The WNBA announced Wednesday that Minnesota center Sylvia Fowles and Seattle guard Sue Bird, both of whom will retire at the end of this season, along with Las Vegas forward A’ja Wilson, and Seattle forward Breanna Stewart, co-captains for the All-Star Game on July 10 (ABC, 1 p.m. ET) in Chicago.
The league also said Phoenix center Brittney Griner, who has been jailed in Russia since February, will be an honorary All-Star starter. Griner was previously an All-Star seven times.
This will be Bird’s 13th All-Star Game and Fowles’ 8th. Wilson and Stewart will be the official team co-captains and select their teams during the ESPN WNBA All-Star Team Selection Special on July 2 (3:00 p.m. ET) as they received the most fan votes. They select first from the remaining pool of eight starters and then from the pool of 12 reserves.
Besides the above four, other starters are Connecticut’s Jonquel Jones, Los Angeles forward Nneka Ogwumike, Chicago’s Candace Parker, New York’s Sabrina Ionescu, and Las Vegas teammates Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young, all guards. This is the first All-Star selection for former No. 1 picks Ionescu (2020), Young (2019) and Plum (2017).
Fowles and Bird will also be co-captains; Bird is paired with Wilson and Fowles with Stewart.
“Having icons like Sylvia and Sue selected as starters in the AT&T WNBA All-Star Game in their 15th and 19th seasons, respectively, is extraordinary,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert. “And when you see the starting lineups littered 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 last season – join A ‘Yes and Breanna as co-captains for an all-star event that will in some ways symbolize passing the torch to a new generation of WNBA stars.”
Engelbert added that the league also wants to honor Griner.
“Every season of Brittney’s career that has had an All-Star Game, she has been selected as an All-Star,” Engelbert said. “It’s not hard to imagine that if BG were here with us this season, they would be selected again and undoubtedly show their incredible talents. It is therefore only fitting that she is named an honorary starter today and we continue to work towards her safe return to the United States.”
Fans accounted for 50% of the votes for the starters, while current WNBA players and a media panel each accounted for 25%. Wilson topped the fan vote, followed by Stewart.
After the votes were tallied, players were ranked by position (guard and forecourt) within each of three voting groups – fan votes, player votes, and media votes. Each player’s score was calculated by averaging her weighted rank from fan votes, player votes, and media votes. This resulted in four guards and six frontcourt players being named as starters. Fan voting served as a tiebreaker for players in a position group with the same number of points.
While there was quite a bit of consistency between fan, media and player votes, there were also some major differences. For the guards, Bird placed third with fans, seventh with players, and ninth with media. Among frontcourt players, Parker was third among fans, seventh among media, and 13th among players.
Among those who didn’t make the starting pool but are expected to be reserves, Phoenix guard Skylar Diggins-Smith finished third in media, fourth in fans and 14th in players. Dallas guard Arike Ogunbowale finished fourth among media and players and eleventh among fans.
The 12 reserve players will be chosen by the league’s coaches and announced on Tuesday. Coaches vote for three guards, five frontcourt players, and four players in each position independently of the conference, and they may not vote for their own players. If a player cannot participate in the All-Star Game, Engelbert will select a replacement.