Hard To Argue With Relocating Shock From Tulsa To Dallas

Back when the ABL folded in 1999, I felt extremely sorry for all involved in that league, but also felt sure it was the right thing. There was really only room for one professional women's basketball league in the United States, and the WNBA had more going for it in the attempt to survive.

Monday, I flashed back to that feeling upon hearing the news that Tulsa Shock majority owner Bill Cameron is seeking to move the franchise to Dallas. Like most WNBA followers, I definitely feel awful for the Shock fans, who sat through so many losses and moves in the wrong direction in the team's first five seasons in Oklahoma.

And now that there's apparent light at the end of the tunnel -- the Shock are 10-7 in the Western Conference, essentially tied in second place with 9-6 Phoenix -- the Tulsa fans are about to be dumped. They have to go through this really gloomy period when their team is still in town, but only for now. Kind of like two people who are about to get divorced but unfortunately have to wait it out in the same house.

Minority owner Stewart Price filed a lawsuit to keep the team in Tulsa on Monday. Price said that Cameron had essentially misled him and others who invested in the team.

But if the lawsuit fails to stop Cameron, and the WNBA Board of Governors approves the move, then Tulsa will soon be watching a Shock team that finally gets good -- then soon gets out of town.

It hardly seems fair, but it's also the nature of professional sports. And the reality is that many of the columns I've written about this team since its relocation from Detroit to Tulsa for the 2010 season have been, "Oh, wow, poor Shock!"

Including the most recent: Last month after it was confirmed that Skylar Diggins would miss the rest of this season with a knee injury. That was the latest in a string of bad-luck incidents that had befallen the Shock since coming to Tulsa.

From lottery balls that didn't bounce the Shock's way, to injuries, to players who had zero desire to play in Tulsa, it never seemed the organization was able to get real and sustainable traction.

The team that Tulsa took over from Detroit was named the Shock, but it really didn't bear much resemblance to the three-time WNBA champion franchise that had been in the Motor City.

Tulsa has a very nice arena in the BOK Center, which opened in 2008 as part of the city's Vision 2025 initiative. That was a series of sales-tax increases intended to improve Tulsa County in various ways. The Shock were intended to be a part of this, but -- again -- didn't hit the ground running when it came to Oklahoma.

To the contrary, the Shock pretty much hit the ground face-first. Many of the key players who helped the team win three WNBA titles didn't make the move to Tulsa. The Shock were 6-28 in their first season in Tulsa, then went 3-31 in their second year. They've been trying to regain their footing ever since.

It's very easy to list the reasons why a move next season to the Dallas-Fort Worth area could be so beneficial to the franchise. For starters, there's the obviously much, much larger area to draw from. The population of Tulsa County is about 603,000; that of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex is close to 7 million.

But that is not necessarily guaranteed to manifest itself with huge increases in attendance. There are WNBA teams in the three biggest cities in the United States -- New York, Los Angeles and Chicago -- and they don't regularly have their arenas packed to the gills. They face a lot of bigger and longer-established competition for the sports-entertainment dollar.

That was supposedly part of why Tulsa was appealing: the chance for the WNBA to become a bigger fish in a smaller pond. But, again, without a winning team to lure in fans, that hasn't happened to the degree that Cameron hoped he'd see.

Then there's the "curb-appeal" factor, if you will. It's not a secret that most opposing WNBA players consider Tulsa their least favorite road trip. And there was little hope of the Shock luring top free agents to Tulsa.

Being from the Midwest, I think cities like Tulsa can get a bad rap as "boring" places to live. There is more going on in Tulsa than people think. But can it compete, realistically, with the DFW metroplex? No, it can't.

Then there is the popularity of the product the WNBA is selling. Oklahoma's women's basketball program has reached the Final Four three times, and the program has one of the sport's most popular coaches in Sherri Coale. Oklahoma State has had some women's hoops success over the years, too.

But the Lone Star State has four programs that have won NCAA Division I women's hoops titles -- Baylor, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech -- plus several successful junior college programs, plus the popularity of high school girls' basketball. Yes, it's an enormous state, but there is an undeniable and sustained culture of girls' and women's basketball there.

Initially, the Houston Comets were the team that tapped into those vibes the most after the launch of the WNBA in 1997. But even four championships couldn't save the Comets after they changed owners and eventually ran aground in the midst of the global recession. The Comets disbanded after the 2008 season.

Which was the same year, coincidentally, that San Antonio made its only appearance in the WNBA Finals. The Stars -- who moved from Utah after the 2002 season -- are still tethered to the NBA's Spurs, and they've been the Lone Star State's lone team.

Now, if Cameron has his way, that will change. There will be an in-state rivalry between the WNBA teams in Dallas and San Antonio. And there are two major airports that serve Dallas, conceivably making a WNBA team there more accessible to the media, too.

So it all adds up, or at least has the potential to do so. There's not much reason to oppose DFW having a WNBA franchise.

Except that apparently it has to come at Tulsa's expense. And that seems cruel to those fans who believed in a vision that never really took firm shape.