The former WNBA player, Alana beard, has joined the effort to bring an expansion team from the WNBA to Oakland, it was announced Thursday. The 14-year WNBA veteran will partner with the African American Sports and Entertainment Group (AASEG) in the quest to form a new franchise.
Beard, the second overall pick from the 2004 draft, coming out of Duke, played six seasons for the Washington Mystics and then eight more with LA Sparks, with whom he won the league championship in 2016.
“As a professional athlete who transitioned into the business world, I understand now more than at any time the importance of having a great team and strong partnerships,” said Beard, 39, who moved to the Bay Area to working in venture capital after retirement at the end of the 2019 WNBA season. “I’ve always envisioned owning a WNBA team. It made sense to come together to be partners in this.”
The WNBA, which just completed its 25th. season, has 12 franchises. Has not had an expansion team since Atlanta Dream in 2008. The Dream, which was sold in February, has another former WNBA player, Renee Montgomery, as part of your group of owners.
“That was something I really admired,” said Beard, a two-time winner of the Best Defensive Player of the Year award and a four-time WNBA All-Star. “Congratulations to Renee and other women who are pursuing this same dream.”
One of the original eight franchises in 1997 was in Sacramento, but that team was disbanded after the 2009 season. The Bay Area has been considered a possibility for expansion ever since. The short-lived American Basketball League for women had a team in San José in 1996-98, and the reigning champions of the Stanford Cardinal they are repeatedly one of the best women’s college basketball programs in the nation.
Beard appeared on a video call Thursday along with Oakland Deputy Mayor Rebecca Kaplan and others who support bringing a franchise to Oakland, including Gina Johnson Lillard, the mother of the Los Angeles shooting guard. Portland Trail Blazers, Damian Lillard, and the director for the western region of the Mothers of Professional Basketball.
“The leadership of black women here is incredible,” said Alicia Garza, co-founder of the international Black Lives Matter movement. “WNBA, we definitely need you and we want you in Oakland. This project ranks at every level in terms of my values and the things that I prioritize.”
The AASEG said the Oakland City Council, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and the Joint Powers Authority Commission have approved a pathway for a team to play at the Oakland Arena, which was the home of the Golden state warriors between 1971 and 2019. The WNBA said it had no statement in Thursday’s announcement from the Oakland group. The commissioner Cathy Engelbert he told ESPN by the middle of this month the league has hopes of expanding in the next five years.
“We are doing all that data mining now,” Engelbert said. “I suspect that by next summer or at this point next year, during our 26th season, we will be talking about the number of teams and a list of where.”