New York Knicks owner James Dolan was the sole dissenting vote against Toronto's bid for a WNBA expansion team. According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the WNBA Board of Governors voted unanimously, 13-0, in favor of Toronto, while the NBA's Board of Governors had a near-unanimous vote of 29-1. Dolan's objection is rooted in an ongoing legal battle between the Knicks and the Toronto Raptors over alleged theft of proprietary information.

The lawsuit, which has been ongoing since before the current NBA season, accuses the Raptors of hiring former Knicks employee Ike Azotam, who allegedly stole confidential information to benefit the Raptors. The lawsuit also names first-year Raptors coach Darko Rajaković, who has denied any wrongdoing, per Aaron Rose of Sports Illustrated. The Raptors have labeled the lawsuit as “baseless” and a “public relations stunt” by Dolan. They have requested NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to intervene and settle the dispute, which remains unresolved.

Despite the legal tensions, the Knicks and Raptors managed to complete a trade last season involving notable players. OG Anunoby, Precious Achiuwa and Malachi Flynn were traded to the Knicks in exchange for Immanuel Quickley, RJ Barrett and a draft pick. However, this transaction has done little to alleviate the animosity between the two franchises.

WNBA Toronto expansion is historic milestone

Golden State Warriors co-executive director & chief executive officer Joe Lacob, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert and Warriors co-executive director Peter Guber pose for a group photo during a press conference to announce an expansion WNBA franchise in the San Francisco Bay Area at Chase Center.
D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

The WNBA's expansion to Toronto marks a historic milestone, as it will be the league's first franchise outside the United States. Announced by WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert Thursday, the new team is slated to begin operations in 2026, introducing professional women’s basketball to an international audience. Engelbert emphasized the significance of international growth.

“Growing internationally, I’ve been trying to think through next steps on a global platform. It helps us reach new audiences and bring in new partners,” she said.

Larry Tanenbaum, chairman and minority owner of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, leads Kilmer Sports Ventures, which is investing $115 million to bring the WNBA to Toronto. Tanenbaum highlighted the importance of women's professional sports in Toronto’s sports landscape.

“Our Toronto sports franchises are thriving, but we have been missing one critical piece — women’s professional sports. The world is finally taking notice of something that’s been there all along — the immense talent, passion, and competition in women’s sports.”

The new Toronto WNBA team will play at the 8,700-seat Coca-Cola Coliseum at Exhibition Place, with potential to host games at the larger Scotiabank Arena. The commitment to building a practice facility underscores the investment in the team's success and growth. This expansion follows successful WNBA exhibition games in Canada, which drew significant fan interest and highlighted the country's enthusiasm for women’s basketball.

The WNBA's broader strategy includes expanding to 16 teams by 2028, with Philadelphia, Portland, Denver, and Nashville among the cities considered for future expansion. The San Francisco-based Golden State Valkyries, set to begin play in 2025, will be the WNBA’s 13th team, followed by Toronto in 2026 as the 14th. The Valkyries have already revealed their name and logo, drawing inspiration from Norse mythology, and will feature a strong, bold brand identity with a purple and black color scheme.