Finally, in its 20th season, the WNBA has a team in Dallas. Yeah, okay, the team actually plays in Arlington—just like the Cowboys, Rangers, and Dallas Morning News architecture critic Mark Lamster—but it says Dallas on the uniforms. Close enough.
We had to take a team from Tulsa, if you need me to underscore how ridiculous it was that Dallas did not have a franchise until now. You might think that if Tulsa has something and Dallas doesn’t, it’s probably not worth having, and normally you would be correct. (Unless you’re a big fan of Coney I-Lander’s hot dogs.) But in this case, we have gotten a solid, if itinerant, team with a championship history and a ton of potential.
The Dallas Wings were born in 1998 as the Detroit Shock, a vaguely car-based name that tied it to its NBA brother, the Pistons. Women’s basketball legend (and longtime Dallas resident) Nancy Lieberman was its first head coach. But the Shock didn’t have much success until it hired Bill Laimbeer, noted jerk and cornerstone of the Pistons’ “Bad Boys” title teams in the late ’80s. Under Laimbeer’s stewardship, the Shock won three titles (2003, 2006, and 2008) and made one other Finals appearance (2007). It was the first WNBA expansion team to win a ring.
After the 2009 season, the franchise moved to Tulsa, retaining the Shock name. Which was fine, because it adequately reflected the general reaction to moving to Tulsa. Nolan Richardson, known for his frenetic 40 Minutes of Hell system at the University of Arkansas, was hired as coach and general manager.
The Shock didn’t win much of anything in Tulsa, missing the playoffs in its first five seasons and finishing a dreadful 3-31 in 2011. But the team started turning around behind its young guard tandem of Skylar Diggins and Odyssey Sims. Diggins missed most of last season after suffering an ACL tear, but the Shock still made the playoffs, losing in the Western Conference semifinals to the Phoenix Mercury.
And now they’re here. At the Wings’ draft party in April, sort of a grand opening celebration for its new home on the UT Arlington campus, Diggins said that she was on track to play in the first game in Arlington, May 21 against the San Antonio Stars. “We’re here to take over the WNBA!” she yelled from the stage.
Diggins is the team’s biggest name and a budding star. Her backcourt mate, however, might be her equal as a local draw. Sims, who starred at Irving MacArthur, says she’s been slammed by ticket requests from friends and family and everyone else. But she relishes the fact that she’s playing at home, and says she’s excited to show her teammates around. “Maybe not Irving,” she says. “There’s not much to do in Irving.”
On the court, the Wings promise to bring a crowd-pleasing—but, despite the name, decidedly below-the-rim—brand of basketball. Diggins says that coach Fred Williams’ goal is to get 100 possessions per game. Introducing the newest member of the team, the superbly named Aerial Powers, general manager Greg Bibb said that the former Michigan State forward fits into their style of play: “Uptempo, exciting, get after it defensively, physically imposing.”
If that follows through on Diggins’ promise, maybe it won’t matter that it took decades for the WNBA to land in Dallas. Or at least Arlington.