Howard, a senior guard, was the top pick after Atlanta made a deal with the Washington Mystics to move up in the draft.
A wave of talented rookies could make for tense battles as new faces like Aari McDonald and Charli Collier take on perennial all-stars like Diana Taurasi and Candace Parker.
Pulled by public opinion and sometimes their own players, leagues and teams are wading in to issues around race and social activism as never before.
James is now an owner of the Boston Red Sox and recently helped a W.N.B.A. player, Renee Montgomery, with her group’s bid to purchase the Atlanta Dream.
Renee Montgomery, a former Dream guard, is part of a group buying the team from Kelly Loeffler, the former Georgia senator, who upset players by attacking the Black Lives Matter movement.
Elizabeth Williams of the Atlanta Dream helped galvanize opposition to one of her team’s owners, Senator Kelly Loeffler, who has criticized Black Lives Matter. But the Capitol riot underscored the work ahead.
The women of the W.N.B.A. have made it a hotbed of activism, leading the way for higher-profile professional leagues in combining social action and sports.
Players have united to depose a sitting senator in Georgia, who has clashed with the Black Lives Matter movement and is an owner of the Atlanta Dream.
Led by the members of the Atlanta Dream, players have begun wearing T-shirts supporting a political opponent of Senator Kelly Loeffler, who co-owns the Dream and has spoken against the Black Lives Matter movement.
Sabrina Ionescu, who was selected with the top draft pick by the Liberty, sprained her left ankle in a game against the Atlanta Dream.
Kelly Loeffler, who is also campaigning for a Senate seat in Georgia, opposes the league’s plan to allow players to wear jerseys in support of the movement.