Lacob and the rest of the ownership think it over, but he’s keeping them to himself for now.
“I don’t give out any ideas for free,” he said.