Readers debate women in NBA
Much mail arrived following commissioner
Here is some of what you had to say ...
I agreed in print on Friday and I agree with you now -- there is no woman today who can play in the NBA. But you have to admit that women players have improved a great deal over the last decade, and who's to say there won't be a freakish athlete who comes along over the years ahead?
If I'd told you in the 1970s that a 6-foot-6 guy would someday lead the league in scoring while driving his team to six NBA championships -- an achievement without precedent for any star, much less for a perimeter player (Jordan was the first wingman playing off the ball to ever become league MVP) -- you'd have laughed about that, too.
Things happen. Surprises happen. Things change.
If this ever does happen, it will happen via one amazing woman player who has spent her young life aiming for this far-fetched dream. She'll have played thousands of hours of pickup games against men. The ball will be irrelevant to her.
I'm sure you're getting swamped with people coming after you for saying women could play in the NBA. I just want to ask you a simple question. Has woman ever competed in a real, top-flight, men's professional league? Not NASCAR or anything like that, but a sport where the players actually come into contact with each other. And actually competed, not brought in for publicity. Good luck finding one.
You're exactly right, Scott, no woman has done that.
But look at it this way. For how long have women viewed basketball as a career? The WNBA just finished its 14th season, which is to say that women's basketball is just getting started in our country. When the NBA finished its 14th season, the year was 1960 -- and the NBA has changed a lot since then.
I know women have been playing college basketball for decades, and for a long time the best of them have been able to play professionally in Europe. But most of that has happened out of sight. Only in the last decade have American girls grown up watching women professionals playing basketball on TV, with the result that in this past decade we've seen women's college basketball grow to be much bigger than it ever used to be.
Women's basketball is just starting to become a mainstream sport. There is an awful lot of growth still to come as the sport matures and more young girls are exposed to it and they grow up to further raise the level of play. Stern predicted that a woman could play in the NBA 10 years from now. I think he means to predict that women's basketball will grow a lot over that decade to come.
Think about the short-sighted judgments you would have made about the NBA in 1960 if you'd decided the level of play would remain fixed and the talent wouldn't rise athletically.
What if someone comes along who is so much better than her female peers -- a woman who has grown up playing against boys on the playgrounds? If she wants to play in the NBA and the men's league wants her to play, then where is the harm? I see it as only a good thing.
It is a physical impossibility right now in the year 2009, I can't argue with you there. I'm going to miss you, Bryan, you were always one of my favorite readers.
There are hundreds of millions of women around the world who do not have the same opportunities as men. These women represent a huge talent pool that is prohibited from education or certain types of jobs or the fulfillment of whatever their dreams may be simply because they are women. To them, the symbol of a woman player in the NBA could serve as their Jackie Robinson.
Many of you are citing with absolute certainty what cannot happen. Here is my point of view of what might -- might -- happen.
When Stern said he believes a woman can play in the NBA, he was opening a door ... in fact he was busting open a door that hadn't existed. The result is that millions of women from now on will grow up playing basketball with the dream of becoming the first woman to play in the NBA. For millions of them that dream will be far-fetched, like all of the other sports dreams that kids grow up pursuing.
However, what if over the next decade a young woman player develops freakish athletic talent of a level never seen before. Men's basketball has produced those kinds of players every now and then, and so, too, will the women's game. She will have grown up with that dream of playing in the NBA, and if she has Michael's or LeBron's or
Will she be a star in the NBA? Probably not. Will she earn a place in an NBA rotation? Maybe she will, maybe she won't.
The two reasons I believe we'll see a woman on an NBA team are: (1) because the NBA wants it to happen, for selfish reasons, of course; and (2) because some amazing athlete will grow up being told by Stern that she can do it, and she'll do everything she can to fulfill that dream.
This next statement is really going to set off a lot of you, but I believe Stern's prediction of a woman player in the NBA will go down as one of the most important things he has ever done. As leader of the world's second-biggest team sport, he has told half of the world's population that he believes in them and there is nothing they cannot accomplish. There was no harm in him saying it, there was only upside, and 10 or 20 years down the line we will realize its impact.
To take you out of context ironically, I agree wholeheartedly with you that our society has been dumbed down.
I don't see how the NBA will make money from being politically correct. I can, however, imagine Stern making an awful lot of money if a woman is able to play -- and play well -- in his league. Maybe he views his statement as the PC thing to say, but mainly it is the right thing for his owners as a way to grow his league and its audience. Perhaps nothing will ever come of it, but imagine if something does.
I think that's a fair point, and I'd like to hear what women players have to say on the subject. But I'd also like to point out that I'm being accused of being politically-correct and sexist at the same time, so maybe I'm doing something right.