WNBA All-Stars launch 3-on-3 basketball league that tips in 2025

WNBA players will soon have another option for making money in the offseason. 

On Thursday, league All-Stars Breanna Stewart and Napheesa Collier announced their new 3-on-3 league, Unrivaled, would begin play in January 2025. The league is set to feature six teams of five players and a “compressed full court” style of play. In a news release, Unrivaled touted its commitment to all players having “equity and a vested interest” in the league, as well as promising to offer “the highest average salary” in women’s pro sports. 

The league features a variety of high-profile investors, including USWNT stars Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe, UConn women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma, former NBA All-Stars Steve Nash and Carmelo Anthony, five-time LPGA champion Michelle Wie West and actor Ashton Kutcher, among others.

Numerous details are still being worked out, including a media-rights deal. But in that department, Unrivaled will have a veteran leading the charge, as former ESPN president John Skipper, now the co-founder of Meadowlark Media, will be “spearheading league media rights,” according to the news release. Skipper is also an investor in the league. 

The WNBA, which tipped its 28th season earlier this month, has been criticized in recent weeks for its pay compared to the NBA. At the heart of this discussion has been outrage about the fact that No. 1 overall pick Caitlin Clark, who re-wrote the scoring record book during her college career and has helped draw thousands of fans to the game, will make $76,535 her rookie year. That’s not in the same stratosphere as Victor Wembanyama, the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA draft, who made $12.1 million his first season with the San Antonio Spurs. The average WNBA league salary hovers just over $115,000 this season, considerably lower than that of every NBA player — including those who sit on the bench. 

While the WNBA is far behind the NBA, its lead on the NWSL is substantial. In the current NWSL CBA, which was ratified in 2022 and runs through the 2026 season, the league minimum salary is just $35,000 (in the WNBA, it’s around $75,000 for players with three years of experience). And in the NWSL, the average annual salary is about $65,000 this season, although some stars make much more.

To supplement their incomes, many WNBA players head overseas during the winter to play in European leagues. The year-round play takes a toll on players’ bodies, and many have spoken of the challenges of being away from friends and family for long stretches.

Collier, a three-time WNBA All-Star, told The Washington Post the creation of Unrivaled started with a postgame conversation. It quickly grew into more: “… it formed into this thing where we can make so much change, and why wait for someone else to do it when we can do it ourselves?”

Collier’s husband, Alex Bazzell, who trains WNBA and NBA players, will serve as league president. 

“For years, women have relied heavily on off-court sponsorships for a majority of their income. With Unrivaled, we’re revolutionizing the game by prioritizing investments in our stars and ensuring their on-court performance is reflected in their pay,” Stewart said in Unrivaled’s news release. 

Unrivaled’s benefits are also likely to factor into negotiations for the next WNBA CBA. Players can opt out of the current CBA — which runs through 2027 — at the end of this season, which means negotiations for the next CBA would start after the 2025 season. 

“With the growing popularity of women’s basketball and the WNBA, this is an opportunity for us to extend our visibility into the traditional basketball season. Breanna and I set out to create a league that would change the way women’s sports are viewed and ultimately how sports leagues operate,” Collier said in the release. “We may have had the vision, but this isn’t just our league – it belongs to the players, and the Unrivaled model reflects that.”  

Email Lindsay Schnell at lschnell@usatoday.com and follow her on social media @Lindsay_Schnell

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