The Real Problem with the WNBA
This summer, the WNBA will tip off its 15th season. Some are surprised that it has lasted this long. Most whine that women’s basketball isn’t entertaining. There are few dunks, very little high flying. The players aren’t as big, aren’t as strong and they aren’t as fast. The WNBA isn’t for those people. Unfortunately, those are the people it’s being marketed to and there’s the issue.
Everything from the logo to the inaugural slogan (“We Got Next”) played on the league’s inextricable connection to the NBA. There was such a concern for the league to succeed financially that little attention was given to marketing the WNBA for what it is, basketball.
The basketball is sound. The players don’t have to be men to play an exciting brand of basketball. While the players aren’t as big, fast and strong as some NBA fans might like, they are, in some cases, more graceful, more fundamentally sound and just as fun to watch.
I challenge those naysayers to watch Deanna Nolan highlights and say again that WHBA basketball is boring. Watch Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird or Cheryl Miller and tell me that the players aren’t talented. NBA basketball is a different type of basketball. It isn’t the only type.
The WNBA relegated itself to this second tier position in the hearts of NBA fans by tethering its image to the NBA. It’s not the same type of basketball which means the two leagues have widely different fan bases. Instead of focusing on that, in the manner that women’s college basketball does, the WNBA tried to capitalize on its connection to the NBA in an attempt to garner more fans.
For all the doubters, the business speaks for itself. For the first time in its history, the WNBA has its own broadcast deal. Over half of the teams are now independently owned, an important metric when we consider the fact that in the past, all of the teams were owned by the NBA. While the NBA and its players are staring down the barrel of contraction, the WNBA is looking to expand into Nashville and Baltimore.
So I don’t subscribe to the idea that the WNBA needs to fold, or that women’s basketball is somehow “less than” men’s basketball. And no, I’m not just an NBA fan. I am a basketball fan.