Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers support WNBA season kickoff

Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard and other prominent teammates wore WNBA gear to bring more recognition to the underappreciated women’s league.

Summers in Orlando are typically hot, humid and not hoodie-friendly. However, that did not stop Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard and his teammates from wearing orange WNBA hoodies to promote the professional women’s basketball league start.

On July 25, the WNBA launched its season headlining the New York Liberty and their new star Sabrina Ionescu against the Seattle Storm. Ionescu was the number one draft pick in the 2020 WNBA draft and a University of Oregon star. In a recent press conference, Lillard said he watched the Liberty-Storm game.

“I think it’s important to support them because at the end of the day they are a professional league just like we are,” Lillard said. “Just like we came here playing in a bubble and made that sacrifice, stepping away from our families and coming to do what we love, their doing the same thing.”

Historically, the five-time NBA All-Star has been vocal about supporting the WNBA. In a 2018 interview with Yahoo! Sports, he said that the women’s league deserved more respect, pay and recognition.

The WNBA’s average salary of $130,000 is significantly less than the NBA’s $7.7 million average pay. The WNBA’s games are televised less, have fewer ticket sales and a smaller viewership. Sometimes the league can’t provide teams with dependable travel options to play games around the country.

In the press conference and early July, Lillard underscored the WNBA’s displeasing bubble accommodations, which he said he wished were better.

Other Blazers stars CJ McCollum, Carmelo Anthony, Jusuf Nurkic and Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James also wore the orange WNBA hoodie.

There has been an active campaign in recent years to get more NBA players to support their female counterparts to bring the women’s association more recognition. More recognition could help boost popularity, ticket sales and ultimately WNBA players’ salaries.

Like Lillard, more NBA players are watching and attending WNBA games. Houston Rockets star Russell Westbrook and Washington Wizards stars John Wall and Bradley Beal attend WNBA games.

Late Lakers legend Kobe Bryant would often go to WNBA games with his daughter Gianna.

“No NBA player supported the WNBA or women’s college basketball than Kobe,” WNBA icon Rebecca Lobo once tweeted. “He attended games, watched on TV and coached the next generation.”

Earlier this year, Laker great and Los Angeles Sparks head coach Derek Fisher said that Kobe positively impacted the women’s game and that people would react and listen when he showed up at games or spoke about women’s basketball.

Blazers big names Lillard, McCollum, Anthony and Nurkic’s unified recognition of the WNBA warrants reaction, listening and acknowledgment. Acknowledgment, Lillard said, that should be shared with the women.

“The fact that they’re doing the same thing we’re doing, we should be acknowledging them,” he said. “I feel like every guy that you see wearing these hoodies today was in support of their league and all the women that chose to participate.”

Next: Takeaways: Nurkic impresses, but Blazers fall short vs. Raptors
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