The 2022 WNBA season, which culminated in an inaugural championship for the Las Vegas Aces, was one for the history books. New records, heartfelt goodbyes and fresh faces marked the WNBA’s 26th season as the league enjoyed peak ratings and greater parity.
With the year coming to a close and the 2023 pre-season just around the corner, now is a good time to look back on what a season that was. Without further ado, here are the highlights, in no particular order, from the 2022 WNBA season.
Chelsea Gray playoff performance
Chelsea Gray lived up to her “gawd point” moniker, giving a clinic in the Aces title run. Dimming as she hit shots from beyond the arc, Gray pulled the strings for Las Vegas, earning WNBA Finals MVP honors. While it’s hard to pick just one moment from the star guard’s record-breaking postseason campaign, Gray’s step-back 3-pointer off an extended Tina Charles is certainly one of the standout moments.
Sue Bird’s Farewell
The WNBA said goodbye to one of the league’s all-time greats this year, with Sue Bird ending her storied basketball career on her own terms. The Storm guard enjoyed an iconic farewell tour as the league sent Bird into a well-deserved retirement. Bird leaves the WNBA with four titles and the current league leader in assists.
Sylvia Fowles’ star dunk
The 2022 season also marked the end of the career of WNBA legend Sylvia Fowles, with the Lynx center capping off a dominant 15-year streak. Fowles came out strong, throwing a dunk at the WNBA All-Star Game in front of a Chicago crowd, where she spent her first few years in the league. “I was shocked, I’m not even going to lie,” All-Star teammate A’ja Wilson said of Fowles’ dunk. “Syl could have walked off the court at that point and I would have been happy.”
Marine Johannès Pass of the Year
French phenom Marine Johannès returned to the Liberty for the 2022 season, injecting the young team with potent flare and creativity and helping New York reach the postseason. The 27-year-old’s talent was on full display during Game 1 of the playoffs, making an unlikely pass. Not only was Johannès’ no-look pass the turn of the year, it also helped Liberty deliver a shock win over Sky.
Brittney Griner’s presence became big
The wrongful stoppage of Brittney Griner in Russia loomed large during the 26th season of the WNBA, and the absence of the Mercury star was deeply felt. Players, teams and the league kept Griner’s name and face front and center, expanding on her story to help push for her release. This year’s All-Star Game featured Griner’s number jerseys as part of a season-long effort to get the 32-year-old involved.
Griner has already returned home, freed on December 8 in a prisoner exchange after 10 months in Russian custody.
Breanna Stewart and A’ja Wilson’s MVP Showdown
The semifinal series between the Storm and the Aces was an instant classic, with MVP favorites A’ja Wilson and Breanna Stewart trading blows in an epic showdown. Game 2 of the series featured a 32-point performance from Stewart and a 33-point outing from Wilson, marking only the third time in WNBA playoff history that two opposing players had scored more than 30 points. Las Vegas ended up getting the better of Seattle, despite Stewart scoring a whopping 42 points in Game 4, concluding a battle for history.
divorce contract Emerge as the phrase of the year
The 2022 season featured a lot of movement, with players parting ways with teams in highly publicized contract divorces. Tina Charles left the Mercury in June after just five months with the team before signing with the Storm, while Liz Cambage left Los Angeles after her brief stint with the Sparks following reports of locker room mix-ups.
Alyssa Thomas’ record triple-double
Alyssa Thomas recorded the first triple-double in WNBA Finals history, completing the feat in Game 3 of the Sun series against the Aces. The Connecticut star finished the season with four triple-doubles, propelling her to the top of the league’s all-time triple-double list. Even more remarkable, Thomas’ breakout season comes after tearing his Achilles tendon in 2021.
Courtney Vandersloot’s triple
There were plenty of surprises throughout the 26th WNBA campaign, but perhaps none more entertaining than Courtney Vandersloot’s long-range winner for the Sky. On the final play of the team’s regular season matchup against the Lynx, Chicago’s guard drew a slew of defenders before breaking free. Positioned beyond the arc, Vandersloot made one last push and dunked her shot as time ticked down.
Rhyne Howard debut
Rhyne Howard had one of the most dominant rookie outings in recent memory, nearly elevating the Dream to a WNBA playoff berth. The No. 1 pick in the 2022 WNBA draft, Howard averaged 16.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.6 steals to earn Rookie of the Year honors. If her debut was any indication, Howard is likely to be a WNBA juggernaut for years to come.