ATLANTA, Georgia - Among the crowd of 5,086 inside McCamish Pavilion on the campus of Georgia Tech University Sunday afternoon was yours truly.
This reporter was attending his first ever WNBA game, with it being game one of a semifinal series between the Atlanta Dream and the Washington Mystics.
My schedule for this worked out in very good fortune to go over to see the game and return home Sunday evening, knowing a busy week of assignments is waiting to close out the final week of August.
The Dream came into the playoffs with the second best record of 23-11 in the regular season, three games behind the Seattle Storm's 26-8 mark.
I don't have one team in the WNBA that I cheer on. I admire a series of players I remember from their days of collegiate hoops, with some that I have had the chance to see in attending the NCAA Final Four in Nashville in 2014, in Dallas in 2017 and the SEC Tournament in Nashville back in March.
But Sunday, was the first opportunity to be inside the same building to see Elena Delle Donne of the Mystics perform. I remember her when she played at the University of Delaware and was the WNBA rookie of the year and is a former MVP in the league too.
No doubt one of the top players in the league, Delle Donne showed her stuff in leading the Mystics to an 87-84 upset victory and a 1-0 lead in the best of five-game series.
Della Donne and the Mystics stole the thunder from the Dream, who were 13-4 at McCamish in the regular season and playing very good basketball for August, despite losing star player Angel McCoughtry earlier this month with a torn ACL.
Visiting Georgia Tech for the first time was delightful. The atmosphere was good, but kind of disappointing that only 5,000 showed up to see the battle. Later in the day, over 9.600 were on hand in Seattle as the Storm outlasted the Phoenix Mercury 91-87 in the opening game of their semifinal series.
The WNBA has been able to establish credibility for women's professional basketball with the league in operation for 21 years. The Dream has been in operation since 2008 and has worked its way to a sound organization on the floor with three conference championships and the second best record in 2018 regular season play.
It allows women who play college hoops across the country and players from overseas to be in a professional environment as their male counterparts. Now their salaries are not to the same status as like LeBron, Steph Curry just to mention a couple.
Women's basketball has made tremendous strides through the years and I can add to my list of up close and personal contact for the first time with the WNBA.
The league has national exposure through ESPN, with many of the teams like the Dream, appearing on Fox Sports during the regular season. I saw some video highlights from Sunday's game and was able to see myself in the background.
I was blessed to have a seat on the fourth row behind the basket, facing the South side of the arena. That allowed me to be in a good position to see the game and take a good number of photos.
A concern is what kind of crowd will attend Game 2 Tuesday at McCamish? The Braves are back home, playing good baseball, with Tampa Bay coming to Atlanta winners of eight straight and fresh off sweeping the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park.
I have other obligations that keeps me from returning. But that is also my job, now that fall sports in the AHSAA have started and they deserve their recognition and coverage.
Dream coach Nicki Collen, the AP coach of the year in the WNBA, knows she has to see her squad regroup in order to avoid going to Washington later in the week down by two games.
Sunday's game for the Dream was their first since they ended the regular season. They received a double bye to the semifinals. The Mystics drew a 2nd round game at home with the LA Sparks and won last Thursday going away. That allowed them to stay in rhythm while the Dream had their longest down time since the All-Star break in July.
If you love women's basketball and I know there is plenty of people around here that do from high school and youth players to coaches and fans, do attend a WNBA game in Atlanta. That's the closest to Cullman the league has to offer.
Now if you really want to expand your horizon, good franchises are available in Seattle, Phoenix, Dallas, Connecticut and an up and coming Las Vegas squad that just completed its inaugural year, moving from San Antonio.
The Aces possess A'Ja Wilson, formerly of South Carolina and a two-time SEC player of the year.
You will not be disappointed.
Photo 1: Atlanta Dream coach Nicki Collen prior to tip off for WNBA semifinal Game 1.
Photo 2: Dream G Tiffany Hayes with a pass against the Mystics defense in 1st qiarter.
Photo 3: Injured Dream player Angel McCoughtry high fives a teammate before the tip.
Photo 4: Mystics' Elena Delle Donne boxing out at the foul line.
Photo 5: Dream G Brittany Sykes tries to drive on Mystics' Elena Delle Donne.
Photo 6: WNBA and the Dream with a moment of silence before the game honoring the late U.S. Senator, John McCain.
Sportspage photos by Johnny Thornton