Women's Watch: Could addition of WNBA to NBA 2K20 enhance league popularity?
People often ask me what can be done to increase interest in women's sports.
Perhaps some thinking outside the box would help, starting with interactive participation. Everyone's doing it.
The NFL, for instance, has done a great job of increasing its mainstream popularity by endorsing interactive entities such as Fantasy Football, where fans pretend to own, draft and manage their own teams and video games, where fans can simulate the experience of being an NFL player.
The NBA's popularity and MLB's popularity also have risen due to sophisticated video games.
Meanwhile, the WNBA has been trying to get in on some of that action as well, in an effort to engage fans and attract new ones.
In 2017, WNBA players were featured in NBA Live 18.
Now, in a much more comprehensive move, the makers of NBA 2K have added WNBA games and players for the first time to its platform.
The newest edition, NBA 2K20, dropped on Friday.
In NBA 2K20, gamers can pick their favorite WNBA team and play an entire season, just like in the NBA version.
"For years, fans have requested the ability to play as some of their favorite WNBA stars," said Jeff Thomas, SVP of Development, Visual Concepts. "We've been working with the WNBA and their top players to recreate a hyper-realistic version of their league with pinpoint accuracy. We're excited to roll out this new feature in NBA 2K20 because we know how important the WNBA is to the world of basketball."
And gaming, (who knew?) is important to women.
Some studies claim that nearly half of women in the United States have played video games and that women over the age of 18 make up more of the gaming population than boys under the age of 18.
Clearly, gaming could be a great way for women's sports leagues to reach potential fans. Particularly female fans.
So could the fantasy sector.
According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, of the 59.3 million people who played fantasy football in the United States and Canada in 2017, about 29 percent were women.
I can tell you that anecdotally, I have been playing fantasy football with my family for about five years now. My 16-year-old daughter also plays. My niece, who is in seventh grade, joined our league this year.
I think I can safely say that all three of us girls are in tune with some NFL teams and NFL players that we would normally care less about far more than we could have ever imagined.
But, in order to maintain our "teams," we are engaged and we pay attention to the NFL. The NFL has to be ecstatic about that.
We, and other female fantasy players like us, are the cherry-on-top demographic in the NFL's push to increase its reach.
The NBA also has fantasy, the MLB has fantasy, maybe the WNBA and other women's professional sports leagues should have fantasy too.
Engaging fans outside of the arena is a great way to get those fans interested in getting inside the arena.
Ok, readers ... I just admitted to playing fantasy football.
Here's another admission: I drafted Melvin Gordon, a running back with the Los Angeles Chargers who is holding out right now with contract demands. Looks like Gordon won't reach an agreement in time to play in the season opener on Sunday.
I'm wondering if he will play at all this season. Was this a bust pick? Will he get his act together and sign soon, or will he be this year's Le'Veon Bell? Thoughts? Advice?
The Chicago Sky is in the WNBA playoffs for the first time since 2016 and currently sits in fifth place in the standings.
The top eight teams have made the playoffs, but the Sky is only a half-game behind the Las Vegas Aces for fourth place with two games left.
It's possible that the Sky could jump into the top four in the standings, which would provide a first-round playoff bye.
But winning out will be a tough challenge for the Sky, which closes out the season at Connecticut on Friday and at Washington on Sunday. Washington and Connecticut are the No. 1- and No. 2-ranked teams in the WNBA respectively.
• Twitter: @babcockmcgraw