A Los Angeles-Seattle matchup would generally create some buzz around the WNBA.
Thursday night’s game at Key Arena is no different, but for different reasons.
A headline Wednesday on WNBA.com read: “Sparks & Storm Quotes About ESPN The Magazine’s BODY Issue.”
Longtime Storm point guard Sue Bird is on the cover with girlfriend Megan Rapinoe, the U.S. national team soccer star. Seattle forward Breanna Stewart is featured inside.
“It’s been great, I would say 99.9 percent positive,” Bird told The Seattle Times. “There are some people — mostly on Twitter, so I try not to read a lot of the comments — who don’t like naked bodies.
“But I don’t view it that way at all. I think it’s a celebration of people who are athletes who part of their job is to take care of themselves and lead a healthy lifestyle. And we all look different. It’s a celebration of that. That’s how I see it.”
While Bird and Stewart have received positive reviews, Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike said she heard from several critics last year after appearing in the Body Issue.
“I got mixed reviews because I come from a very conservative culture being Nigerian,” Ogwumike told WNBA.com. “I had a lot of conference calls with family members.”
As for Thursday’s game …
The last time the teams met June 7, the Storm won 88-63 for their first victory at Los Angeles since 2015.
That loss sparked Los Angeles, which won its next five games to move to the top of the WNBA standings.
That streak was snapped Friday, when the Sparks suffered another lopsided defeat — 101-72 at Dallas.
The Sparks responded with an 87-73 home victory over Dallas on Tuesday night as Candace Parker scored 29 points.
The Sparks (11-3) hope Tuesday’s win starts another positive run. The Sparks played Tuesday without Ogwumike, the 2016 league MVP, because of a back injury. Ogwumike is averaging 16.2 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.
“Nneka is irreplaceable,” Parker said. “We just try to do the best we can by committee.”
The Sparks also had to overcome coach Brian Agler’s ejection early in the third quarter. Agler is in his 15th season as a head coach, including 2008-14 with the Storm.
“He was fighting for the team and felt that we weren’t getting some of the calls that were obvious in our opinion,” said Sparks assistant coach Bobbie Kelsey, who took over for the rest of the game. “That’s what we’re here for, to support the coach and what the team needs.”
The Storm (10-5) are coming off a 91-79 loss Tuesday at defending WNBA champion Minnesota despite 27 points from Stewart, the league leader with 22.3 points per game.