Why Hasn’t the WNBA Taken off as it should?

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PHOENIX, AZ - SEPTEMBER 07: Guard Diana Taurasi #3 of the Phoenix Mercury dribbles the ball up the court against the Chicago Sky in the first half during game one of the WNBA Finals at US Airways Center on September 7, 2014 in Phoenix, Arizona. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)

The National Basketball Association dominates the basketball landscape both stateside and globally. Collegiate Basketball arguably follows suit as the second best brand of basketball available to the general public. One can even argue that the Women’s College game would be third on that list, followed ultimately by the Women’s National Basketball Association. Casual fans may not know much about the WNBA and that’s okay, however we must not overlook the fact that the WNBA is comprised of some very skilled players who play the game in a way that would do Dr. James Naismith very proud.

As a lover of the sport, I was enthused as a kid when the WNBA launched back in 1997. Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes, Lisa Leslie and company, made the inaugural season exciting. What fans didn’t expect was the Houston Comets to reel off 4 straight championships to start. 

Gilbert Arenas, never one to shy away from controversy, alarmed many fans alike recently with his disparaging comments about the Women’s Professional Game. Despite his attacks, the fact remains that the WNBA just doesn’t attract the viewers it should. That conversation has trickled into the topic of lowering the rims, which several players have since spoke out about. For starters, it seems as though there’s a new expansion team every year, or teams are just relocating at an alarming rate for a league that’s struggling to gain any traction.

The Los Angeles Sparks, New York Liberty and Phoenix Mercury are the only franchises who remain in their original cities. That’s a huge problem. Add on the San Antonio Stars, and there are only 4 teams remaining in the league that were founded in 1997. The most successful franchise in WNBA history, the Houston Comets, are defunct. It’s very difficult to increase interest in a league if the potential for new ownership, or a new home, is very high. 

Being linked to another league has its pros and cons. Business in the NBA has been booming. Ratings are high, teams are worth astronomical amounts of money, and the overall parity of the league is great. Ideally, there should be an NBA team in each WNBA city with the owners being on the same wavelength in terms of vision. The WNBA is littered with excellent players who are marketable and possess some great personalities. Think of Maya Moore, Diana Taurasi, Cappie Pondexter, Brittney Griner, Skylar Diggins and Elena Delle Donne to name a few. Those are 6 different names who are all household names in the basketball world. With only 12 teams, it shouldn’t be hard to promote these players and take advantage of their fame. Maybe it’s the athleticism that attracts viewers to the NBA; outside of Britney Griner, you’re not gonna get the above the rim action in the WNBA. You will always be privy to sound fundamental basketball. 

I’m a fan of the game and always will be. The WNBA is great for the game, and definitely shows young girls that they too can play the game and thrive at it. It’s just sad that these women do not get the recognition they deserve at the highest level as professionals. I challenge you, if you truly love the game of basketball, to watch the WNBA when it’s on. Go to a game or two. You’ll certainly be in for a treat. There’s no ego in women’s hoops. These women love the game just as the men do, and quite frankly, they play it better. 

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