With stardom at an all-time high, the league is a hoops nerd's dream come true.
The crowd at the Staples Center had been electric all night, pulsing like college crowd facing down a rival school. The home team had trailed since late in the first quarter, and with a minute-twenty-three left in the game all looked lost as the visitors had run out to a twelve point lead. Then everything changed. The good guys mounted a furious comeback and with 2.1 seconds left in regulation they hit an incredible falling-out-of-bounds three pointer that pulled them to within two. But that's when the magic ran out. One made free-throw and an intentional miss to kill the clock later, and the home team had fallen in one of the best basketball games I'd attended in a long time. (Oh, you have to see that falling out of bounds three.)
You guys, the point here is the WNBA is fucking awesome.
After seeing the Los Angeles Sparks and the Minnesota Lynx battle it out earlier this month, I'm here to tell you that if you're one of the many people who has allowed twenty years of hacky "who would want to watch women play basketball?" jokes to keep you from watching the WNBA you are missing out. Implicit sexism aside, these jokes ignore some basic facts. One, women's college basketball has been a much-watched television staple for years and two, the US Women's National Team has taken home the last six consecutive Olympic Gold Medals, and eight of the last nine overall.
Look, I love basketball more than pretty much anything in the world. 90% of my procrastination on the internet is reading about the NBA. I'm the type of person who was tracking Dan Gilbert's plane in 2014 to see if LeBron might be coming back to Cleveland. I couldn't love a league or a sport more. If that sounds like you, and you're not watching the WNBA, you are leaving good basketball on the table and that should be a sin.
Take, for instance, the quality of the league, which is at an all-time high. Names like Maya Moore, Nneka Ogwumike, and Elena Delle Donne bring star power, but top to bottom the level of play is incredible. Did you like watching the Golden State Warriors play this past year? (Y'know, before they blew a 3-1 lead in the Finals?) Well, then, you'll love watching the WNBA, where beautiful ball movement and threes are a huge part of the game. This year, with the playoffs kicking off, the WNBA has even taken a page out of most NBA fans' dream journals because they've done away with dividing the playoffs up by conference and instead have instead just seeded based on record. So no more will the two best teams in the league meet in a conference finals leaving a boring championship waiting.
Look, I get that you're probably hesitant. I've been hesitant about the WNBA in the past too, but I was wrong, and what finally sold me was so simple: just go to a game. If you like basketball, it's impossible to go to a game and not be won over by this league. The athleticism, which may not immediately translate on TV, explodes off the court. The crowds are smaller but they're more naturally intense than NBA crowds. They're full of people who are extremely pumped to be watching basketball and care deeply about their teams, unlike in the NBA (which I love more than anything in the world) where there are times when every good seat in the arena feels like it's filled with investment bankers and VCs wanting to be seen by other investment bankers and VCs. A WNBA game is more akin to a college crowd.
Keep in mind that a courtside seat at a Lakers game will run you thousands of dollars, and the Lakers sucks. A Sparks courtside seat? $300. You can have the Jack Nicholson experience of your dreams for less than an Xbox. And say you don't want to spend that much, a night out at a WNBA game for good tickets is a crazy affordable experience. Non-courtside seats are available for hardly more than tickets to a movie. It's no coincidence that both the league's attendance and TV numbers are going up.
Now who wants to go in with me for some Sparks playoff tickets?