What are the Main Differences Between the NBA and WNBA?


Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the USA even though it was created by a Canadian guy. Nevertheless, the NBA is part of the Big Four, which also includes the MLB (baseball), NFL (football), and NHL (hockey). However, besides men’s basketball the women’s league has been getting more and more attention since it was established in 1996. It is still not at the level that you would expect it to be but women’s sports have gone through a lot in the past years.

The NBA stands for the National Basketball League, while the WNBA is an abbreviation for the Women’s National Basketball League. These are the two equivalents of major basketball leagues in the USA and in both cases are considered the most popular ones, the most financially stable and generally the best leagues in the world.

Let’s see what are the main differences besides the obvious.

Establishment and Format

The NBA has a much longer history as opposed to the WNBA. The National Basketball league has been established way back in 1946 while the WNBA is a lot younger being formed in 1996 with the first season being held the next year.

As far as the format goes, it is similar but comes with its own differences. Firstly, the rosters of teams in the NBA consist of 12 to 15 players while the women’s teams have 12 players on the team. The quarters in the NBA last for 12 minutes while the WNBA has a 10-minute quarter format. Finally, the NBA has 30 teams that comprise the league while the WNBA consists of only 12 teams.

After the regular season is over, the top eight teams in the NBA from each Conference advance to the playoffs and battle it out for the Conference Title and later determine the champion in a head to head matchup of the winners of Conferences. While in the WNBA eight teams in total will advance further to the playoffs which eventually ends up in a final-four series to determine the champion.

NBA vs WNBA Revenue

The WNBA is still light years away when it comes to earnings. For example, the league managed to earn a sum of $52.4 million last year as opposed to $7.37 billion that the NBA earned.

As far as ticket sales go, the WNBA has about 7,716 fans per game. The tickets usually cost $17.42 a game meaning that a team will rack up $134,412.72 per game based on ticket sales alone. On the opposite end, average fan attendance during an NBA game is 17,830. On average, the tickets per game cost $89.00 which further implies that a team earns about $1,586,870 from a single match.

NBA vs WNBA Salaries

The salaries in both leagues are very much different. In fact, the NBA players receive 50% of the league’s revenue. And the league budget for men is about $6 billion. On the other side, female players receive only 25% of the revenue from the league.

Thus one of the top players in the WNBA currently earns a salary of $758,072, while an average bench player in the NBA who doesn’t even get to play that often will earn $900,000.

Exposure on TV

In the US, in general, men’s sports get a lot more exposure as opposed to women’s sports. Actually, 95% of sports on TV are male while only 5% of sports covered are women’s sports. Out of that 5 %, about 2% is aimed at the WNBA. But if we look at the other side of the spectrum, the NBA has around 77% of exposure on TV from different networks. 

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