The WNBA Shuffle

This is quite interesting.

I had an epiphany last night while watching what turned out to be a great game 3 of the NBA Finals between The Cleveland Cavaliers and the defending champs, the Golden State warriors. During a commercial break, almost before the end of the first half of play, an advertisement came on–and all I could do is chuckle.

After this promo for their ” Watch Me Work” campaign, I then realized that I am a terrible person, because for some damn reason I can’t bring myself to give one fuck about the WNBA. Not one.

I understand the need for the NBA to help out its sister organization during its primetime programming. Really. I do. But showing me the likes of a Brittney Griner, Sue Bird, or Maya Moore doesn’t move the needle for me whatsoever. Now, even though Skylar Diggins is bad as hell, I’m sure  her beauty wasn’t the intended purpose of the commercial. Also, I’m not some sexist who feels women can’t do the same things that men can do. Nothing could be further from the truth. However, although they play great basketball, they don’t play my type of basketball.

As I’ve grown from a child to a man, the game of basketball has evolved tremendously and none of this is more evident than in the NBA. It’s a game that has been developed by the principles of better, faster and stronger. Players get up and down the floor quicker than ever before, shots made are at an all time high, and the boundaries of physics are pushed to the limit with every play. As I’m typing this, all I can think of is a play LeBron James made in Game 3 last night, where he caught an awkward pass mid-flight and slammed it down effortlessly.

What I didn’t mention is that his head was at rim level; that’s 10 feet on the nose.

See for yourself:

Come on now, you damn right the WNBA ain’t doing shit like that.

That’s where the problems lie with me and the WNBA. In essence, this is just my assessment; the league itself is chock full of players who are undersized and not on the same level, athletically, with their male counterparts. Overall, a WNBA game is by no means an inferior product, as the way that women play is fundamental as hell. Crisp chest and bounce passes, excellent form on jump shots– it’s a beauty to watch the plays transpire. There’s just something missing when a fast break happens and it ends with a layup all of the time. I mean, sometimes you’ll get a tall female who can dunk the ball like the Lisa Leslie’s of the world, but even then there’s zero energy in it. No umph, no emphasis, no nothing. Maybe it’s due to the average size of a WNBA player being 6’0; that’s 8 inches shorter than the average in the NBA.

Not only that, but that smaller, dual colored ball just gets on my fucking nerves. There’s also been talk of the league wanting to lower the rims from 10 feet to 8 feet to assist with the fluidity of their game, but purists like current veteran Diana Turasi, who was voted one of the best 15 female players of all time, likened the notion to “sending women back to the kitchen.”

 “There’s a lot of room to grow, and the women who believe they’re worth it are the ones who are going to make good things happen during the next period of WNBA growth.”- Sue Wicks

So as the 20th season of the WNBA kicks into gear, I’m still finding it hard to give a single shit about it.

Damn, has it really been 20 years? Yup, it’s all coming back to me now.

The 1996 Woman’s Olympic Basketball Team was what breathed initial life into the league. Players like Sheryl Swoops, Dawn Staley, Teresa Edwards, and Rebecca Lobo headlined a roster that ended up winning the Gold Medal that summer. One year later, in 1997, those players spearheaded the startup buzz around the league’s inaugural season, which showed great attendance starting off and everyone was excited as hell. They were the sisters to the NBA, which gave them access to a certain cool factor and granted them access to the same arenas that the men played in. The numbers were great in that first year, with an average attendance of 9,664 and climbed to 10,864 in 1998. As it turns out, that was the peak of its success. Attendance numbers have declined every year since then. The average now is around 7,000, while the male game boasts an average of 17,000.

But wait, there are more discrepancies.

Although the average salary in the WNBA is $75,000, the minimum salary is close to $40,000 with a cap of $105,000, but thats only for 6-year veterans. The average player salary is around $75,000.  By comparison, the average rookie deal in the NBA is $550,000. You can make that without even clocking one minute of time on the floor in an 82 game season. The average salary in the NBA is $5,000,000, but during free agency max players can get over $20,000,000 per year.

This leads to woman having to go to European leagues during the offseason, if possible, just for the opportunity to make another $75,000 on average, but of course that is reserved for the best players.

Which brings me to the final and probably the most cosmetic reason why it’s hard for me to give a shit about the WNBA: those soccer-style, corporate uniforms they wear. It’s difficult enough getting into the slow ass pace of an average game, but when I have to look at these monstrous jerseys, it makes me embarrassed that this is an American league. It’s the same reason why I can’t really find interest in soccer outside of the World Cup or the Olympics. For me, there’s no sense of team or city pride. How can I root for the Minnesota Mayo Clinic’s sponsored by Boost Mobile? In all honesty, they’re called the Minnesota Lynx, but I HATE their uniforms nonetheless.

As it stands, over half of the leagues 12 teams are hemorrhaging money. Not only that, but the league itself hasn’t turned a single profit since its second year in 1998. That’s a huge problem, and the bulk of it is a basic lack of interest, not in the sport, but the entire WNBA. I personally know a couple of players in the league, and I still don’t give a shit. It’s not because they’re any less talented than men, but because the men’s game is just much more entertaining and gratifying, no matter how much we “lean in”, and it’s been that way for the last 20 years.

In terms of longevity and endurance, the WNBA is actually a solid business. Although, what does longevity mean if you cant make a buck or two?

If a tree falls in the woods, and no one’s there to hear it, does it make a sound?

If a league with 20 years in the game finally goes under, will you even know?

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