The WNBA's inclusion in the world's most popular basketball video game will dramatically change the perception of women in sports


WNBA 2K20 Sun Mystics

  • “NBA 2K20” added the WNBA to the franchise for the very first time.
  • In an interview with Business Insider, “NBA 2K” gameplay director Mike Wang said the creative team had been planning to add the WNBA to the game for several years, but needed time to complete the process.
  • The WNBA players have been scanned and motion-captured just like the men, and the game has been tweaked to meet the skill, style, and finesse of the women’s game.
  • Increased representation for the WNBA and other female athletes in video games will only help to increase the popularity of women’s sports in the long-term.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Last night, Elena Delle Donne and the Washington Mystics beat the Connecticut Mystics in the fifth and deciding game of the WNBA Finals, closing out the season in impressive fashion. After the game was done, I turned on my Xbox to play “NBA 2K20” so I could replay the same matchup in the WNBA Finals myself.

As simple as it sounds, this wasn’t possible two months ago. This is the very first year that the WNBA has been included in “NBA 2K,” and it has already done a great job helping me and countless others become more familiar with the league’s players.

Playing games like “Madden” and “MVP Baseball” as a kid helped make me into a sports fan, and I know I’m not alone. The presence of the WNBA and other women’s sports teams will help open these games up to new audiences and help bring new fans to professional women’s sports.

SEE ALSO: Elena Delle Donne powered through a broken nose and 3 herniated discs to bring the Washington Mystics their first championship

“It’s about time,” two-time WNBA MVP Candace Parker said.

“It’s about time,” Los Angeles Sparks star Candace Parker told Jemele Hill during an interview on Hill’s podcast “Unbothered.” Parker was the WNBA’s Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player when she joined the league in 2008, and she told Hill that growing up she had always hoped to have her own sneaker, and to be in a video game.

“A lot of people are asking ‘are you so happy?’ No, this should’ve happened a while ago, but I’m happy it’s happening now, and I’m excited for the future of it, because now young boys and young girls are going to grow up seeing that. And that’s what you have to do — you have to be able to see it to accept it and believe in it.”

Sexist trolls demonstrate why it’s important to have the WNBA in “NBA 2K20.”

When “NBA 2K” announced that WNBA players would be joining the game, it sparked a wave of misogyny from men who felt that 2K was wasting their time including the women’s league. Many of them mocked the WNBA for being less popular than the men, asked why the WNBA didn’t have its own game, and made demands for “realism” if men and women take the court together in the game (they don’t).

In reality, those misogynists hammered home why its important for women to be visible within professional sports and gaming, so that a new generation of basketball fans can be exposed to the WNBA and see them as professionals and stars in the same light as the NBA’s top players.

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Welcoming the WNBA to #NBA2K20 🙏 Get an inside look at gameplay and hear what it means to @Candace_Parker & @BreannaStewart to officially be in the game

WNBA Gameplay Blog ➡️

The WNBA’s addition to “NBA 2K” was a long-time coming.

In an interview with Business Insider, “NBA 2K” Gameplay Director Mike Wang said the development team began work to add the WNBA to the game years ago, but they wanted to make sure the process wasn’t rushed. The creative team at 2K spent that time scanning the faces of WNBA players and going through the same complex motion capture process they use to animate the stars of the NBA. Wang also said the engine of “NBA 2K” has been tweaked across the board to match the speed, style, and finesse of the WNBA, instead of being a mirror image of regular NBA matchups.

“NBA 2K” isn’t the first video game to include WNBA players, Electronic Arts’ “NBA Live 18” introduced WNBA teams more than two years ago. However, their inclusion in “NBA Live 18” and “NBA Live 19” felt somewhat incomplete. WNBA teams were only able to play exhibition games, in “NBA Live 19,” and while players could make their own female players, they were relegated to 3-on-3 matchups with mixed-gender teams, rather than the being able to play in the WNBA exclusively.

In contrast, “NBA 2K20” offers a traditional “Season” mode for the WNBA based on the 2019 schedule of matchups, giving players an opportunity to play through a full 34-game schedule with each team in the women’s league. This encourages gamers to learn more about the WNBA and the individual players as they try to build the strongest team possible.

There’s plenty of room for improvement, but “NBA 2K20” has taken a great first step with its WNBA modes.

WNBA games still lack some of the extra bells and whistles given to the NBA games in “2K20,” like special introductions from Shaq or post-game highlights showing off the star of the game. It would certainly be a big improvement to see female create-a-players join “NBA 2K21” too. 

While there’s room for growth, the amount of care that went into adding the WNBA to NBA 2K will help bring positive attention to the league throughout the year, and hopefully inspire more people to become fans of the women’s game in real life.

“NBA 2K20” is available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch.