Natalie Achonwa Reflects on Watching Her First-Ever WNBA Game

Natalie Achonwa Reflects on Watching Her First-Ever WNBA Game

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The first emotion I felt when I heard that there was going to be a WNBA game in Toronto was pure excitement. All I could think about was how thrilled and ecstatic little Natalie would have been to be able to go watch the WNBA live in Toronto.

Although I was pregnant at the time of the announcement and sad I wouldn’t be able to play in the game, I knew I still had to be there. It was important for me to physically be in Scotiabank Arena to experience the moment for myself. The fact that a packed arena of little Canadian girls and boys were going to be able to see the best women’s basketball players play a WNBA game in Toronto was huge. So when the time came, I grabbed my 1-month-old son and got on a flight from Indianapolis to Toronto.

Months before the game, the tickets sold out in less than 10 minutes. During the game, all of the WNBA merch sold out before halftime. It was just great to see that Toronto really showed out and showed the world how much we support women’s basketball.

The day of the game was emotionally overwhelming. To hear the Canadian anthem being sung before tip-off gave me chills. The moment was bigger than me, bigger than Bridget Carleton, bigger than the Minnesota Lynx and the Chicago Sky. It was inspiring the next generation to not only possibly play basketball, but to know that women can be fierce, women can be powerful, women can lead. It was a huge moment for me, for our basketball community and for the city of Toronto. 

I actually sat next to a young girl and her mom courtside, and just to see her jump up and down and hear her cheer was so heartwarming. The only way people can learn that there’s more beyond their imagination is to be able to see it. Representation truly matters. For girls to be in the arena and see who and what they can be, and for the boys to see that women can do anything that men can do, I think it was huge for them to be there.

When you give people the chance to watch games, to buy merch and to be a part of this women’s basketball world, they will fill the seats. But they need the opportunity to do so.

Part of my journey and my why has always been about trying to make the path easier for those that will come after me. Being a part of the WNBA and this incredible women’s basketball community, I know the impact that these athletes, including myself, have on the world. How much we push to change the narrative, how much we support our communities, and how much we take any opportunity to continue to grow. I know that we’re committed to doing the work now to ensure that the world will be a better place for when the next generation, including my son, grows up.

Photos via Getty Images.

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