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Duke women’s basketball legend Alana Beard leads historic WNBA expansion effort

Despite her retirement nearly two years ago, Alana Beard is continuing to build her legacy in women's basketball.
Despite her retirement nearly two years ago, Alana Beard is continuing to build her legacy in women's basketball.

Alana Beard continues to build her legacy off the court following an outstanding basketball career.

Beard, Duke women’s basketball all-time leading scorer and a WNBA champion, is partnering with the African American Sports and Entertainment Group (AASEG) and prominent members of the Oakland community to be the first black female group to establish a sports team in a major league. Other members of the ownership group are local entrepreneur Samantha Wise, Gina Johnson Lillard—mother of NBA superstar Damian Lillard—activist Alicia Garza, and former basketball player and attorney Jade Smith Williams. 

Local officials have been enthusiastic and supportive of the project, as the Oakland city council unanimously voted in favor of the expansion effort, and Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan has strongly advocated Beard’s group.

“I am incredibly moved and honored to get to be part of this incredible group of people here this morning,” Kaplan said at a recent press conference. “We have a community that has strong commitment to social justice, to racial justice, women's leadership, and strong support throughout our region for women's basketball in a whole array of venues. And so really Oakland is the perfect place for a new WNBA team to succeed, to thrive, to uplift community uplift opportunity, and to show what we can do and what women's leadership and black women's leadership can do and deserves to be provided that opportunity to do. We also know we can grow the WNBA which of course has been growing by leaps and bounds and we congratulate them on that. And this amazing group of leaders who are on this call today is a testament to that ability.”

Beard retired from an extraordinary basketball career last year; a career that consisted of a long list of collegiate and professional accomplishments, including becoming the first NCAA basketball player to amass over 2,600 points, 500 assists and 400 steals, helping lead Duke women’s basketball to its first number one ranking in the final AP poll in her senior year, helping lead the Washington Mystics to the playoffs in her rookie season, being named a WNBA All-Star four times, winning Defensive Player of the Year twice, and winning a WNBA championship. Now, her impact will continue off the court, as she works to grow women’s basketball and stay involved in the game.

In addition to growing women’s basketball, Beard and her group hope to make a significant impact on the Oakland community through the presence of a WNBA team. 

“I am really excited to be a part of this effort to bring the WNBA to Oakland. I can only imagine the possibilities for folks who live here who are often left out and left behind,” Garza said. “But one thing we know about Oakland is that Oakland is a fighter; we may be considered to be the underdogs but we always come out on top and one thing that would help us do that is bringing the WNBA to Oakland, California.” 

As the first black female ownership group in a major sports league, Beard and her collaborators are aware of the significance of their work and are excited about what it means to the league and the Oakland community. 

“It just aligns on almost every level in terms of my values and the things that I prioritize and want to invest my time in,” Beard said. “And I really appreciated the way in which so much intentionality around thinking through—how do we make sure that this isn't just about brand building for Oakland, but that it's really deeply investing in the communities that have been far too long, underserved, under-resourced, overlooked and left behind. And I think we all know that black women get it done. And this will be no exception.”  

Beard and her group will facilitate the return of professional basketball to Oakland, by filling the void the Golden State Warriors left when they moved across the bay to San Francisco. 

The expansion is underway at an advantageous time too, as Beard cited a 49% increase in WNBA viewership from last season, record online engagement on all social media platforms, and record merchandise sales. The future of women’s basketball is bright, and Beard and her collaborators are excited to facilitate the WNBA taking its next steps in growing and reaching a wider audience.

Beard is optimistic about the potential of a new WNBA team in Oakland and is thrilled to work with her ownership group to realize her goal of expanding the growing WNBA.

“I cannot think of a better time than right now, which is why I was so excited when this opportunity came about,” Beard said. “People are excited about the WNBA and the incredible women that are part of it.” 

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