How to Appreciate the WNBA

The 2020 WNBA Draft happened a few days ago, seeing many talented women – including college wunderkind and first overall pick Sabrina Ionescu – finally take the first step towards their childhood dreams.

Unfortunately, as it is with most things WNBA, the Draft was met with a lot of negativity right off the gate. You can look at any Twitter thread about the WNBA Draft, and you’re immediately going to see a plethora of negative comments, all revolving around the same premises – “the WNBA is boring, and nobody cares.”

To a certain extent, there’s a little bit of truth to the statement. WNBA attendance has been consistently on the downward trend, and its athletes have long fought against the massive difference in salary compared to their male counterparts.

However, while attendance may be on the low right now, the WNBA is certainly not boring. It’s a beautiful league with top tier athletes, and I’m very much of the mind that the league would be in a much better place if people simply took a minute to stop discrediting, and start appreciating.

So, with that, here are a few tips to help you start appreciating the WNBA.

1. Stop Comparing it to the NBA

The WNBA is not the NBA. That’s usually the biggest criticism that people have towards the league, and you know what? It’s true.

You’re likely not going to get a lot of earth-shattering dunks (though there are much more than you think!), and the pace is certainly slower. There are lots of things you get in the NBA that you wouldn’t get by tuning into a WNBA game.

However, the WNBA is its own league, with its own things to appreciate. The slower pace of the WNBA means that its games are more founded on fundamentals, and smart playmaking. Watching the WNBA is like watching the analysis and fundamentals-heavy basketball of the Olympics, except it’s from May to October.

So, if you’ve ever felt that the NBA was too glitz and glam, and just wanted good, hard-nosed, no-frills basketball, then the WNBA might just be for you. And if not, then I guarantee it’s something to try.

2. Find Players or a Team that You Can Support

I almost guarantee that the way you started watching the NBA was through its stars and teams. Maybe you grew up idolizing the unapologetic streetball moves of Allen Iverson, or maybe the Hollywood identity of the Lakers resonated with you.

Whatever it may be, the journey to sports fandom often begins with finding players and teams that speak to you. Thankfully, the WNBA has plenty of those.

Right now there are 12 teams in the WNBA, which makes for very good competitive distribution. And there are even more players, all with their own distinct personalities, that you can take note of.

Maybe you want to watch the sweet shooting of the Washington Mystics’ 2x MVP Elena Delle Donne, or the tough defensive prowess of the Seattle Storm’s Natasha Howard. Or maybe you like the winning culture of the Minnesota Lynx and the Los Angeles Sparks. Whatever it may be, there’s a player and a team for everyone.

3. Take the Word of the Greatest Players of All Time

One of the most annoying comments I saw during the recent WNBA draft happened after the honorary draft selections of Gianna Bryant, along with her teammates Alyssa Altobelli and Peyton Chester, who died in the helicopter crash that killed Hall-of-Famer Kobe Bryant.

The comment basically said “these were the only draft selections I care about.” Now, this comment, I assume, is from a Kobe fan. And it’s incredibly ironic that fans of the Black Mamba are so quick to discredit a league that Kobe had actively supported and watched live for years.

And Bryant’s not the only NBA great to support the league. 80s Detroit Pistons star Bill Laimbeer coached the WNBA’s Detroit Shock to three championships in the 2000s. Outside of them, so many players from Stephen Curry and LeBron James to Ja Morant and Jayson Tatum have come out to support the WNBA and its players.

If you’re not going to take it from me, at least take it from the best players in the world – the WNBA is worth paying attention to.

4. Realize that this is a League by Women, for Women

At the end of the day, the WNBA was made by and for women. It is a league that has continued to carry the banner of supporting women’s sports, and showing young girls that they can achieve their dreams.

If you’re a man who criticizes the WNBA for being boring, then I’m sorry to break it to you, but the league was never meant for men anyway. It was meant to inspire girls and give them an avenue to reach their goals. If for no other reason, this is exactly why you should support the WNBA.

Women make some of the best athletes in the world, and they deserve a league of their own that everyone can be proud of. Sometimes it’s that simple.

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