The WNBA paved the way for the first virtual draft in light of the COVID-19 pandemic with the most watched WNBA Draft in 16 years. It was also the second most-watched in ESPN’s history. This year’s event averaged 387,000 viewers on ESPN, up 123 percent over the 2019 Draft, and up 33 percent from the last time it aired on the network in 2011.
Unanimous National Player of the Year Sabrina Ionescu of Oregon was selected by the New York Liberty with the first overall pick of the 2020 WNBA Draft presented by State Farm. Ionescu, a three-time Nancy Lieberman Award winner as the nation’s top point guard, averaged 17.5 points, 8.6 rebounds and an NCAA-leading 9.1 assists as a senior. She holds the NCAA record for career triple-doubles and is the only NCAA woman or man to reach 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists.
Before the start of the draft, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert named Alyssa Altobelli, Gianna Bryant and Payton Chester as honorary draft picks. The Mamba Sports Academy teammates, who played on a youth basketball team coached by Kobe Bryant, tragically passed away in a helicopter accident in January.
Also, the WNBA introduced the Kobe & Gigi Bryant WNBA Advocacy Award, a new annual honor that will recognize an individual or group who has made significant contributions to the visibility, perception and advancement of women’s and girls’ basketball at all levels. The award will carry on Kobe’ legacy of advocacy and Gigi’s passion for the sport.
Airing just a few weeks before the NFL’s first-ever virtual draft, the WNBA set the bar high for how to host a top notch event in the midst of unusual circumstances.