A'ja Wilson, Lisa Leslie headline WNBA's debut on Top Shot in 'banner year' for league

Jewell Loyd's deciding shot with 0.8 seconds on the overtime clock to lift the Seattle Storm over the Dallas Wings. Arike Ogunbowale's clutch, game-winning 3-pointer two days later for the Wings.

They could both soon be yours.

The WNBA announced Wednesday morning it is debuting on Top Shot, an online-only marketplace where users can buy, sell and trade sports highlights. WNBA Moments on Top Shot will be available on the same Top Shot platform used for the NBA and will offer iconic in-game moments from the 2021 WNBA season as well as past ones.

"It's a way for fans to have a real piece of history and a piece of the game," WNBA chief operating officer Christy Hedgpeth told Yahoo Sports. "And it's a really banner year for us. We just think it’s part and parcel for the really exciting year that we’ve had."

The WNBA is celebrating its 25th anniversary season amid increased TV viewership and worldwide attention following the social justice initiatives players led last year. It introduced the Commissioner's Cup, an in-season tournament, and added various other innovations and partners. It's also coming off of an Olympic break that saw 12 of its players win a record seventh consecutive gold for Team USA and four more win inaugural 3x3 gold.

A'ja Wilson, Lisa Leslie lead Top Shot debut

Lisa Leslie and A'ja Wilson headline the WNBA's Top Shot debut. (Courtesy of the NBA)
Lisa Leslie and A'ja Wilson headline the WNBA's Top Shot debut. (Courtesy of the NBA)

The launch will combine the present with the past in Las Vegas Aces forward A'ja Wilson, the league's reigning MVP, and former Los Angeles Sparks center Lisa Leslie, a three-time MVP fresh off leading the league's All-Stars to a win against Team USA.

Hedgpeth said they will be the face of the promotional campaign and will have their own big league moments available on the site. The league is staying mum on what specifically will be available so that users can discover it for themselves.

"You’ll see moments from this year — obviously some great plays happening already in the season to date — but also [it will be] looking back across the history of the WNBA and some of the most iconic moments in the history of the league," Hedgpeth said.

Fans can sign up for a spot to purchase moments and packs beginning Wednesday with the first 10,000 able to reserve a free "First Access Moment." The first WNBA pack will drop Friday.

Why WNBA Top Shot matters

Introducing WNBA Moments to the Top Shot platform has been "on our roadmap from before Day 1," Adrienne O'Keeffe, the NBA's associate vice president of global partnerships, told Yahoo Sports.

The NBA, its players and Dapper Labs launched the NBA site in July 2019 and it took off as essentially the digital version of the trading card craze. O'Keeffe, one of the architects of NBA Top Shot, said the interest exceeded expectations, so developers had to work first on meeting demand before ensuring the WNBA side was rolled out with quality and care.

The launch two years later still puts the women's league on fairly equal footing with its male counterpart in a way that doesn't often happen. Women's leagues, younger than men's leagues because of ingrained sexism, are commonly viewed as afterthoughts and receive less attention in commerce.

The inclusion on NBA Top Shot helps mitigate that while keeping fans close to their favorite players and moments for a league that has historically had a marketing problem.

"It’s a great way to engage with them and to showcase the excitement of the on-court product that is the WNBA," O'Keeffe said.

But at the same time, longtime WNBA fans and even new hardcore ones will be happy to know that the league isn't chasing collectors or NFT-focused users. This is about the people who seek out the product, spend money on it and might even join Top Shot for the first time.

"We’re just laser focused on WNBA fans, your hardcore kind of loyal fan who has followed the league for all these years," Hedgpeth said. "And also the new fans that we’ve been bringing in very, very rapidly into the brand as they discover our athletes, they discover kind of what we stand for, and just the incredible level of play."

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