Shoni Schimmel attracts American Indians to arenas where ever she plays. Photo Credit: Tara Madden
PHOENIX—Atlanta Dream rookie Shoni Schimmel is the WNBA league’s leader in Jersey sales this season and you can bet she is also the leading attraction whenever she is on the road playing near cities or even near states where there are a large contingent of Native Americans or Louisville Cardinal Fans.
Schimmel, who grew up on the Umatilla Indian reservation in Oregon and was the focus of a documentary titled “Off the Rez” was recently named the MVP of the WNBA All-Star Game that was held back in July in Phoenix, Arizona.
Already popular to many Native Americans who have followed her from her college days at Louisville that particular game propelled her to league popular status. Hundreds of followers stay after the games in hopes of getting a picture or autograph of the Dream rookie and Schimmel is more than obliged to stay as long after the game to give the fans what they want. The league and organization have embraced this approach and it is working well as many arenas are seeing ticket sales rise. Recently, in Tulsa, Oklahoma the Tulsa Shock posted its largest game attendance this season with 6,841 fans in attendance as fans came out to support Shoni and the other only Native American in the league Angel Goodrich.
To date, five WNBA teams have hosted a “Native American Heritage Night” whenever the Atlanta Dream come into town and their are few more teams making plans to host as well. Schimmel, not even a starter on her own squad, drives up ticket sales and social media traffic whenever her picture or name is mentioned and it is only get larger this week when the Dream travel to the west coast.
On Tuesday, August 5th, Shoni will return to the arena where she made history of becoming the first ever rookie to be named MVP of the WNBA All-Star game as well as where she broke the record for most points in an all-star game with 29. UNITY, a national Native American youth organization will be hosting Schimmel post game with a Q & A session. That will kick off the first leg of the trip but the next game on August 7th has been the game that has been circled not just by the Schimmel family but the followers and fans of Shoni since she was a Phenom from her high school days.
Since WNBA draft night back in April, the Atlanta Dream versus the Seattle Storm game was the first game to nearly sell out and will likely be sold out by the time tip-off starts. The Seattle area is closest to where Shoni grew up and had always seen herself playing as a youngster. The family, from cousins to uncles to fans and followers, they will all be in attendance to what could be the largest and loudest game to date.
The last leg of the west coast tour will be a game in Los Angeles on August 8th, where the origin of her nickname was born “Showtime”. The Los Angeles City/County Native American Indian Commission will be hosting American Indian Appreciation night for this particular game.
The WNBA will provide coverage of these games on WNBA Live Access, their internet stream services for games. Sign up and registration information can be found on WNBA.COM.
Brent Cahwee is the publisher and editor of NDNSports.com