• December 2, 2021

Sun and Storm set for Commissioner’s Cup Championship, Leslie and Byington excited about the technology

The Connecticut Sun and the Seattle Storm will play in the inaugural WNBA Commissioner’s Cup Championship Game, Thursday, Aug. 12, at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, at 9 p.m. ET. The game pits the top squad from the East and the West over the first half of the season against each other in a contest that comes with a $500,000 prize pool. The players on the team that wins the championship will receive $30,000 each. Players on the runner-up team will take home $10,000 each. The MVP of the competition gets an extra $5,000.

Amazon Prime will live stream the game with Hall of Famer Lisa Leslie on color commentary duty and broadcasting legend Lisa Byington providing play-by-play.

Connecticut finished the first half of the season with a 14-6 overall record and a 9-1 mark in Commissioner’s Cup games. Jonquel Jones leads the Sun in points per game (21.0) and rebounds per contest (11.1). Three other Sun players also average double digits in points: DeWanna Bonner (15.8), Brionna Jones (15.0), and Jasmine Thomas (11.2).

Seattle is the first-place team overall in the league at 16-5 with an 8-2 record in Cup games. Breanna Stewart tops the Storm in scoring with 20.6 points per game. She also leads the team in rebounds per contest at 9.6 per outing. Jewell Loyd and Sue Bird also average double-digit scoring with 17.5 and 10.9 points per game, respectively.

Sixty games made up the Commissioner’s Cup. They included the first home game and first road game each team played against its five intra-conference rivals in the first half of the season. The WNBA’s regular season resumes Aug. 15.

Technology

Cutting-edge technology will be on display during the Commissioner’s Cup game to provide up-to-the-second biometric statistics and 3-D highlights. The tech includes:

  • Real-time broadcast enhancements from wearable sensors and computer vision showing how fast players sprint, how often they jump, and how quickly they change direction.
  • Optical tracking to generate 3-D immersive highlights.

Both Leslie and Byington are excited about the usage of the sci-fi-esque technology during the game.

Byington said she hopes the tech will enable fans to see “some of the athletic nuances of the game,” including players’ shooting accuracy and efficiency.

“I think it’s exciting,” Leslie said about the information the wearables would provide. “I would have loved to have had something that I could wear that way.” She commented that it would have helped her see how high she jumped when dunking. Leslie made the first-ever dunk in WNBA history in 2002 against the now-defunct Miami Sol.

“It’s kind of great that we’ll have the opportunity to see these women and have these sort of AI [artificial intelligence] optical tracking systems out there.”

Byington was also excited about applying the technology to older videos, including tapes of Leslie dunking.

“It’s the future of game casts. It’s the future of broadcasting, and we are really witnessing history. Not only that, this is the first Commissioner’s Cup, but this is one of the first times that we’ll be able to use this kind of technology in a game of this manner.”

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