For as often as individual athletes and players fall under the public’s microscope, rarely does an entire sport become intensively analyzed and picked apart at every level like women’s basketball (football and its concussion issue notwithstanding). Whether it’s at the amateur level or in the pros, the game seems to perpetually be under some sort of scrutiny. This is not necessarily a good thing for the sport, nor is vitriolic dialogue between some of the game’s biggest names, an issue that women’s basketball is currently facing.
Elena Delle Donne is one of my favorite athletes in all of sports. Not just among female athletes, because I don’t want to marginalize her and her talent like that; she is truthfully one of my favorite athletes today. The way she dominates every game she is in is simply fantastic to watch. I’m not a WNBA fan but I do try and catch at least highlights of Chicago Sky games so that I can see her run roughshod on opponents. She’s someone who, when they speak, I’m all ears for and am ready to listen to. Recently, Delle Donne spoke out in support of lowering the basket in women’s basketball from the current regulation height of 10 feet (used in both the men’s and women’s game) to nine feet.
She talks about lowering the hoop for the sake of allowing more players to be able to dunk, something that a small number of players can do on the 10-foot basket. She references the fact that women’s volleyball uses a lower net and in women’s tennis they play fewer sets than their respective male counterparts. She also makes sure to note that Geno Auriemma, head coach of the unbelievably dominant UConn Huskies women’s basketball team, is in favor of lowering the rim.
Frankly, I think she has a very compelling argument, but I certainly don’t speak for everyone. Diana Taurasi, for example, is a player who vehemently disagrees with Delle Donne. One of Auriemma’s former players, Taurasi replied to Delle Donne’s opinion by saying “Might as well put us in skirts and back in the kitchen.”
On one hand, I think that comment is way out of line and demeaning by Taurasi. That being said, I think her stance has merit just like Delle Donne’s (even though I don’t like the attitude expressed in her quote). ESPN’s Kate Fagan wrote an article for espnW about this topic, her final point essentially saying that people are going to find ways to be critical of women’s basketball anyway and that changing hoop levels will discourage intergender play for kids. All of these are valid points, which for me just further complicates my attempt to choose a side here.
There is one segment of Fagan’s article that I can’t help but disagree with though. She quips about how the most talked about player in the NBA this year is Steph Curry and how he makes it onto highlight reels with his handles and ridiculous threes, not dunks. She’s right about all of that, but seems to ignore the fact that Curry is still the exception, not the rule. Vines and gifs are probably the most common way these days that NBA fans get to see highlights because they’re short, concise and appear on social media platforms nearly instantaneously. Peruse the Vine app, or just Twitter, on a night when NBA games are played and what are you likely to find? A ton of huge dunks from players all across the league and then Steph Curry making a deep shot. The monstrous jams in transition or over a defender in the lane are the highlights that people want to see, even if Curry has been the main individual focal point this year.
I understand not wanting to seem submissive or seem as though you’re admitting that you’re an inferior game. I understand that lowering rims would instantly create a divide at even the most innocent level of the sport. Hell, I even understand the concern over the logistics of building new hoops that are only nine feet high or modifying existing baskets so that their heights can be altered. That all being said, I can’t get behind the theory that dunks are some sort of dying subset of entertainment in basketball. I firmly agree with Delle Donne that more people would be interested in watching the WNBA and women’s basketball in general (or at the very least would be more likely to have some sort of fleeting interest) if the players were dunking the ball more often.
I’m a huge Elena Delle Donne fan and Diana Taurasi’s quote really irks me, but it’s undeniable that both sides make compelling arguments about the height of the rim in women’s basketball. I understand wanting players to be able to exhibit their athleticism and wanting to create more exciting, high-flying plays, but I also understand that these players may not want to effectively show some sort of admittance that they can’t play at the same level as men, considering there is certainly a stigma surrounding their game. I think it’s fair to say that one way or the other, something still needs to be done to pique interest in the women’s game. But hey, at least I’m talking about it, right?
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