Single page view By Graham Hays
Page 2

There are some issues in life that are simply too important to overlook, causes too important not to champion in the face of overwhelming opposition. There are injustices too great to let fester any longer in a society that claims for itself the high ground in any ethical debate. Confronted with such circumstances, we must not sit idly by, but instead must stand up and fight for that which promises to make us better as a collective people.

And you know what? This debate isn't about one of those issues. So relax, this is just about basketball and business.

Sue Bird
Rocky Widner/WNBAE via Getty Images
Larry isn't the only Bird trying to put "saving a league" on their resume.

The WNBA is the preeminent professional women's basketball league in the world, no matter how many times Maria Stepanova bails on her contract with Phoenix to play in Russia (don't worry, WNBA humor isn't all that much funnier even if you know the league). And while it may owe its existence to the deep pockets of the NBA, it is not because of the NBA that it's the preeminent pro league. It has that distinction because it's home to the best women's basketball players on the planet. The NBA created the league, but it didn't create the talent.

That's it. That's all the WNBA is. So what's all the fuss?

Yes, the league represents more than that to some groups, whether they're inspired or infuriated by its existence, but it's no more an instrument of societal change than any other professional league or corporate monolith. Societal movements begin at the grassroots level, and they rarely come equipped with big, fuzzy mascots and dance teams.

So for anyone expecting a bitter, vitriolic rant about the evils of sports fans drunk on their own testosterone, you've come to the wrong place. For the most part. To begin with, my editors cut out most of that part, leaving me to defend the league with logic, numbers and wit.

In other words, I could be in a spot of trouble.

If you want to talk numbers, there are always numbers. Sloppy play? Five players in the 15-team WNBA averaged three or more turnovers per game this season, led by Diana Taurasi with 3.4 turnovers per game. In the 30-team NBA, 11 players averaged at least three turnovers per game, led by Allen Iverson at 4.6 turnovers per game. The most careless team in the WNBA averaged 16.8 turnovers per game; the most careless team in the NBA averaged 16.1 turnovers per game. Lousy shooting? The worst team in the WNBA shot 40 percent from the floor; the worst team in the NBA shot 41.5 percent.

Yes, the shooting percentages are marginally lower, and the turnovers come in a game that's eight minutes shorter, but it's tough to make a case that, relative to the competition, WNBA basketball is any sloppier or less competitive than the NBA variety. Although given a game between the Hawks and Hornets, that may be faint praise.

I know why I love the game, and it's not because the turnover rate is on par with the NBA. It's seeing that basketball can still be played with flair below the rim, even as each year's rookie class seems to bring the game closer and closer to new heights of athleticism.


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