How Professional Sport’s First Virtual Draft Went Down – The 2020 WNBA Draft

Photo Credit: Ben Solomon/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

How Professional Sport’s First Virtual Draft Went Down – The 2020 WNBA Draft


On a very emotional night, young prospects filled their living rooms and celebrated with their families as they were selected in the 2020 WNBA draft.

Due to the coronavirus, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert was forced to implement a virtual draft format rather than an in-person draft format. Engelbert announced draft selections from her home in New Jersey, while holding up jerseys of the player who was being selected. Nevertheless, players got to see their dreams come true as they found out what city they would be heading to.

Oregon star Sabrina Ionescu headlined the WNBA Draft as she was selected no.1 overall by the New York Liberty. Ionescu, a California native talked with media outlets about being selected and about her transition to New York. She expects it to be “different” but is excited to be drafted by New York and is ready to head to Brooklyn.

Ionescu, shortly after being drafted, confirmed to various news outlets, including OpenCourt-Basketball, that she will be signing a shoe deal with Nike. Ionescu wasn’t the only Oregon Duck to be drafted that night though, as Satou Sabally was drafted at No. 2 to the Dallas Wings, and Ruthy Hebard at No. 8 to the Chicago Sky.

New York and Dallas were both heavily involved in the top 15 picks of the draft as the Liberty selected five players and the Wings selecting three.

Before the first pick, the league started off the draft by honoring Gianna Bryant, Alyssa Altobelli and Payton Chester. Engelbert announced their names, and jerseys were shown on the screen with each of the three players’ names on them. Alyssa Altobelli, Gianna Bryant and Payton Chester were among the nine people who died in the helicopter accident in Calabasas, California on Jan. 26, that also killed Kobe Bryant.


“I think it was a very beautiful thing that the WNBA did to be able to draft those three girls,” Ionescu said. “They deserved it. I know they’re looking down and smiling and really excited.”


The league also introduced the Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award, which will recognize “an individual or group who has made significant contributions to the visibility, perception and advancement of women’s and girls’ basketball at levels.”

Prior to the draft, on a media conference call, Commissioner Cathy Engelbert was asked about the return timeline for the WNBA and she said, “The goal is to get through the draft and have teams ready with their rosters.” It is still unclear as to when the season will start as the season was scheduled to begin on May 15. Engelbert is optimistic and has high hopes for this season as she spoke on evaluating all options. She said that the WNBA will be working closely with disease specialists and basing operations off of that. Commissioner Engelbert gave hope for WNBA fans as she said,


“Whether it’s without fans. Our goal is to have a season.”


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