First of all; if you’re reading this I would just like to thank you for making it past the headline without immediately branding me and this article as sexist. It is with all sincerity when I say that the intent of this is in no way meant to disrespect or denigrate the awesome athletes of women’s basketball. This is simply my opinion on a way to enhance an already great sport and take it to another level. It is my hope that people will read this with an open mind. Who knows? Maybe some will even agree with a few of my points. If nothing else it’s something to think about and discuss.
Now as I said earlier: I’m not here to belittle the WNBA. However, maybe that potential assumption is part of the problem. Due to the fact that women’s sports are far too often hated on by men there is an immediate perception that any suggestion about lowering the goal is male chauvinist. Connecticut Sun superstar Diana Taurasi equated it to putting them in “skirts and back in the kitchen”. While I acknowledge that unfortunately that may be so in many, if not, most instances, for me though, a shorter basket in no way is an admission or concession of inferiority. I’ve already stated that I think WNBA players are top-tier athletes. They’re better athletes than me and just about any other male I know. On the other hand, let’s just start with the obvious: math. The average height for a WNBA player is “6’0”. That’s a full seven inches shorter than their NBA counterparts. I’m 6 feet myself and can no longer dunk, but I turn into Vince Carter on a lowered rim! Just imagine what the game would be like if the hoop was decreased by just 3-6 inches! That difference is negligible as far as athleticism is concerned. In fact it actually better allows for women’s talent to be on display. It’s all relative. Steph. Curry looks short next to LeBron James but is taller than most men alive. Do you think NBA players would look as athletic playing on an “11’0” basket? It’s not about one sex being better than the other. Also it’s somewhat ironic that that would even be a concern considering the ladies already play with a smaller basketball than the guys do. Why would playing with a smaller ball be accepted but the goal height not be? I would even venture a guess that most women probably at least started out playing the game with a man’s sized ball. If anything you could switch and have a bigger ball with a lower hoop.
The move also could help with younger fans. In an interview with Michelle Beadle, NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver made an interesting statement. According to him male viewership (especially older men) is not the problem. It’s getting the attention of women aged 21-34. Lowering the goal would be far less about attempting to appease and attract men than about getting the attention of younger people of any gender. A consistent influx of young consumers is vital to the sustained growth and success of just about any industry.
Speaking of older men; I can already hear the clicking of your cell phone clips and the circulation-obstructing tightening of your New Balance laces, as you hit the warpath toting your everlasting battle standard: FUNDAMENTALS. I won’t go into great detail about what I think is the true mindset of people who talk like that. What I will say, though, is that that it is entirely feasible for a person to be both fundamental AND athletic. Also to be athletic a person does not have to lack fundamentals. The two are not mutually exclusive. Less height on the basket won’t all of a sudden make WNBA players forget the vast skills they already possess.
No matter how you look at it something has to be done. Even though viewership is up in 2018, it’s still only around 270,000 per game. That’s more than 1 million less than the NBA garners. Close to 8000 fans attend every WNBA game. 10,000 more bodies fill NBA arenas. The disparity doesn’t end there. It continues to where it matters most: the bottom line. Women are unfairly paid only about 20% of WNBA revenues. The men receive around 50. That needs to be corrected, but even with an equal share the women would still make much less. Their pie’s just a lot smaller. The NBA generates about $6 billion in annual income. Silver estimates the WNBA brings in close to $60 million, and some teams are actually losing money. Women lie. Men lie. Numbers don’t. They also can’t be ignored.
The brass at the WNBA have suggested numerous tactics to increase popularity and interest. At best some have been ineffective, at worst they’ve been cringe-worthy (shorter and tighter uniforms). Therefore why not try incorporating the most exciting play in basketball? It’s not like the value of the dunk is a secret. Nothing gets the crowd on its feet faster than a vicious throw-down. The majority of basketball highlights are slams. Dunk contests can be found in every league or level or event in the world. Even the WNBA marketers themselves give massive amounts of hype and promotion to the few players like Brittany Griner, Lisa Leslie, and Candace Parker, when they dunk. They get more publicity than players who win MVP’s or scoring titles (I defy you to name 3 of either without Googling). And it’s not just about dunks. A lower goal will give us more exciting plays at the rim overall. More reverse layups, trick shots, And 1’s etc.. Then on the defensive end we’ll see more big time blocks and challenges at the rim. It just offers so many exciting possibilities.
I’m not saying that a shorter hoop is the end all be all answer to boosting the league. The WNBA is already a great league with amazing players, but it could really reach its full potential by taking its game above the rim.