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Aside from Gender, What Makes the WNBA and NBA Different?

While the WNBA does not garner the same audience as the NBA does, the women involved in the league are doing some amazing things. These athletes are showing kids around the world that basketball is a sport loved by all races and genders, and by putting in the work, they too can make it to the professional level. The WNBA was founded in April of 1996 by David Stern, who was the commissioner of the NBA from 1984 through 2014. The inaugural season was played in 1997 and unfortunately did not get the respect it deserved out of the gate. Eight teams were included in that original season, with the league now consisting of 12 teams (6 in the western conference and 6 in the eastern conference). Unfortunately, the WNBA fanbase is not nearly as large as the NBA fanbase is and this is evident in the coverage of games. We are fans of the WNBA as we love the impact it has on young female players and how it shows young girls that they too can be sports heroes. Because of the smaller crowd sizes, TV coverage, and overall fanbase, not everyone knows what the difference is between the WNBA and the NBA. Aside from the obvious women and men, there are many things that the WNBA does differently than the NBA.


The differences between the NBA and the WNBA range from rules and equipment to salaries and stadium size. Let’s take a look at a some of the differences between the two leagues.

Basketball Size

If you’ve ever played basketball with an official NBA basketball, then you’d immediately notice the size difference between that and a WNBA ball. An NBA basketball measures in at 29.5”, sometimes known as a size 7, while the WNBA basketball is about an inch smaller measuring in at 28.5”, otherwise known as a size 6. This size difference would make sense considering men and women typically have different hand sizes. Women’s hands tend to be smaller than the men’s equivalent, so having the ball size slightly smaller allows for better grip with smaller hands. The WNBA basketball also weighs in at 2 ounces lighter than a typical NBA basketball.

Quarter Length and Shot Clock Time

When the league was first introduced, the WNBA would play two 20-minute halves utilizing a 30 second shot clock. This has since been updated and the WNBA now plays four 10-minute quarters and has a 24-second shot clock. While the shot clock in both the WNBA and the NBA are 24-seconds, the NBA plays 12-minute quarters as opposed to the 10-minute quarters played in the WNBA. The WNBA has also eliminated the tip-off at the beginning of the 2nd half to help speed up the game.

Roster Sizes and Ages

Another difference within the organizations has to do with the team rosters. Within the NBA, a team is allowed to have a maximum of 15 players at any given time, however in the WNBA the maximum number of roster players allowed is 12. In addition to the number of players on a roster, the age requirements for the two leagues are different as well. The NBA allows players to enter the draft when they are 19 years old and must also have at least one year of college experience. The WNBA requires players entering the draft to be at least 22 years old.

Court Sizes and Adjustments

While the overall rules of the game are the same, the WNBA court does have some adjustments to the sizing of certain areas. In the NBA the 3-point line measures 23-foot 9-inches at the top of the key and 22-feet in the corners. This is over a foot difference when compared to the WNBA. The WNBA 3-point line measures 20-feet 6-inches across the board. The rest of the court is generally the same as some WNBA teams share a court with NBA teams, so it would make sense for them to have similar dimensions.

Other Differences Between WNBA and NBA

While the above are the main differences in how the game is played between the men and the women’s leagues, there are also differences when it comes to crowd sizes, average salaries, and more. The average salary of a WNBA player is around $71,000 while the average NBA salary is $6.4 million, but it makes sense right now considering the crowd sizes and how much each organization is bringing in. The WNBA averages around 7,000 attendees per game while the NBA averages 18,000 in attendance. The TV viewership is a lot smaller in the WNBA with around 280,000 viewers for the 2018 season while the 2019 NBA Finals alone averaged 15.14 million. The NBA also brings in a lot more revenue over the course of a season with around $7.4 billion compared to the $60 million that the WNBA brings in. Ticket prices for the NBA average around $90 per ticket while the WNBA tickets cost around $18 on average. The WNBA is a much smaller organization that the NBA is at this point so the revenue and overall numbers make sense in comparison. Hopefully as the world begins to see how amazingly talented these women athletes are, the popularity of the WNBA will continue to improve and the women athletes will be better compensated for their skills.
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