Retro Article (SLAM, 2009): The WNBA Doesn’t Need Fixing…We Do
There is absolutely no refuting that 2009 was a monumental year for the WNBA or that the league itself had a substantial amount of victories. Admittedly, these might be “small” by comparison but for a league that has struggled to gain widespread acceptance for 13 years, any amount of success and progress should be notable.
I came across an article by Josh Levin for Slate that illustrates perfectly what I’m speaking of. In it, Levin argues that in spite of well documented increases in ratings, viewers, attendance, and coverage that the WNBA is a faltering league and needs “fixing.”
Instead, what really needs to be fixed is us.
Levin’s assertion isn’t ground-breaking or revolutionary by any means, and one we’ve all heard before. However, Levin seemingly ignores the momentum the WNBA has gained after 2009 and states that, in reality, there is “little evidence the WNBA is primed for mainstream success” and that he can think of two ways to “fix” this (apparently) broken league.
1. Ignore the male fan base completely and solely market to the female, gay and lesbian community.
2. Or, simply “appease” the male fan base and adopt the rules of the now defunct Liberty Basketball Association.
Now, at first glance, you might not have any glaring issues with the above options. However, according to the rules of the Liberty Basketball Association, the women in the league would wear skin-tight (and see-through) uniforms that were incredibly revealing, play on a shortened basketball court, and lower the rims to a height of 9-2 with the idea being to entice “real men” (I use this term loosely as my definition of a man is far different) into watching the league. By having women play virtually in lingerie, on a shortened rim and court, the theory is that more men would watch or pay attention. Thus, leading to an increase in the male fan base that the WNBA (as Levin describes) are apparently so desperately longing for.
Levin’s whole premise is based on points that are false; and (as we learned is Psychology 101) correlation does not mean causation.
To begin, he argues that the WNBA is failing. I do suppose it depends on your objective definition of the word; it’s no secret the WNBA has never been a cash cow or that franchises are losing money, but it’s also well-documented that the net losses are improving. Levin twists examples in his favor such as the “thousands” of tickets that were bought to fill up the upper deck in Indiana and Phoenix for the WNBA Finals as negative and making light of the huge rating increases (upwards of 40 percent) for ESPN2. He also talks about the Detroit Shock moving to Tulsa and how it’s a sign that the WNBA is failing as a whole. Somehow, Levin ignores the fact that the city of Detroit is in an insane amount of hurt and that all the professional sports teams in that city aren’t exactly rolling in dough. More importantly, there is a clear twisting of facts going on here and it saddens me. The amount of progress the league has made in 2009 should be regarded as triumphant. Instead, it’s become (once again) material for fodder.
Read the entire article here: http://www.slamonline.com/online/other-ballers/womens/2009/10/the-wnba-doesn%e2%80%99t-need-fixing/
Retro Article (SLAM): Hoop Dreams, 15 Years Later
"People always say to me, ‘when you get to the NBA, don’t forget about me’. Well, I should’ve said back, ‘if I don’t make it to the NBA, don’t you forget about me’.”—William Gates, Hoop Dreams
We haven’t forgotten.
Fifteen years ago, a landmark documentary changed the way we viewed the proverbial dream many children have of playing professional basketball. As with millions of youth across the globe, Arthur Agee and William Gates dreamt of one day playing in the NBA; the only difference with them and others is they were actually gifted enough to make it there. Growing up in the inner-city of Chicago, Agee and Gates were recruited early on to play high school basketball at a suburban prep school. Immediately, they found that their dreams of playing in the NBA would come at a much higher price than they originally thought. Academics, money, family troubles, and politics were just some of the newfound barriers they would have to face. Throughout it all, they never lost faith in basketball, and in doing so captured the collective hearts of moviegoers everywhere. Never before had a film given us a glimpse of this journey as it was actually occurring.
Read the entire article here: http://www.slamonline.com/online/blogs/the-w/2010/03/hoop-dreams-15-years-later/
Retro Article (SLAM): In Defense of Brittney Griner
“Did you see that girl baller drop that other girl the other day?” My friend not-so-intelligently asked me. Obviously, he was referring to Baylor’s freshman phenom Brittney Griner punching a Texas Tech player on March 3, 2010.
I nodded, and began to state how disappointed I was that the whole incident happened. I spoke with a morose tone as if I had the right to critique Brittney Griner as a young woman. We conversed for a while regarding the fallout after the punch, how it reflected badly upon women’s basketball especially with such a supreme talent like Griner, and how there is no excuse for something like that in the game. Then, I had somewhat of an epiphany – I realized I have no room to judge or ridicule Griner.
And neither do you.
Read the entire article here: http://www.slamonline.com/online/college-hs/college/2010/03/in-defense-of-brittney-griner/
Retro Article (Magazine): Goran Dragic Beats the Spurs
Before Game 3 against the Spurs, I was talking to Alvin and he said, “Kid, be aggressive. Play your game and don’t worry if you make some mistakes.” I just listened to his advice. When I got in the game, I penetrated right away and ended up scoring. Then I hit a shot from the three-point line. After that, I just knew it was going to be a great day. When I made the 4-point play I felt that every shot I took was going in. The paint was open and it seemed that we could get whatever we wanted offensively. Even though we were up a lot at that point we continued to play the pick and roll against Tim Duncan. They were switching so we just tried to penetrate and find open shots.
It was great because we were 18 points down and we ended up coming back to win by 14, which was amazing. We know that as a team, if we are down, we just have to stay focused and at some point we’ll make a run.
Read the entire article here: http://www.slamonline.com/online/nba/2010/06/sunrise/
Retro Article: Lauren Jackson - The Upward Spiral
Ever wonder what Lauren Jackson’s favorite Nine Inch Nails album is?
“My favorite Nine Inch Nails album is…well, I have two,” says a smiling, reflective Jackson. “Year Zero and The Downward Spiral.”
Ironically, The Downward Spiral is probably the worst way to describe Lauren Jackson on and off the court. The album centers around a dark and heavy metaphorical journey for writer Trent Reznor dealing with melancholic themes throughout. At times, it can be depressing and weary. But there’s nothing depressing or pessimistic about Jackson; if anything, The Upward Spiral would be a much more fitting title for Jackson’s career.
Read the entire article here: http://www.slamonline.com/online/other-ballers/womens/2011/06/the-upward-spiral-lauren-jackson-without-equal/
New Article (SLAM): Ann Strother Wants to Change the World
I remember it like it was yesterday…
It was a relatively normal August day in Castle Rock, Colorado. The year was 1998. I was a new student at Castle Rock Middle School and couldn’t have been more nervous. In fact, I think I vomited that morning. I’m fairly introverted and extremely shy by nature; being the short, funny-looking new kid was absolutely terrifying.
As I made my way through the main hallway, I spent a few minutes trying to spot other kids who also had no clue where anything was.
“Well, apparently, I’m the only new kid,” I remember thinking. “This blows.”
A tap on my shoulder would change my entire outlook.
“Excuse me,” the voice said. “Do you know where 8th homeroom is?”
I turned around to respond.
“I…um…I have no id…,” I said, smoothly, while performing a double-take.
There stood Ann Strother. All six-feet of her, or so it seemed. I had never seen someone my age who was that tall, much less a girl.
“Wow,” I said, stuttering. (Again, so smooth.) “Ball…you…er…I mean, you play ball?”
“A little,” said Ann with a smile.
And so our friendship began.
We eventually figured out where our classes were and hung out all the time. We played one-on-one after school and would go to each other’s basketball games. Ann would go on to star at UConn with Diana Taurasi (winning two National Championships) and was selected in the second round of the 2006 WNBA Draft.
Fortunately, we’ve managed to keep in touch over the years. I caught up with Ann recently to discuss her new non-profit foundation, Outward Bounce.
Read the entire article here: http://www.slamonline.com/online/other-ballers/womens/2011/11/ann-strother-wants-to-change-the-world/
Retro Article (Magazine): Passion Play - Diana Taurasi
September 5, 2009. 7:28 p.m. US Airways Center, Phoenix.
Phoenix Mercury guard Diana Taurasi hits a step-back jumper. It yields just her sixth and seventh points of this game, but in the big picture, the 4,000 and 4,001st of her career. With that basket, Taurasi became the fastest player in WNBA history to 4,000 points, and she’s not even aware of it. Not surprising, though—she didn’t know she was the fastest player to 3,000 points. Or that she was the only WNBA player to score 800 points or more in a single season (which she has done twice). Or that she has more 30-point games than any other player in league history.
She doesn’t keep track of those accolades because they mean nothing to her. Not now, not ever. Tonight, the Mercury’s lead against the Atlanta Dream is dissipating. Nothing else matters more to Diana Taurasi than this exact moment. Holding on to this game is, literally, the only thing on her mind.
Winning, that’s what matters. That’s what drives Diana Taurasi. Not personal honors or individual achievements. Just plain old wins.
“Ehh,” says Taurasi as she shrugs off the attention she receives for passing the 4,000-point milestone after the 100-82 Mercury victory. “I’m not really one for individual records.”
Humble, yet never satisfied.
This article appeared in SLAM 149. Read the entire article here: http://www.slamonline.com/online/other-ballers/womens/2011/06/passion-play/
Retro Article (Magazine): Catch and Release
It’s rare, but it happens: That occurrence where every ounce of admiration bestowed upon a professional athlete is based on fact. And there is no better proof of this anomaly than Tamika Catchings of the Indiana Fever.
The reason Tamika is so remarkable in today’s professional sports world isn’t just that she practices what she preaches (love, compassion and strength). It’s that it comes instinctively. It’s natural. She doesn’t wake up every morning consciously thinking of ways to be a role model or inspiration, she just…is.
This article appeared in SLAM 139. Read the entire article here: http://www.slamonline.com/online/the-magazine/features/2010/05/catch-and-release/
Article: The Absurdity of the Lingerie Basketball League
When you visit the Lingerie Basketball League’s website, a short video starts to play that showcases pictures of the league’s scantily clad players. The women wear little more than a bra and underwear and have some sort of weird wrapping around their legs (must help with their three-point shot).
The site’s colors are predominantly pink and black and its logo features a silhouette of a woman with noticeable curves. The basketball in the logo is wrapped in what looks like a garter. Next to the logo, you’ll see the league’s tagline: “Where Beauty Meets the Hardwood.” The stagnant background image blacks out the women’s faces with only their chest and stomach visible.
Read the entire article here: http://www.slamonline.com/online/other-ballers/womens/2011/10/the-absurdity-of-the-lingerie-basketball-league/
Article: What We Can All Learn From Mike Thibault
Initially, I was hesitant to ask Connecticut Sun coach Mike Thibault about his tragic family history with Cystic Fibrosis.
Not because I didn’t care, but simply out of respect and sensitivity.
“I’m not sure how to frame the question without seeming like an ignorant jerk,” I kept thinking, cynically.
After all, how do you ask someone who has had five siblings (yes, five) pass away from the vicious disease to talk about it? To relive it? Discussing any death of a family member is obviously difficult but having five siblings pass away? I can’t imagine…
Knowing the type of person Thibault is, I asked my question as sincere as I could.
“Mike,” I began. “I understand that Cystic Fibrosis has been a huge part of your life for many, many years. Can you elaborate on how it has affected you and your family?”
Thibault’s subsequent reply is something we, as human beings, can all learn from.
Read the entire article here: http://www.slamonline.com/online/other-ballers/womens/2011/10/what-we-can-all-learn-from-mike-thibault/
Article: SLAM’s Top 50 - Steve Nash, No.20
I pride myself on being ignorant (and by ‘ignorant’ I mean ‘apathetic’) in many facets of life, but after nearly 30 years on this planet there are three things I’m downright sure of:
1. Human beings need food, water and shelter to survive.
2. The Earth is round. Trust me; I’ve seen pictures.
3. When you mention the name Steve Nash, it has to be followed by a conjunction (I.e. ‘but’) or we’ll all die.
I’m 100 percent convinced of this.
Read the entire article here: http://www.slamonline.com/online/nba/slamonline-top-50/2011/10/top-50-steve-nash-no-20/
Article: WNBA Playoffs Roundtable Discussion
SLAM writers preview and predict the 2011 WNBA Playoffs.
Read the entire article here: http://www.slamonline.com/online/other-ballers/womens/2011/09/wnba-playoffs-roundtable-discussion/
Article: The Media and the WNBA
Over the past couple of months, a new article emerges on what seems like a daily basis detailing a perceived negative affect on the NBA’s bottom line by the WNBA.
There’s no denying that the NBA lockout fueled the fire of late, but the pessimistic view of the WNBA has gone on for almost two decades now by much of the mainstream media.
Furthermore, no matter how much is said to the contrary, blame continues to find its way to the WNBA. We’ve seen numerous articles in in local newspapers, national outlets (CBS, ESPN, etc.), blogs, and other random publications virtually calling for the WNBA’s demise and accusing it of being the NBA’s ugly, worthless stepchild.
Why is it that people want the WNBA to fail? Why is there a biased attempt to bring it down?
I’m genuinely asking, folks.
Enter Jeff Pearlman.
Read the entire article here: http://www.slamonline.com/online/other-ballers/womens/2011/09/the-media-and-the-wnba/
Article: Women’s Basketball and a Unique Double Standard
People know me as a pretty easy-going dude. I tend to go with the flow and am about as laid-back a person as you’ll ever meet. I do a lot of volunteering, have been a Big Brother for almost a decade, and have been involved with many non-profit organizations over the years.
But put me on the basketball court and I’m a complete jackass. And that’s putting it mildly.
I’m not kidding. I’d hate to be on the same team as me.
Looking back, I’m amazed that I didn’t get the crap beaten out of me every game. Seriously. I was never a dirty player but I didn’t let anyone get away with anything. I was constantly in people’s faces, got into shoving matches, and have routinely ashamed my friends and family with some of the stuff I’ve said and done on the court.
Painting that picture of myself doesn’t make me happy and I’m still not entirely sure why I turn into Mr. Hyde when I’m balling. It’s not a badge of honor and can actually be quite embarrassing and humbling.
Hey, I’m human.
I’m telling you this to prove a point and start an honest discussion: Why is it accepted that men can show emotion, curse, and be aggressively animated on the hardwood but when women do it, they are labeled as “classless” and “vulgar”?
Not saying that behavior is right or wrong either way, but there is little denying it is more universally accepted for men to do so.
Read the entire article here: http://www.slamonline.com/online/other-ballers/womens/2011/09/womens-basketball-and-a-unique-double-standard/
Article: Why Sue Bird Should be the 2011 WNBA MVP
Imagine, for a moment, where the Seattle Storm would be without Sue Bird in 2011.
Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Read the entire article here: http://www.slamonline.com/online/other-ballers/womens/2011/09/why-sue-bird-should-be-the-2011-wnba-mvp/