The IX: Basketball Wednesday with Howard Megdal, July 10, 2019
Where's USA Basketball's parade? — Interview with Dearica Hamby — Must-click women's basketball links
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I remember a conversation with a longtime WNBA figure the day after I covered the 2015 U.S. women’s national team parade in New York City.
“It’s great, I loved it, but when do the USA Basketball women get a parade?”
It’s a perplexing question, and one I’ve pondered for the four years between that conversation and today’s parade for the 2019 World Cup winners.
Of course, the great Lindsay Gibbs was in a similar headspace, and asked Diana Taurasi about this JUST TODAY. Here’s what Taurasi told Lindsay, after Taurasi took credit for a tactical change she suggested to Megan Rapinoe that led to the 2019 World Cup win:
“It’s funny, because we usually win something, and then we never get to celebrate,” Taurasi said in the locker room at today’s Mercury-Mystics game. “We’ve won four gold medals, and the next day it’s back to your WNBA team. Okay, that’s over, next thing. You don’t even get to enjoy winning. You win in the WNBA? Two days later you have to go to Russia, Slovakia, Turkey. It’s actually nice for them to be able to come home and be appreciated.”
She’s right, of course. And it hurts my heart that Diana Taurasi, probably, isn’t going to get a parade down the Canyon of Heroes.
But why? The answer I’ve come to, from trying to game it out, is a simple one: the FIBA World Cup needs to matter.
Think about it this way: the USWNT hasn’t gotten parades after winning Olympic gold, and no wonder: there are many American teams, and individuals, who win Olympic gold every four years. USA Basketball takes home gold in women’s basketball essentially every single chance it gets, for instance.
So for the USA Basketball women’s team to capture the moment, the imagination of the country, it has to happen during an event that is basketball-only. So that’s probably got to be the FIBA World Cup, right?
Well, the problem is that very few people in this country care about it. And this isn’t just a women’s basketball problem, though it is very much that. No one watches the FIBA Men’s World Cup, either!
It’s an issue the powers that be in women’s basketball probably ought to address! Much of the popular success on the National Women’s Soccer League side comes from fans who first learned about players through the media engine that is the USWNT.
The WNBA could use such an engine! But the FIBA World Cup, right now, ain’t it. There’s no actual engine. That ought to change, since everyone reading this understands the glorious beauty of watching Diana Taurasi and Sue Bird run a backcourt, and the pleasure of a team that could deploy Breanna Stewart and Elena Delle Donne at opposite wings.
All of which is to say: there are potential huge ancillary benefits if the NBA were to spend a bunch of money to help market the FIBA World Cup. ESPN could leverage its growing audience for WNBA and women’s college basketball and turn it into the third tentpole of the network’s commitment to the sport. Or Fox could blow it up, much as it did the FIFA Women’s World Cup after getting the rights for 2015. Put Diana Taurasi on The Simpsons and Tina Charles on American Idol! Full cross-promotion, engage!
In the meantime, it’s worth thinking of the parade not as a goal so much as an outcome that reveals other, more significant goals in terms of audience and revenue have been reached.
That it all comes back to more sustained effort on the investment side, I suppose, shouldn’t surprise any of us. It’s the Rosetta Stone of women’s sports.
But make the events bigger and the parades will follow. As they should.
This Week in Women’s Basketball
Don’t sleep on the impact Temi Fagbenle can make when she returns to the Lynx.
Chelsea Gray reached a triple-double! Here’s the history of players she joined.
Arike Ogunbowale and Megan Gustafson are still popular in Chicago.
Here’s Madeline Kenney on why Diamond DeShields and the Sky care so much about the USWNT.
This Steve Gress profile of Kennedy Brown, incoming Oregon State freshman, has me ready for college hoops season.
I wrote about Liz Cambage. She’s taking a step back from her career after 2020. SAVOR LIZ CAMBAGE WHILE YOU CAN, PEOPLE.
Molly Yanity looks at why the Connecticut Sun are slumping.
Jackie Powell goes in deep on Charmin Smith’s tenure with the Liberty, and it is worth your time.
Terrific Ben Rosof macro look at offense levels in the WNBA.
Ben Dull’s 12 Things is always must-read.
Tweet of the Week
Five at The IX: Dearica Hamby, Las Vegas Aces
(After a huge leap forward last year, Dearica Hamby has been even better in 2019. I wanted to ask her why, so I did. I love my job.)
HOWARD MEGDAL: When you look at the overall numbers you’re putting up this year, you are in the top 10 in things like player efficiency rating, but it’s not coming from any one spot. You’re shooting is up, your assist percentage is up across the board. I’m just wondering what you think, individually, have been some of the biggest reasons for this changes that have happened.
DEARICA HAMBY: I just think opportunity. I think, last year, I think you could say the same thing, like for minutes or whatever but that tells you a lot. I think I can help this team in any way possible, rather it be just running floor ball defensively. So I think just me being on the floor.
HOWARD MEGDAL: This league has been playing small just because of you guys have had a significant amount of time where they have you on the floor, A’ja on the floor, and Liz on the floor at the same time. Do you feel like this is, sort of, a natural counter to the way the league is going in, also that it is for you guys?
DEARICA HAMBY: I think a few teams are trying to try it especially with the way the players are coming out now. They’re more athletic and people are getting bigger, and they’re getting more skilled. But I think for us it’s more of a defensive energy. I think we’re all better defensive players, so you can stick me out there, but you can still keep your two best players, or two best bigs on the floor.
HOWARD MEGDAL: And then the three-point shot, obviously, as a spacer has been real significant for this team. And you’re up over even the amount they were taking last year. How much of that is your own personal work?
DEARICA HAMBY: I’ve been shooting extra, but, Bill [Laimbeer], every time I catch it is like ‘shoot the ball’. Especially with A’ja and Liz, they’re giving me a lot of attention, so I’ve been getting open in the back there.
HOWARD MEGDAL: Your assist percentage is up over last year, which itself was double the year before as well. Do you feel like, just, as a big in this league right now, that that is, sort of, par for the course, that it’s almost expected now?
DEARICA HAMBY: I think so, we have a ton of people on this team that can make shots. If people are making shots then assists go up.
HOWARD MEGDAL: What’s next for you? What is your next big leap forward as a player?
DEARICA HAMBY: Next game. Making my layups.