There’s a new professional women’s basketball league that features a unique format, top-flight athletes and backers, and major broadcast networks.
Athletes Unlimited tips off its inaugural season on Wednesday in Las Vegas — the latest in the brand’s growing portfolio of women’s sports leagues.
- The season will run for five weeks, and its timing between January and February was chosen to complement the WNBA schedule.
- Each week, teams will have rotating rosters, and an individual player will be crowned champion — a format that’s “ideally suited for basketball,” CEO and co-founder Jon Patricof told Front Office Sports.
- Big names participating include Courtney Williams, Lexie Brown, and Natasha Cloud.
- CBS Sports Network and FOX Sports both inked deals to broadcast games.
The 44 players will make combined compensation of more than $1 million — an average of more than $20,000 per player.
After five weeks, the league will judge success on more than just fan response. “The No. 1 success metric for our league, especially for the first season, is how was the athletes’ experience both on the court and off the court?” Patricof said.
A New Empire?
Athletes Unlimited launched in 2020 and also runs leagues in volleyball, softball, and lacrosse. The leagues, which feature the same format as basketball, were created to capitalize on untapped U.S. markets.
The brand’s board of advisors also features sports industry heavy-hitters including Jessica Mendoza, Kevin Durant, Taylor Rooks, Rich Kleiman, and Abby Wambach. It also has major brand support including deals with Nike and GEICO, as well as a new deal with EY.