What's the Difference Between the WNBA and the NBA?

Written by: Tess Helbig

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Time to read 3 min

The WNBA 2024 season is just getting started! The season begins on Tuesday May 14th and promises to be an incredible year for women's basketball. Whether you're a seasoned basketball expert or a new fan of the sport, you might be wondering, what's the difference between the WNBA and the NBA? You've come to the right place! Rounded up are some of the major differences between the WNBA and NBA that can help you to grow your love and knowledge of the game! Take a seat court-side, as we get into what makes the WNBA a little bit different than its bigger brother, the NBA ⛹️‍♀️✨.

5 Major Differences Between the WNBA and the NBA:

Game Duration:

The amount of time played is one major difference among the leagues. In the NBA, a regulation game is 4 quarters, 12 minutes each, equaling a total game time of 48 minutes. In the WNBA, game duration time is slightly shorter. A WNBA game is still 4 quarters, but each lasts 10 minutes, meaning 40 minutes of total game time. You might be thinking that less game time is kind of a bummer but when looking on the bright-side, it can mean a faster-paced game and more intense style of play, making WNBA games filled with non-stop action 😎. 

3-Point Line Length:

The only changes made to the court in the WNBA is the length of the 3-point line. In women’s basketball the 3-point line is slightly closer to the basket. At the top of the key, the 3-point line is set at about 22 ft, while at the corners, it's 21.75 ft from the basket. In the NBA, the 3-point line is set 23.75 ft from the basket at the top of the key and 22 ft from the basket at the corners. While the difference is small, gameplay can look a little different. The slightly shorter distance to shoot from beyond the arc, might just mean that WNBA games may be filled with more suspenseful 3-point attempts and potentially higher scoring games vs. the NBA!

Ball Size:

While the balls used in both the WNBA and the NBA deliver that same swish we all know and love, the ball itself is actually slightly different. The WNBA uses a slightly smaller basketball than the NBA does. Women use a Size 6 ball weighing about 20 oz while the ball used in the NBA is a Size 7 and about 22 oz. Because of this difference, players in both leagues are well-equipped to play their strongest game and for fans to enjoy!

Season Length:

You have got plenty of time to spend cheering on both of your favorite NBA and WNBA teams thanks to their different in-season schedules. The WNBA season is more of a sprint compared to the NBA’s marathon. The WNBA season runs May-September, with playoffs concluding in October. The NBA season typically runs spans October-April, followed by playoffs extending into June. Even though the WNBA does have a shorter regular season than the NBA, this year's WNBA teams will not disappoint packing in loads of excitement into those few months! 

🏀 Your Favorite WNBA Teams 2024 Schedule: https://www.wnba.com/schedule?season=2024&month=all

Number of Teams:

The WNBA has fewer teams and is less structured compared to the NBA. The NBA has 30 teams, that are broken down into 2 conferences each with 3 divisions. Whereas the WNBA has 12 teams that compete in a single league, meaning all 12 teams play each other all season long. While all fans can hope for more WNBA teams in the future, for now major cities like Minneapolis and Chicago get to represent larger regions all over the United States, making fan bases different between the leagues too. The WNBA fan bases go beyond state lines! Even though the NBA does have more teams and a longer history, the WNBA continues to grow and expand its reach nationwide.

 🏀 Fun Fact: When the WNBA first started in 1997, it only had eight teams. It’s a step in right direction to see it's expansion into 12 teams, including Fan Girl’s favorite the Minnesota Lynx!

So, whats the difference between the WNBA and the NBA? → From physical changes like the 3-point line length, ball size, and game time, to season length and number of teams, there's no doubt that there are some major differences between the WNBA and NBA. What stays the same though, are the same standard rules but the skill and passion displayed on the court too! 


Whether you are a season regular or just starting out, you can now consider yourself a well-read fan too, able to know how these pro leagues differ. As the 2024 WNBA season is literally just around the corner, (May 14th to be exact) you can grab your favorite game day gear, sit back, and watch the finesse and precision the WNBA brings! 🏀💫

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