I’m sure if someone asked you to name ten NBA players both past and present, most of the people reading this could do so with little to no trouble. Now if someone asked you to name ten WNBA players both past and present could you do that?
Why is that exactly? The WNBA has been around for over 20 years, yet both the league and its players have struggled to gain legitimacy since the leagues induction in 1997.
The WNBA has been home to some of the greatest basketball players of all time. Yet the accomplishments of these amazingly talented women goes largely unnoticed.
Even in the early years of the league players were making a name for themselves. Sheryl Swoopes, the first woman to ever sign a WNBA contract, set the league on fire in the late 90’s.
Swoopes,’ and the now defunct Houston Comets won the first four WNBA Finals from 1997 to 2000. Swoopes is also one of the very few women who can say that she had her own signature shoe with Nike.
Swoopes is but one of many names people should recognize from the WNBA. Players like Tamika Catchings, Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, Becky Hammon and Lindsay Whalen have all had a profound impact on the game of basketball.
Their impact on the game is huge and not just here in the United States or in the WNBA. The United States Women’s National team is one of the most dominant in the history of sports. Bird, Taurasi and Catchings are all tied for most olympics gold medals in basketball having won the past four straight olympic tournaments.
While the WNBA has a strong veteran presence, the league is full of young stars putting their stamp on the game. Players like Maya Moore, Elena Delle Donne, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Brittney Griner, A’ja Wilson, Nneka Ogwumike and Breanna Stewart to name a few.
Breanna Stewart for example just had one of the best years an athlete couldever have. She won league MVP, the WNBA Finals, Finals MVP,the FIBA (International Basketball Federation) World Cup and World Cup MVP. She did that all in one month by the way.
Despite the amazing things these women have done on the court they have still yet to earn the respect they deserve. These women are constantly being unfairly compared to their NBA counterparts.
“The game is too slow” “They can’t even dunk” “I bet I could beat them” these are all things these women have to hear on a regular basis.
These are all things people who don’t tune into the WNBA say but if they took the time to watch they would see just how wrong they are.
There’s no greater example of this than the 2016 NBA and WNBA Finals.
The 2016 NBA Finals was something the world has never seen before. The Cleveland Cavaliers became the first team in NBA history to win the Finals after trailing in a series three games to one. The team came back to win the series defeating the Golden State Warriors in seven games.
While that all sounds amazing, outside of game seven, that series was a snooze fest. Game seven, which the Cavs won 93-89, was the only game in that series decided by less than 10 points.
The 2016 WNBA Finals between the Minnesota Lynx and the Los Angeles Sparks was heaven for hoops fans. The five game series was an instant classic. Games two and three were both blowouts but, other than that the series was must watch TV.
Game one of the series was on a buzzer beater. Alana Beard hit a game winner in the corner as time expired to lead LA to a road win against Minnesota. After being down 2-1 in the series, Maya Moore dropped 31 points while shooting over 50 percent to force a game five in Minneapolis.
Game five was definitely something to see. A back and forth game that went all the way down to the wire. Maya Moore hits a go head bucket to put the Lynx on top with 15.4 seconds left on the clock. Then 2016 WNBA MVP Nneka Ogwumike tips the ball in with 3.1 seconds left securing the 77-76 win and championship for the LA Sparks.
Despite these amazing games, and even outshining their male counterparts on the biggest stage the ladies of the WNBA are still fighting for recognition in their own sport.
The only thing worse than how these women are treated and viewed, is how they are paid. WNBA players are vastly underpaid, most women play overseas in Europe and Asia to help compensate for their lack of pay here in the United States.
The foreign teams often times pay more than the WNBA teams as well. Back in 2015 Diana Taurasi opted to sit out the season to focus playing for her Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg rather than play for her WNBA team the Phoenix Mercury. She did this because at the time the league maximum a WNBA player could make was $107,000 and UMMC offered Taurasi $1.5 million to play for them.
I’m sure you’re now wondering why play in the WNBA at all if there’s such a drastic difference in pay. The honest answer is level of competition and homesickness.
While the WNBA may not pay it’s players like other leagues do, it is still home to the best women’s basketball players in the world. Not only are the best players here, but home is here as well. These women all have loved one’s they care about, so playing overseas would make it extremely difficult to see the one’s they care about.
The ladies of the WNBA are simply amazing. They play the game efficiently, intelligently, passionately and they have fun while doing it. It’s time for we was a culture to accept them and what they do and to stop comparing them to others. It’s also time for the WNBA to pay these ladies what they have earned and what they deserve.
The ladies have game and it is time we started treating them like it.