Giving props to WNBA

Amy Miyahara, Asst. A&E Editor

Boring. Slow. Weak. These are  words that have been used to describe a league of some of the world’s finest athletes: the WNBA.

In its 21 years of existence, the Women’s National Basketball Association has struggled to form a major fan base. According to a 2016 New York Times article, half of the WNBA’s teams lose money, and the league has an average television viewership of under 200,000, a fraction of the millions of views generated by the NBA.

“Let’s face it, women’s games just aren’t as exciting as men’s. Women aren’t as fast as men, and most of them can’t dunk, or hit three-pointers like Steph Curry,” Carl Jackson, writer and radio host of “The Carl Jackson Show,” wrote in an article for the WorldNetDaily.

I’ll admit that this is a valid point: women are biologically different than men, which affects the way they play. Generally, women are not as tall as men and do not have jump as high, and these physical disparities are part of the reason why it is unrealistic that the WNBA will ever reach the NBA’s level of popularity. However, the WNBA should still be acknowledged for its contributions to basketball.

Those who appreciate and respect high quality basketball will see the WNBA for what it is: an engaging and entertaining league made up of the highest caliber of athletes. Yes, the WNBA lacks the slam dunks, but it doesn’t need excessive dunking to prove its worth. What the WNBA lacks in athleticism, it makes up with its old-fashioned team play.

It is definitely exciting to watch LeBron James throw it down seven times in one game over the Detroit Pistons, but I find it equally thrilling to watch duos such as Candace Parker and Nneka Ogwumike lead the Los Angeles Sparks to the 2016 WNBA title by a one- point margin, only to have the Minnesota Lynx take back its title in another five game series, just last week. The level of execution required to run plays in the WNBA is equal to that required to succeed in the NBA.

In my opinion, however, one of the biggest appeals of the WNBA is not its entertainment value, but its ability to inspire girls across the globe.

Ask any young male basketball player who they want to be when they grow up; they’ll likely be dreaming of being the next Michael Jordan, the next Magic or Kobe. But before 1996, young American female basketball players didn’t have such icons to idolize, and no role models of that caliber to look up to.

This is why the influence of the WNBA is so important. Now, girls who play basketball can feel empowered, knowing that they can become the next Lisa Leslie or the next Maya Moore.

This does not just apply to the WNBA. As of today, many sports have male household names, but few feature female athletes whose popularity match that of their male counterparts, with tennis being an  exception with Serena Williams.

No American female professional sports league has been able to mirror the popularity of male leagues, and it is admittedly unlikely that this will ever change. Nevertheless, female professional athletes deserve more respect for the hard work that they dedicate to their sport—dedication that parallels that of their more renowned male counterparts.