WNBA at 25: From the Basketball League's Origins to Its Groundbreaking Activism Today

Photos Courtesy: Tim Clayton/Corbis/Getty Images; Andrew D. Bernstein/Getty Images/WNBAE; Steven Freeman/NBAE/Getty Images; Logo Courtesy: WNBA

Founded on April 22, 1996, the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) was first conceptualized as a counterpart to the men's National Basketball Association (NBA). In fact, ahead of its inaugural season in 1997, the WNBA centered its marketing campaign around the phrase "We Got Next." The slogan had a literal meaning; that inaugural picked up just after the NBA's season wrapped, but it also indicated something more. "It's the three-word ticket to play in street-corner basketball," Alison Roberts wrote in The Sacramento Bee 25 years ago. "At long last, it's now the women's turn to say it — and to play it." 

Over two decades later, the WNBA has carved out its own reputation as a premier professional sports league replete with scores of talented players, from greats of the past, like Rebecca Lobo, Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes, to some of today's most decorated athletes, like Candace Parker, A'ja Wilson, Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird. One of league's more recent mottos was "Watch Me Work," a notion that extends beyond the boundaries of a basketball court and into the realm of league-wide social justice initiatives.

To mark the league's 25th year, we're taking a look back at the WNBA's origins, standout moments and exciting future ahead of this season's first weekend of games.