Angel Reese, Kamilla Cardoso give Chicago, WNBA huge opportunity. Sky owners must step up

The WNBA’s Chicago Sky has a gold mine in rookies Angel Reese and Kamilla Cardoso, but it needs to invest to make the most of them.

DEERFIELD, Ill. — The WNBA’s past and future are colliding in the Chicago Sky.

Training camp hasn’t even started, and already several versions of Angel Reese and Kamilla Cardoso’s new jerseys are sold out on the team website. Full- and half-season ticket packages are nearly gone, and tickets for the regular-season home opener are “selling fast” on StubHub.

Yet when Reese had her introductory news conference Wednesday, it was at the rec center in a suburban strip mall that doubles as the Sky’s “practice facility.”

Kamilla Cardoso and Angel Reese, shown here during an SEC game earlier this year, could transform the Chicago Sky. And the WNBA.

The Las Vegas Aces and Seattle Storm have massive, state-of-the-art facilities all to themselves. The Sky has a Taco Vida a few doors down.

“Being able to change things going into the right direction is really important,” Reese said. “I think we’re at a great point right now. Us continuing to do what we do and perform not just off the court but on the court, as well, I think it’s going to continue to grow.”

The players can only do so much, though.

It’s well-established we’re at an inflection point for women’s sports. The NWSL is expanding at a rapid pace, with cities lining up for the chance to make their pitch. The women’s NCAA title game got significantly better ratings than the men’s championship, and the average of 18.7 million who tuned in obliterated the previous record.

Interest in Caitlin Clark, Reese and Cardoso is carrying over to the WNBA, with record ratings for this month’s draft and skyrocketing ticket sales. The two-time defending champion Las Vegas Aces announced last month they’d sold out their season tickets, a first in the W’s 28-year history. This week, the Dallas Wings and Atlanta Dream announced they’d done the same.

To make sure this momentum isn’t wasted, the W needs buy-in from everybody. That includes owners who’ve been used to doing the bare minimum.

Like the Sky.

The Sky has been talking for a while now about a new practice facility. And talking. And talking. Even winning the championship in 2021 couldn’t move the team to get shovels in the ground. Unsurprisingly, almost every player from that title team has since left Chicago, almost all of them going to teams that have shown a commitment to providing appropriate resources for professional athletes.

The Sky brought in eight new owners last June, with the express purpose of using some of that funding on a practice facility. Yet nearly a year later, the team has yet to even announce a site.

“We are close,” Sky co-owner and operating chairman Nadia Rawlinson recently told the Chicago Sun-Times. “My ideal would be to announce something before the season starts.”

Even if Rawlinson meant this season, it took roughly a year for the Storm and Aces to build their facilities. Which means for at least this season and possibly part of next, the Sky’s prized rookies will be sharing space with senior citizens and suburbanites. Who might happily wear Reese or Cardoso’s jerseys while working out, if only they could get their hands on them.

The WNBA, and NWSL, deserve to be considered as major professional leagues in this country. For that to happen, however, every one of their franchises has to be pulling its weight or, better yet, punching above it. Major League Baseball is established enough it can tolerate the Chicago White Sox being a laughingstock without them dragging everyone else down. The WNBA isn’t there yet. Not yet, anyway.

In Reese and Cardoso, the Sky has two transformational players. Fierce competitors in the SEC, Reese and Cardoso paired together will give Chicago one of the W’s most forboding front courts.

They could be just as formidable off the court. Reese is already a bona fide star and could own Chicago as Michael Jordan and the ’85 Bears did. Cardoso is quieter but has already shown the ability to endear herself to her new town, mentioning it has “the best pizzas” when asked on draft night what she knew of Chicago.

“We both know our impact here,” Reese said. “(We want) to bring those championships here and continue that legacy that’s already been started here.”

Reese and Cardoso can help accelerate the WNBA’s growth. It’s on the Chicago Sky to not hold them back.

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