Adam Silver credits Mat Ishbia for commitments to Suns, Mercury with upcoming All-Star games

Mar 7, 2024, 6:22 PM | Updated: Mar 8, 2024, 9:00 am

Mat Ishbia and Adam Silver...

Phoenix Suns and Mercury chairman Mat Ishbia and NBA commissioner Adam Silver during the announcement Phoenix will host the 2027 NBA All-Star Game (Arizona Sports Photo/Jeremy Schnell)

(Arizona Sports Photo/Jeremy Schnell)

The world’s biggest basketball stars are coming to Phoenix for the WNBA All-Star Game this summer and the NBA All-Star Game in 2027, with the latter event announced by commissioner Adam Silver at Footprint Center on Thursday.

Phoenix Suns and Mercury chairman Mat Ishbia has been clear with his intentions to make Phoenix a basketball destination, and that has quickly materialized with his investments on and off the court, with a new $100 million headquarters for the Mercury and events such as these All-Star games.

Silver told reporters Thursday Ishbia sought an opportunity to own both an NBA and WNBA franchise when looking to get into the business. Phoenix presented a unique opportunity with two teams up for sale after the NBA’s investigation into previous majority owner Robert Sarver’s mistreatment of employees.

“That was important to him from day one in terms of the Mercury and he was looking for an opportunity where there was an NBA and WNBA franchise,” Silver said. “Actually I was mentioning to Mat earlier this afternoon that as we’re now seeing the increased popularity of the women’s game, and it seems to have grown exponentially just over the last few years, that now I’m hearing from a lot of other NBA franchises that don’t have WNBA teams saying we should have a WNBA team, too.”

Ishbia said bringing the All-Star festivities to the Valley was on his list of priorities when he took the reins just over a year ago. The WNBA All-Star Game was awarded to Phoenix last July, approximately six months after he purchased his stake in the teams.

“Did we think we’d get it this quickly? Of course we thought we could. Did we think it was realistic? We don’t know, but we worked for it,” Ishbia said at a press conference. “There’s a lot of things we have priorities on and it’s all about those things, fan experience, community engagement, how do we make an impact in the community?

“It’s the city’s team. Phoenix is the Suns, the Mercury. It’s not my team. It’s our team. How do we make it what a fan would want? A fan would love to see the best players in the world come, for the women this year and for the men in a couple years.”

At the time of the WNBA’s announcement, Ishbia said in a statement his organization wanted to put on an event to continue the growth and elevate the league.

The Golden State Warriors were awarded a WNBA expansion team in San Francisco that will begin play in the 2025 season, so six NBA organizations will have WNBA teams. The others are Phoenix, India (Pacers and Fever), Minnesota (Timberwolves and Lynx), Brooklyn (Nets and Liberty) and Washington (Wizards and Mystics).

Viewership is up for the WNBA, with an eight percent jump across ABC, ESPN and CBS last season. College stars entering the draft such as all-time leading scorer Caitlin Clark will continue bolster the talent pool.

Stephen Curry of the Warriors and Liberty star Sabrina Ionescu competed in the first of its kind head-to-head 3-point shootout during All-Star Saturday Night, a standout event of the weekend that could stem a sequel or similar competition in Phoenix.

“What we’re seeing now in the last couple of years too a dramatic increase in ratings from women’s college basketball, what we did at All-Star Game in Indianapolis, Mat and have been talking about that too, even in terms of what that they could do with the WNBA All-Star Game this summer to replicate what Steph and Sabrina did. That was clearly one of the highlights of the weekend.

“I thought Sabrina said it perfectly. I think I’m paraphrasing her where she said something like shooters are shooters, it’s no battle of the sexes for people of a certain generation. It’s just about great basketball. So I’m really pleased about everything that’s happening around women’s basketball, too.”

WNBA All-Star Weekend comes around July 18-20.

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Adam Silver credits Mat Ishbia for commitments to Suns, Mercury with upcoming All-Star games