“That’s our sisterhood,” Devin Booker told GQ. “Ever since I’ve been in Phoenix I’ve made it a point to support the [Phoenix] Mercury players and support the WNBA as a whole. A lot of the things they do go unrecognized and they need the treatment they deserve. I’m inspired by them, which made it easy to wear the hoodie and give them the support they deserve.”
The big sweatshirt moment is the result of a massive coordinated attack by ESPN and the WNBA. ESPN sent more than 50 hoodies to celebrities “with customized elements,” according to a rep with the network. The NBA bubble alone received over 140, which were passed out among the teams. The result? Almost 200 combined athletes and celebrities ended up posting themselves in the hoodie. The real big payoff came in the form of a different number: the season’s first game between the Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury was the most-watched WNBA opener since 2012. Overall, viewership on opening weekend was up 63% compared to the average game in the 2019 season.
NBA players weren’t the only ones piling support onto the WNBA, either. Lil Wayne, New Orleans Saints’ wide receiver Michael Thomas, and rising tennis star Naomi Osaka all posted images of themselves in the WNBA hoodie, too. The new images comes in on a wave of widespread support for the long-underappreciated WNBA. Long before the crush of orange hoodies over the weekend, NBA players have advocated for the WNBA in different ways. LeBron James has worn gear supporting the Las Vegas Aces before. Kobe Bryant was one of the league’s biggest cheerleaders. In the past Kyrie Irving has pushed Nike to give WNBA players first access to his signature shoes, and just yesterday donated $1.5 million to cover the salaries of the women sitting out this season.
Celebrating the start of the WNBA season is natural for the NBA players, who, after all, are hoops fans just like the rest of us. After months without sports, who wouldn’t be excited about the start of the WNBA season? As Tucker put it in an Instagram caption, “Basketball is back!”