Friday, December 4, 2009

NBA could become gender-neutral in 10 years

The ongoing argument in the world of sports this morning has been whether or not women will ever be able to play in the NBA.
I'm sure other sports issues are going on too, but this caught my attention because I happen to be a huge fan of the WNBA.

The whole debate began when NBA commissioner David Stern told "Sports Illustrated" that he believes women will be playing in the league within the next decade.

"I think that's well within the range of probability," Stern said. "I don't want to get into all kinds of arguments with players and coaches about the likelihood. But I really think it's a good possibility."

Some NBA coaches agreed with Stern, while others thought having a female athlete would be more of a publicity stunt. This depends on whether a woman would actually be allowed to play or just sit on the bench.

"If she was truly a full-time player rather than a modern day Eddie Gaedel," said Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban of the dwarf who played major league baseball in a 1951 publicity stunt, "it would be enormous."

It would be enormous. In fact, it could possibly alter the way society views women's sports. If women are tough enough to play with the men then maybe the WNBA and NBA would be seen as having equal competitors.

Often women's basketball college coaches such as Pat Summitt hire male team managers to play against their girls to make them more physical. This is a good technique, but I think it sends the message that women don't measure up to the athleticism of men.

As of now, the top players in the WNBA, Candace Parker, Diana Taurasi and Tamika Catchings, aren't considered strong or fast enough to play with NBA superstars Lebron James or Kobe Bryant.

After the article in "Sports Illustrated," James said in an ESPN interview that 10 years is "pushing it."

"Ten years?" James asked. "That's, like, right around the corner. [In] 10 years, I'll be 34. I'll still be in the NBA. I think 10 years is pushing it, honestly."

I find James' quote a little insulting because it implies that he is the best player in the league right now and no one will be able to take him on, especially not a feeble woman.

I'll agree with Stern that it might take a few years, but I truly believe when the right woman athlete comes along she will be able to knock down shots and defend a male athlete.
In the "Sports Illustrated" article by Ian Thomsen, New York Knicks president Donnie Walsh said the women in the WNBA play better than he did in college. He said women can play under the rim, drive and shoot just like shorter male NBA athletes. Who's to say a 6-foot-1 female player couldn't act as a point guard for a NBA team?

This would make history but it certainly wouldn't be the first time an NBA team signed a woman athlete.

In 1979 the Indiana Pacers signed Ann Meyers Drysdale, now GM of the WNBA champion Phoenix Mercury. Drysdale was a three-time All-American guard at UCLA and became the first woman to sign a contract with the NBA. Too bad the Pacers released her before the season even started.

Drysdale recalls that period of her life and the media's coverage of the signing.

"I had been liked by the media at that time," said the 5-9 Meyers, but that changed when she joined the Pacers. "I recall at the press conference that I was attacked pretty good by the media. You know: what are you doing, you're taking some guy's job, you can't compete, you're too slow, you're going to get hurt, you're too small, da-ta-da. But somebody gives you an opportunity, you're supposed to say no?"

Will the same thing happen again when the female Michael Jordon comes along? I guess only time will tell. What do you think?