Chicago lived up to the hype as it hosted its first WNBA All-Star Weekend. Vibes were on full display as the city brought the energy out for the midsummer event. Fans roamed the streets near the Wintrust Arena and McCormick Place, engaging in the outdoor fan experience presented by WNBA Live.
“I would rank this as one of the best All-Star weekends I have played in. From beginning to end, it was nonstop festivities. Chicago hosted well,” said eight-time All-Star Sylvia Fowles. The 36-year-old center, who was drafted second overall by the Chicago Sky, has announced she will retire after the 2022 WNBA season.
Seattle Storm point guard Sue Bird will also retire after the 2022 season. Bird was drafted by the Storm first overall in the 2002 WNBA Draft and has won four championships for the Emerald City. Although her playing days are coming to a close, she won't be gone forever.
“The WNBA can’t get rid of me that easily. I’ll definitely be a part of the WNBA in some capacity. I don’t know what that is yet, but I’ll be here,” said Bird.
WNBA Live showcased women business owners, sold All-Star game apparel, including an exclusive drop by Playa Society, and allowed fans to meet and greet WNBA players past and present.
The on-court events kicked off Saturday afternoon with the Skills Competition and 3-Point Contest. This year in conjunction with the 2022 Nike Nationals happening the same weekend, WNBA players competed alongside Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL) players in the Skills Competition. New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu and NC State commit Zoe Brooks won the obstacle course event.
Allie Quigley, the reigning three-time champion, made history Saturday by becoming the only player in professional basketball to win a 3-Point Contest four times. In 2020, Quigley knocked down 28 long-range shots in the final round to win her third 3-Point contest. She vowed that would be her final appearance.
“I thought we were in agreement that I’ve done this enough. It's someone else’s turn. But once Chicago said they were hosting, I caved. I had to do it again,” Quigley said in 2020.
However, once the Sky were announced as hosts and the 3-Point Contest returned (it was not a feature at the 2021 All-Star Weekend), the Illinois native came out of retirement for one last time. She bested her 2020 performance with 30 total points in her final 3-Point Contest.
“I'm retired,” she told Black Rosie Media. I retired in my hometown. It's a good storybook ending, I'd say."
During the All-Star game Sunday, many accolades were acknowledged and earned. Las Vegas Aces point guard Kelsey Plum put up 30 points, tied with Maya Moore for the most buckets in WNBA All-Star history. Her teammate and 2022 All-Star Captain A’ja Wilson expressed her pride in Plum.
“Being able to draft her, and she’s my teammate, was a great feeling. I’m extremely proud of her. She works really hard,” said Wilson.
Plum was unaware of how many points she had, but she felt honored to win this award on the same night as Sue Bird and Fowles’s farewell. “What a way to send Syl and Sue off. I just wanted to have fun. I felt like a kid in the candy store playing alongside them,” said Plum.
Plum left her mark on the hardwood Sunday evening, as did Sue Bird and Sylvia Fowles, who will retire at the end of the season. Fowles left in style after throwing down a dunk in the first half. Although Bird didn't record any points or have a flashy moment, she left the court with a standing ovation from the crowd.
Although this is her last WNBA All-Star game, Bird believes the game is in good hands with the younger generation.
“I mean, you have players Jonquel Jones, Kelsey Plum, and Jewell Loyd who are super hungry. They’re not even in their prime yet. So they’re only going to get better,” said Bird.
Loyd made her fourth WNBA All-Star appearance, ending the game with 21 points. Jonquel Jones also made her fourth All-Star game appearance and fourth as a starter. She recorded 29 points, 13 rebounds, and five assists for Team Stewart.
During the WNBA Skills Challenge and the 3-point Contest, fans and players took a brief intermission to swag surf, and what is Chicago fun without swag surfin’? This weekend allowed Chicago Sky players to return home to glory and show other WNBA players the heavy influence this populous city can have.
While the All-Star weekend said goodbye to two great legends and welcomed the young stars, overall, it was a great weekend for some fun and exciting basketball in Chicago. What better place to spend the All-Star Weekend than the same city the Sky won their 2021 league title.