My Summer Vacation
How one writer became a huge WNBA fan.
by Cub Buenning / @cubbuenning
Summer is a great time of the year. As a child, it was the long-awaited break from the daily harassment that was “school.” It meant long days riding your bike, playing little league baseball games and a boatload of popsicles. But for those passionate about the game of basketball, it often meant a break of another kind. Gone were the nights spent watching the televised games and days spent rehashing the drives, dishes and dunks. Gone were our own YMCA/playground/rec Center games and a chance to live out our own “hoop dreams.”
While I truly consider myself a diehard fanatic and student of our fair game, there were always enough sporting distractions during the warm months to keep me satiated until the first sign of Midnight Madness. Between golf, tennis and an occasional baseball game, I was more than capable of dealing with the lack of hoops.
That all changed this summer.
As hundreds of my fellow scribes bemoaned the NBA lockout and fretted over whether there would be any professional games played this winter, I finally gave in.
I became a fan of the WNBA.
While much of the sporting world is typecast into a mold of the classic sports and look at endeavors such as soccer and women’s sports as inferior, I have always been pretty open-minded to new things. (Heck, I’ve even got to watching Australian Rules Football on public television.) Granted, I am married to a former college hooper and our first date was the infamous Women’s World Cup final at the Rose Bowl in 1999. Granted, I am also raising two young daughters that are already fully immersed into the world of sports, so having a mix of male and female jocks on my television is important. But this summer I finally gave the W a chance. And it delivered.
The quality of play is far superior to what I even imagined it could be. The pace of the games was up-tempo, athletic and passionate. Exactly everything I like about the men’s game. Yes, the offensive plays rarely culminated in a cataclysmic collision at the rim, but then again, the idea of team basketball is often lost on today’s NBA games.
From the likes of Lindsay Whalen, Sue Bird and Cappie Pondexter scoring and pushing the pace, to Simone Augustus, Angel McCaughtry and Candace Parker dealing on the wing, to Sylvia Fowles, Tina Charles and Tamika Catchings doing the dirty work down below, this league is full of superstars. Players that have handles like Iverson, one-dribble pull-ups like DWade and post-moves like well…Kevin McHale (I couldn’t think of one current NBA big man with advanced post-skills). Some teams love to push the pace and run up the score (Phoenix Mercury), others focus a bit more on defense (Seattle) and some can handle all styles of play with success (Minnesota Lynx). But, with just 12 teams in the league, each team is loaded with the world’s top talent.
There is no dilution.
Minnesota can run out three players that have taken home league Player of the Month honors this season (Whalen, Augustus and rookie, Maya Moore). Defending champion Seattle can boast three players that were recently named to the league’s Top 15 of all-time (Bird, Lauren Jackson and Katie Smith). And next year’s Olympics in London will be more like a WNBA All-Star game with representatives from EVERY team. Even the league’s doormat, the Tulsa Shock, have a roster that includes arguably the game’s GOAT in Sheryl Swoopes and the league’s top young talent in 20-year-old, 6-8 rookie Liz Cambage. (I have spent countless hours this summer on my Baseline radio show at www.gomilehigh.com campaigning to get the Shock to move to Denver. I mean, not to be petty, but…Tulsa?)
Simply put, each game in the WNBA is almost like one from a prestigious international tournament or a Champion League game in soccer. The quality of play is pretty much of the highest order. Basketball fans cannot deny that fact. If you really think that the WNBA is inferior in quality to that of its male counterpart, then you are admitting to being a highlight junkie. If the only difference is the dunking and above-the-rim action, you might as well get season tickets to that league where they jump around on trampolines (Ironically enough, called, “SLAMball”). But if you like the actual act of passing, fundamentals, (cough, cough) consistent effort, teamwork and the intricacies of pick-and-rolls and help-side rotations, then the WNBA SHOULD be something that you like.
This summer, I wised up. Playoffs start this Thursday. It’s not too late.