NEW YORK -- Thirty-six women had their dream of becoming a professional basketball player come true Thursday night at the WNBA draft, and for those in attendance at the ceremony in New York, it instantly cemented their spot in a basketball sisterhood.
The league invited 10 players to attend the draft in person, and they also spent the days leading up to it together. From eating meals to figuring out what to wear, the group instantly bonded -- and even started a lively group-text message.
"Over the past two days, we've spent a lot of time together," said Lexie Brown, who was selected ninth overall by the Connecticut Sun. "We started a really funny group chat and we're going to keep it going all season long. We have a lot of memes.
"Dinner [Wednesday] took a really long time, and we jokingly started asking, 'OK, who's going to leave first?' These last few days have been awesome, and I really couldn't have picked a better group of girls to have shared this experience with."
While the hours leading up to the draft were likely filled with nerves and anxiety, the players never showed it as they walked into Nike Headquarters, which hosted the event. It looked more like a party than anything. They laughed, danced, cheered, seemed to share inside jokes and, of course, posed for selfies. Despite fierce on-court rivalries and histories between many of the women, it appeared to be nothing but love and support on the orange carpet.
"I think when you get here and have the couple of days, you really get a chance to know everyone," said Kia Nurse, whom the New York Liberty picked at No. 10. "They're not just the players on your scouting report anymore. They're actual people who are really fun with great personalities. It's been amazing."
Several of the players confessed to being nervous before coming to New York, with the typical concerns many have before starting a new job: Will the people be nice? Will I make friends? Whom will I talk to?
Monique Billings, who ultimately fell to the Atlanta Dream in the second round, knew she would have the support of her UCLA teammate Jordin Canada in New York, but she was anxious about spending so much time with women she didn't know. Those feelings quickly vanished.
"I didn't know what to expect coming in because these are such big names," Billings said after being selected. "But everyone was great, so humble and down to earth. We just bonded on a really nice level, a girl level.
"It was so nice just to have girls to relate to things with and talking about basketball but also outfits, shoes and hair. It was great. Everyone was just complimenting each other and building each other up."
That sentiment seemed to be proven true every time WNBA president Lisa Borders called someone's name. For every woman picked, those who hadn't yet been selected were among the first to applaud and cheer loudly. During the post-draft photoshoots and media interviews, they were quick to embrace and congratulate one another. Their admiration was visible, and all had kind words to say whenever asked about another player.
Even after the telecasted portion of the event was over, groups of players were still seen mingling with one another and seemingly introducing each other to their families. It was clear no one wanted the night to end, nor their time together.
While Victoria Vivians, who went eighth to the Indiana Fever, jokingly said she would never reveal any of the contents of the group text ("It's private!"), she turned serious when talking about her new friends.
"To get to know each other off the court is great," she said. "We're all just really comfortable together. It's a sisterhood.
"We'll all support each other from here on out, we're all professionals now. I feel like we're going to stay connected all season long and beyond. I can't wait to see what the future holds for everyone."