Minnesota Lynx center Sylvia Fowles and Seattle Storm point guard Sue Bird will serve as co-captains of the 2022 WNBA All-Star game in what both have announced as their final season in the league. The league also announced Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner as an honorary All-Star.
Fowles, who is making her eighth appearance, will be a co-captain with another former MVP in Storm forward Breanna Stewart. Bird, earning a record 13th nod, will co-captain with 2020 MVP A'ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces, who is joined by two teammates in the starter pool. All four were voted as starters and announced on Wednesday during "The Jump" with LaChina Robinson.
The captains will draft their rosters first from the starters pool and next from the reserve pool. The "WNBA All-Star Team Selection Special" will be broadcast by ESPN on Saturday, July 2 at 3 p.m. ET.
Connecticut Sun forward Jonquel Jones, Chicago Sky champion Candace Parker and Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike will make repeat appearances. And this year's team includes three players making their All-Star debuts in Las Vegas Aces guards Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young and New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu.
“For icons like Sylvia and Sue to be voted into the AT&T WNBA All-Star Game as starters in their 15th and 19th seasons, respectively, is extraordinary,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement. “And when you see the starting lineups dotted with first-time All-Stars like Sabrina Ionescu, Kelsey Plum, and Jackie Young, it just seems right that Sylvia and Sue — who have said this will be their final season — join A’ja and Breanna as co-captains for an All-Star event that will in some ways symbolize the passing of the torch to a new generation of WNBA stars.”
The 10 All-Star starters (four guards and six frontcourt players) are selected through a combination of voting by fans (50%), current WNBA players (25%) and national panel of sportswriters and broadcasters (25%). The 12 reserves will be selected by head coaches, who vote for three guards, five frontcourt players and four players at either position. Coaches cannot vote for their own players. The reserves will be announced on Tuesday.
Griner named honorary All-Star
Griner was named an honorary All-Star and starter by commissioner Cathy Engelbert, the league announced in an email release. Griner remains detained in Russia and will remain there until at least July 2 after her detention was extended again.
“During each season of Brittney’s career in which there has been an All-Star Game, she has been selected as an All-Star,” Engelbert said in a statement “It is not difficult to imagine that if BG were here with us this season, she would once again be selected and would, no doubt, show off her incredible talents. So, it is only fitting that she be named as an honorary starter today and we continue to work on her safe return to the U.S.”
Griner has been selected to seven All-Star games in her career. Team courts have a decal with her initials and number in them and players continue to put a spotlight on what the U.S. government has labeled her "wrongful detainment."
Fowles, Bird take over one last All-Star
Fowles is playing her 15th and final season after two championships and two Finals MVP awards with the Lynx. She is a four-time Defensive Player of the Year and leads the league in total rebounds (3,835) over her career. She also leads in defensive rebounds (2,743) and field goal percentage (.598).
She is currently out indefinitely with a knee injury, but is reportedly "close" to returning to the court. Fowles will be paired with Stewart, a fourth-time selection who has three WNBA titles and two Finals MVP awards. She leads the league in scoring at 21.8 PPG, tying her career-high, and 7.6 RPG.
Bird announced last week that it would in fact be her final season in the WNBA after 21 years, 19 of which she was on the court. She is the league's all-time assists leader (3,122) and leader in games played (561). Her 13 All-Star nods are more than any other player in history and could have been higher, but until last season the WNBA did not award All-Star nominations in Olympic years.
Only Tamika Catchings and Diana Taurasi, each at 10, have earned double-digit All-Star nods. Bird is paired with Wilson, who is in the game for a fourth time. She was a captain in 2019 and her team defeated one captained by Elena Delle Donne. Wilson is averaging 18.4 PPG and ranks second at 9.6 RPG. She was first in the fan and player rank vote for frontcourt players and second in the media rank. It was the opposite for Stewart.
Jones, the reigning MVP, is on her fourth selection. She averages 15.1 PPG for the Sun and is third in the league in rebounds at 9.4 RPG. Ogwumike, the WNBPA president, is making appearance No. 7 while leading the Sparks in scoring (18.1 PPG) and rebounding (7.1 RPG). Parker will play in her hometown for her seventh All-Star nod. She is averaging 12.7 PPG and 8.1 RPG.
Plum, Young, Ionescu make first appearances
Plum is averaging a second-best 20.3 PPG heading into games on Wednesday and ranked first in fan, media and player rankings to lead all All-Star selections. The reigning Sixth Player of the Year is joined by teammate Jackie Young, who is also making her first appearance. She was voted second in all of the categories.
Young is averaging a career-best 18.2 PPG and a leading candidate for Most Improved Player, if not MVP. She adds 4.2 RPG and 3.9 APG. The Aces' offense started the season on a historic pace and currently averages 91.5 PPG.
Ionescu, who already tied the mark for most WNBA triple-doubles, will make her debut in her third season. She has career-bests of 16.7 PPG and 6.1 APG after a torrid showing in June.
The three players are all former No. 1 picks, making it eight former No. 1 picks who were voted in as part of the 10 starters this year.
When is the 2022 WNBA All-Star game?
The 2022 WNBA All-Star game will be held at Wintrust Arena in Chicago, home of the reigning champion Sky, on Sunday, July 10 at 1 p.m. ET. It is the first time the city will host the game.
The weekend festivities include a two-day "WNBA Live" event for the first time. That will be held at McCormick Place, the host of the 2022 Tournament of Champions and the Girls Nike Nationals the same weekend.
It returns to its former former after a special Olympic-year model in Las Vegas last year. The WNBA All-Stars upset Team USA, 93-85, and Wings' guard Arike Ogunbowale was named MVP.