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WNBA All-Star 2021: League sets date for game, which will feature unique Team USA vs. Team WNBA format

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The WNBA typically doesn’t have an All-Star Game during Olympic years, but that’s changing this summer. On Monday, the league announced details for the 2021 WNBA All-Star Game, which will take place in Las Vegas on July 14 and feature a unique Team USA vs. Team WNBA format. 

For the first 14 editions of the event, the WNBA used a typical East vs. West format. As conferences lost importance, they then moved to a player captain’s model, which was used in both 2018 and 2019. (There wasn’t a game last season because of the pandemic.) Now, they’re switching things up again. 

Team USA will obviously just be the players that are selected to compete for the national team at the Olympics in Tokyo later this summer. That roster is yet to be determined. Team WNBA, meanwhile, will be chosen by a multi-step process. First, there will be the typical All-Star voting from fans, players and media. The top-36 vote-getters who are not already on Team USA will then move on to the second stage, where WNBA coaches will make the final call on the 12 players to represent Team WNBA in the All-Star Game. 

Voting will open on June 15 and run through June 27. Teams will then be announced on June 30 ahead of the game on July 14. The coaches for the respective teams will also be responsible for naming starters for the game. Replacement players will be selected by either Team USA officials or WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert depending on which team needs one. 

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The first half of the WNBA season is set to end on July 11, with the All-Star Game taking place a few days later. After that, the league will shut down for just over a month during the Olympics. Play will then resume on Aug. 15, and the regular season will run through Sept. 19. 

At this point, it’s unclear if there will be further events such as the 3-point Contest and Skills Challenge. The league will, however, honor the gold medal-winning 1996 U.S. Olympic team during the All-Star Game. That team began the United States’ current run of six straight gold medals in women’s basketball and was influential in helping grow the game.