Defending a title can be among the hardest things to do in professional sports.
Expectations run high, and they can be hard to live up to through the grind of a season.
Personnel changes usually mean the team isn’t the same after a championship. Good players cash in with other teams, veterans retire, and players are left to deal with salary cap considerations and the like.
Still, there’s always a little more excitement to a season after a championship. Especially for us fans.
The Chicago Sky of the WNBA won the championship last season, which brought great joy to this basketball fan.
For most of last season, though, it didn’t look very good. Despite bringing in hometown superstar Candace Parker, the team struggled at the beginning of the season when a number of players were out with injuries. That included Parker.
However, when playoff time came, the team pulled together and did what so many of us had hoped from the very beginning.
Now the challenge will be to see whether they can repeat the feat.
Returning this year are Parker and guard Courtney Vandersloot, who holds the all-time record for assists in a season and highest career assists per game. Also returning are guard Allie Quigley, the reigning All-Star 3-point contest champ, as well as forward-center Azura Stevens, who had an amazing playoff run.
A number of players are gone, most notably center Stefanie Dolson and wing Diamond DeShields. The team has added power forward Emma Meesseman and combo guard Julie Allemand, both of Belgium.
Of course, in a weird situation that doesn’t happen with players in the NBA, Allemand probably won’t be available until later in the season because she’s still playing in France.
Finals MVP Kahleah Copper, who very much is an integral part of the Sky’s chances for a repeat championship, also isn’t with the team yet because of obligations with her team overseas. Quigley started the season with an injury, but that’s not expected to keep her out for more than a couple of games.
So it’s possible that what we see at the beginning of this season will leave us skeptical about how the team will do later on.
Then again, maybe not. The team began their title defense with a game Friday night, one that they lost to Parker’s former team, the Los Angeles Sparks, but did so in overtime. Dana Evans, who usually comes off the bench, had a monster game in Copper’s absence.
One thing that winning a championship has done for the Sky is to get them more exposure. Also helpful this year is a deal with Marquee Sports Network to televise more of the Sky’s games. Those of us used to watching the team on WCIU can still see many of the games there as well. Even better is that ESPN and ABC will show several of the games during this 32-game season.
Another highlight for this season is that Chicago will host the WNBA All-Star Game on July 10. That should be a lot of fun as well.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of watching WNBA basketball, then this might be a good time to get on board. Tickets also are available for home games at Wintrust Arena.
Will the Sky repeat as champions? I guess we’ll all just have to see.
However, if they play as well as they are capable of and injuries can be kept to a minimum, then there’s no reason they couldn’t.
As a fan of a number of Chicago sports teams that are in decline or just starting to find themselves again, it’s great to be able to be a fan of a champion. There’s plenty of room on the bandwagon to join me.
• Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.