Volume 90, Issue 86

Friday, March 07, 1997



Column: Hey NBA, ladies first please

By Kathy Ens
Gazette Staff

After decades of male-dominated professional sports, fans will now get a taste of how women can play the game. And gosh darn it, it's about time.

After 50 years of attention on the National Basketball Association, females have finally put a spark into the traditional men's sport. On June 21, 1997, American women will give a new meaning to professional basketball when the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) emerges.

The superstar talent of many women will not equal the stardom of any players like Shaquille O'Neal or Michael Jordan, nor will the women's game showcase the slam dunks, lay-ups or foolish fights. The ladies don't have to waste their time on perfecting the 360 eye-closed slam dunks like many NBA stars because their game is just as fast-paced as any Bulls or Knicks match. The defence and foul shooting is likely to be more impressive (eh, Mr. O'Neal?)

Cheryl Miller will be the first ever head coach and general manager of the Phoenix team. Miller has many statistics to prove that she is one of the best all-time basketball players, yet her brother, Reggie, of the NBA's Indiana Pacers, has stolen most of her limelight over the years. She has not earned the recognition that her brother has simply because she is a woman.

It is about time that women in the professional sports spectrum get recognized. The role of Cheryl Miller, Sheryl Swoops and many other female hoopsters will lead to a new and important role in the lives of many young female athletes to play basketball or any other mainstream sport. Young female athletes will now have the chance to fill the shoes of a professional star, giving them the same opportunity that any male athlete has.

The league will consist of eight teams – Charlotte, New York, Cleveland, Houston, Sacramento, Utah, Los Angeles and Phoenix. ESPN, Lifetime and NBC will televise one game a week from the shortened 28-game schedule. The United States already has the ABA (American Basketball Association), however, women will receive added recognition because of the high-profile name the NBA title holds.

Will fans actually come to these games? The question is what else do people have to watch? The NBA will have finished its season by the time the women's league begins and so the next best sporting event will be Major League Baseball.

The women who will play in the WNBA will not be paid $7 million like some of the stars in the NBA. Currently in the ABA, women are paid an average of $70,000 and work hard for every cent of it. In comparison, the men crave more money each season. For women, it is the recognition of the sport, not the money, that matters.

As the battle of the sexes continues into the millennium, it's nice to see the sporting world is stepping into a new era with the WNBA. Where will this take us? WMBL? WNHL? Who knows? In the meantime, let's enjoy some good old-fashioned basketball.

To Contact The Sports Department: gazsport@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997