The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, February 5, 2020
NBA all star weekend and the WNBA — Interview with Sue Bird — Must-click women's basketball links
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NBA all star weekend and the WNBA
The news came down as usual: the NBA Celebrity All Star Game includes WNBA players. In this case, it’s A’ja Wilson and Chelsea Gray. Two USA Basketball stalwarts! I’m sure someone patted himself on the back for including them.
It’s a problem, friends.
You include the WNBA’s top players at an all star weekend, but you do it by putting them in a celebrity game, you are making it clear precisely how you view elite women’s professional athletes.
It’s a pecking order that lands them alongside Chance the Rapper and Common.
Well, let’s be clear, not alongside, really, but way down on the list featuring the two of them.
They are captains, you see.
They are also placed alongside retired NBA players, chef Jose Andres, musician Jon Batiste, Bucks owner Marc Lasry, and of course, Ronnie 2K.
Where they aren’t: in a game that showcases the WNBA’s best talent. I’d reconciled this in my mind back when I spoke to Allie Quigley, CHICAGO BASKETBALL PERSONIFIED, a few weeks ago and heard she’d be overseas. Of course, most players are overseas during this time.
But then I was reminded by an alert Twitter follower about some players who’d be around, are in fact being paid to stick around and promote women’s basketball this offseason, a week after the qualifiers in Serbia:
Oh. Right. THAT TEAM.
There are ways to do this at the margins, too. Put Diamond DeShields in the skills competition. Put Brittney Griner in the dunk contest. Put Kelsey Plum in the three-point contest.
I tweeted about this because, right, that’s what I do, and the solutions came fast and furious from folks without a financial stake in getting this right!
There’s even historical precedent for it.
Now the good news: I’m told there’s an open USA Basketball practice that weekend. There will be WNBA players at events with NBA players. Not basketball-playing events, apparently, but still, this is a step forward.
But stop, for the love of God, telling the world that playing in the WNBA, in the thinking of the NBA, is like cooking a meal or being this guy:
The league owes it to its players. The league owes it, if we want to be mercenary about this, to its own recent investment in the WNBA itself.
This week in women’s basketball
Let’s start with what was originally going to be my top of newsletter, Oregon slaying UConn in Storrs.
Here for Paige Bueckers, SLAM cover star.
Don’t miss Lindsay Gibbs on Kobe’s women’s basketball legacy (or anything).
Really enjoyed Mike Anthony on the USA Basketball-UConn connection.
HerHoopStats has your Becky Hammon Award semifinalists.
Imani McGee-Stafford discusses how to reconcile Kobe’s history.
Vermont has an endowed women’s basketball position now.
Terrific Derek Helling piece on Michigan State’s Taryn McCutcheon.
Sam Blum has a truly horrifying story of player treatment at SMU.
Tweet of the week
Five at The IX: Sue Bird
(I caught up with Sue last week at a USA Basketball practice. Click on Sue’s picture to listen!)