WNBA names Sylvia Fowles, Sue Bird ASG captains, Brittney Griner an honorary starter

The WNBA announced Wednesday that Minnesota center Sylvia Fowles and Seattle guard Sue Bird, who both will retire at the end of this season, will be co-captains along with Las Vegas forward A’ja Wilson and Seattle forward Breanna Stewart for the league’s All-Star Game on July 10 (ABC, 1 p.m. ET) in Chicago.

The league also said Phoenix center Brittney Griner, who has been detained in Russia since February, will be an honorary All-Star starter. Griner previously has been an All-Star seven times.

This will be the 13th All-Star Game for Bird and the eighth for Fowles. Wilson and Stewart, by virtue of finishing with the most fan votes, will be the official team co-captains and pick their squads during ESPN’s WNBA All-Star Team Selection Special on July 2 (3 p.m. ET). They will choose first from the remaining pool of eight starters and then from the pool of 12 reserves.

Along with the aforementioned four, the other starters are Connecticut forward Jonquel Jones, Los Angeles forward Nneka Ogwumike, Chicago forward-center Candace Parker and 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 will be paired with Wilson and Fowles with Stewart.

“For icons like Sylvia and Sue to be voted into the AT&T WNBA All-Star Game as starters in their 15th and 19th seasons, respectively, is extraordinary,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said. “And when you see the starting lineups dotted 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 final season — join A’ja and Breanna as co-captains for an All-Star event that will in some ways symbolize the passing of the torch to a new generation of WNBA stars.”

Engelbert added that the league wanted to honor Griner as well.

“During each season of Brittney’s career in which there has been an All-Star Game, she has been selected as an All-Star,” Engelbert said. “It is not difficult to imagine that if BG were here with us this season, she would once again be selected and would, no doubt, show off her incredible talents. So, it is only fitting that she be named as an honorary starter today and we continue to work on her safe return to the U.S.”

Fans accounted for 50% of the vote for the starters, while current WNBA players and a media panel accounted for 25% each. Wilson was the leader in fan voting, followed by Stewart.

After votes were tallied, players were ranked by position (guard and frontcourt) within each of the three voting groups — fan votes, player votes and media votes. Each player’s score was calculated by averaging her weighted rank from the fan votes, the player votes and the media votes. That resulted in four guards and six frontcourt players named as starters. Fan voting served as the tiebreaker for players in a position group with the same score.

While there was a fair amount of uniformity between fan, media and player voting, there were also some big disparities. Among guards, Bird finished third with fans, seventh with players and ninth with media. Among frontcourt players, Parker was third with fans, seventh with media and 13th with players.

Among those those who did not make the starting pool but are expected to be reserves, Phoenix guard Skylar Diggins-Smith was third with the media, fourth with the fans and 14th with the players. Dallas guard Arike Ogunbowale was fourth with the media and players and 11th with fans.

The 12 reserves will be voted on by the league’s coaches and announced Tuesday. Coaches will vote for three guards, five frontcourt players and four players at either position regardless of conference, and they are not allowed to vote for their own players. If a player can’t play in the All-Star Game, a replacement will be picked by Engelbert.

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