Wings' new partnership with Mavericks an example for other independently owned WNBA franchises

“Hopefully, we opened some eyes to how good it can be and how beneficial it can be for each organization and, most importantly, the community,” Wings president and CEO Greg Bibb said.

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Before their game Sunday against the Sky, the Wings announced a historic partnership with the NBA’s Mavericks. The multiyear partnership — which comes with a seven-figure investment from the Mavs, according to league sources — is the first between a WNBA team and an NBA team operating under different ownership.

Like the Wings, the Sky are one of the seven franchises in the WNBA that are independently owned. Unlike the Wings, the Sky have no partnership with the NBA team in town.

The separation between the Bulls and the WNBA goes back to before the league was established, when then-commissioner David Stern made his pitch to NBA owners about owning basketball all year long. Chicago was considered one of the biggest missed opportunities when the WNBA was founded in 1996, along with Philadelphia, San Francisco and Dallas.

Sky principal owner Michael Alter finally brought a WNBA team to Chicago in 2005, and the league came to Dallas when the WNBA approved the Tulsa Shocks’ relocation in 2015.

Since the team’s arrival, Wings president and CEO Greg Bibb said the Mavs have been heavily involved.

‘‘They’ve always been good partners and good neighbors,’’ Bibb told the Sun-Times. ‘‘But the ball really started to roll forward when Cynt [Marshall] became the CEO of the organization [in 2018].’’

Marshall became the first Black woman CEO in the NBA when she was hired. Bibb said she immediately contacted the Wings, and the teams collaborated on various one-off partnerships in the years that followed. They began figuring out ways to formalize a relationship in 2020.

The franchises began making serious headway on this partnership during the Women’s Final Four in the spring.

‘‘The Mavs are smart enough to see what’s happening around women’s sports in general, the WNBA and certainly how our business is growing here with the Wings,’’ Bibb said. ‘‘They see this as a way to impact the community by expanding the [Girls Empowered by Mavericks] program. They also realize that we are a growing enterprise and that the spotlight on women’s sports is growing in a big way.’’

The Wings will spotlight the Mavericks with a front-of-jersey logo featuring their GEM community program. Their new jerseys debuted Sunday against the Sky.

Along with the jersey patch, the Wings will be integrated into the GEM program, which reaches 3,000 girls in the North Texas area through basketball camps and health-and-wellness initiatives.

The Sky are involved with the Bulls only through various community events but have no active sponsorship involvement.

Bibb didn’t provide specifics about how the Wings will use the Mavs’ investment, but he said community initiatives and providing added support for their players are priorities.

Bibb said he thinks the first-of-its-kind partnership can provide an example to other independent organizations.

‘‘Hopefully, we opened some eyes to how good it can be and how beneficial it can be for each organization and, most importantly, the community,’’ he said.

Three-point prowess

The Sky’s three-point shooting has been a bright spot in an inconsistent season.

They entered play Sunday third in the league in three-point percentage (36.9%) and made a season-high 14 three-pointers Friday against the Wings, led by Courtney Williams (five) and Kahleah Copper (four).

Copper, who leads the Sky in scoring at 19.1 points per game, is shooting 43.1% from behind the arc, her highest three-point percentage since her rookie season, when she averaged only one attempt per game.

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