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Athletes Unlimited Basketball League Launching 2022

ByQueen Ballers Club|@queenballers| November 14, 2021

Some of the most interesting news to hit pro women’s hoops this year was the announcement, this October, of the launch of Athletes Unlimited’s basketball league. The great news for fans is that the player-driven league’s inaugural season will get underway quickly, beginning in January 2022. So today, we’re taking a deep dive into what the new league is all about, the location, the format, and what’s been announced so far about how to watch – as well as where open try outs will be held!

One reason the league is an exciting development is because it provides a nice opportunity for WNBA players who’d prefer to stay state side. Since the WNBA launched in 1997, most WNBA players have competed overseas in the winter months in order to earn higher salaries. While the AU league is unlikely to compete with top overseas salary, it is at least an option for players looking to be with family or to be home, and to still earn income playing the sport they love.

Washington Mystics guard Natasha Cloud said the AU league is still a good alternative, particularly for American players who would prefer to spend the winter in the United States.

“I think the WNBA and Athletes Unlimited will mesh perfectly together. We can stay here, it will be really competitive basketball, and we do not have to be away from our families for several months.”

Discover what Athletes Unlimited Basketball is all about

The new basketball league is the fourth Athletes Unlimited league, joining a growing women’s sports community that includes softball, volleyball and lacrosse, each led by world-class pro athletes. Athletes Unlimited bills its league as: “Shorter season. Higher stakes. More opportunity.”

Basically there’s tons of competition built into play. With Athletes Unlimited’s unique format, individual points are awarded to players based on stats. Every week during the season on the field, the top four players serve as captains and select new teams. Off the field, the athletes recruit fellow pros, create league rules, and retain equity in the league.

The best parts of fantasy are also brought to life, because in their scoring system, every player can lose or win points during every game. Athletes score points as individuals and as a team to win MVP titles and cash bonuses. Plus, each week, players and fans get a chance to vote for their MVP.

“Women’s basketball is a growing game. We have seen significant ratings increases in the WNBA, massive growth in the NCAA and a burgeoning landscape around the world. With the launch of Athletes Unlimited, pro women’s basketball will be played during the winter to coincide with fans’ engagement with the NBA, NCAA and international basketball, and brings us closer to the year-round access fans have on the men’s side.” Natasha Cloud said. “I am excited to be joining Athletes Unlimited Basketball and to be a member of the player executive committee.

Athletes Unlimited basketball roster

Natasha Cloud and former WNBA players Sydney Colson (competed in the 2019 WNBA Finals) and Ty Young (Champion and MVP of the 2012 Israeli Cup) were unveiled as the first three players to sign and make up the Athletes Unlimited Basketball Player Executive Committee.

When Natasha reaches out to her women’s basketball counterparts about the league that she’s helping to spearhead, she’s usually greeted with skepticism. Natasha, who has spent the past few months calling players — both in and out of the WNBA — can’t blame them. “Nothing like this has ever been presented to us before,” she said. However the roster is coming together well.

Athletes Unlimited basketball players

The most recent commitments to the league include five current WNBA stars with a combined 47 seasons of experience: 2021 WNBA All-Star Courtney Williams, Odyssey Sims, and Tianna Hawkins, who played for the Atlanta Dream this past season; Jantel Lavender of the Indiana Fever (an 11-year WNBA veteran, winning the championship in 2016); and Mikiah Herbert Harrigan of the Seattle Storm, who missed this past season on pregnancy leave.

Essence Carson is also joining Athletes Unlimited following a 13-year WNBA career. Which included capturing the 2016 WNBA title alongside Jantel while playing for the Los Angeles Sparks. Rounding out the latest signings are:

  • Kirby Burkholder – Who currently plays in the top women’s pro league in Puerto Rico, has also played professionally in Italy, Belgium, Hungary and Poland.
  • Tyce Knox – Who is Texas A&M’s season assist record-holder, has played in both Israel and Finland.
  • Jessica Kuster – Rice’s all-time leading scorer has six seasons of international experience across Romania, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy and Australia.
  • Laurin Mincy – A 2015 WNBA third round draft pick, has spent four seasons overseas, first in Israel, then Australia.

Jantel Lavender shared, “Athletes Unlimited provides American players an additional opportunity to play in the United States, an opportunity we have always hoped for. Staying in the U.S. allows us to spend more time with our families while earning money. And not putting as much wear and tear on our bodies, so that we can put out the best product.

“I am also looking forward to the unique Athletes Unlimited format, every week a new team, playing with – as well as against — some of the best players in our sport every week, I’m excited to be a part of the first group to try this out and I hope it’s something that can be an option for women’s basketball players for many years to come.”

The final roster will include a mix of current and former WNBA players. As well as additional talent from the wider pool of U.S. and international players. 

What is the format of the league?

The league will run about 5 weeks, from Jan. 26 to Feb. 26, and will feature 44 players.

In addition to the existing Athletes Unlimited professional staff, the league will be overseen by Ilene Hauser, who managed women’s basketball for Nike for the past 15 years. And Kristen Miles, who spent 10 years with Monumental Sports & Entertainment. Athletes Unlimited Basketball will also have a network of advisors, including Sarah Flynn, CMO of Thirty Five Ventures. Which will complement the existing 10-member Athletes Unlimited Advisory Board that includes Kevin Durant, Rich Kleiman, and Taylor Rooks. 

Where will is Athletes Unlimited basketball located?

Games will be at the same location in one city: Las Vegas. And the hoopers will play at Athletes Unlimited Arena at the Sport Center of Las Vegas. The center is about 2 miles away from the Las Vegas Strip.

AUProSports Basketball player Sydney Colson shared that she’s excited about the location. “Ever since the announcement about Athletes Unlimited basketball, the feedback has been nothing but positive which is great. Knowing that we’ll be playing in Las Vegas took it up a few more notches! The Vegas fan base was so incredible when I played there. And I can’t wait to see familiar faces as well as new fans in the stands at all of our games!”

the Athletes Unlimited Arena at the Sport Center of Las Vegas
Google Maps street view of the Athletes Unlimited Arena at the Sport Center of Las Vegas

How to watch Athletes Unlimited basketball games

Tickets will go on sale in December 2021, along with the announcement of the league’s national and international broadcast schedule.

Basketball Athletes Unlimited try outs

Curious about how you could make an appearance in the league? Lucky for you, Athletes Unlimited basketball is holding a tryout in the Atlanta metro area. Join in on December 11-12th, for an opportunity to join their inaugural season roster. No walk ups or guests will be accepted, so check out this link to apply to be invited to the try out.

Excitingly, at least one spot on the roster will be offered to an athlete who attends tryouts. Attendees invited to the tryout will be responsible for their own transportation, meals, and hotel (if applicable) for the event. And all attendees must provide proof of vaccination. Keep in mind that all completed forms including proof of vaccination need to be submitted by Friday, December 3, 2021.

Lock in with Athletes Unlimited basketball

The league’s games should prove to be intense and fast-paced. Fans can expect unprecedented access to players, robust off-court digital programming, and world-class game broadcasts. So be sure to stay tuned, and follow AUProSports on Instagram and Twitter for the latest news.

“Since the launch of Athletes Unlimited Basketball less than a month ago, we’ve had tremendous interest in and excitement for the league. We are so excited to be adding these 10 talented players to our roster,” Athletes Unlimited CEO Jon Patricof said. “We know that Las Vegas has been a great home for women’s basketball. And we only hope that we can add to and build on the momentum, success, and fandom already in place.”

Up next, read all about rookies joining another professional women’s basketball league, the WNBA.

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