It’s a journey whose steps started way back.
A marathon that’s nonetheless being run.
A mountain that’s nonetheless being scaled.
However the grind continues. There’s no turning again now. An excessive amount of floor has been coated, and there’s nonetheless rather more left.
Ladies basketball gamers. Ladies who hoop. Ballers. Athletes on a quest to show to the world that they’re simply as expert, simply as aggressive, simply as worthy of funding as different athletes. There are a lot of who set the desk, paved the way in which and took the hits to make others sit up and take discover.
Ladies like Daybreak Staley. Lengthy earlier than she began her personal dynasty as head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks, she was a part of one of many biggest sports activities dynasties ever: the USA Ladies’s Nationwide Basketball Staff.
The group claimed its seventh consecutive gold medal ultimately summer season’s Tokyo Olympics, their fifty fifth consecutive Olympic victory because the 1996 Summer season Olympics in Atlanta. The WNT is a hoops dynasty reigning and holding court docket for greater than 25 years.
Staley received three Olympic gold medals with Staff USA as a participant after which one other as head coach in 2020. Her literal blood, sweat and tears helped lay the groundwork for at present’s athletes. However she wasn’t alone.
Staff USA teammates like Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes had been there, too, serving to kick down the door and present the aggressive nature of feminine athletes—each on and off the court docket.
Swoopes chartered new territory by being the primary lady to have a Nike basketball signature shoe, the Air Swoopes, in 1996. The Air Swoopes confirmed that feminine ballers might promote athletic footwear, too. She was additionally the primary participant to be signed within the WNBA in 1997. The three-time League MVP and Corridor of Famer has received three Olympic gold medals and is considered one of solely 11 ladies basketball gamers to have received an Olympic gold medal, an NCAA Championship, a FIBA World Cup Gold and a WNBA title.
Leslie, a three-time WNBA MVP and a four-time Olympic gold medal winner, raised the bar, changing into the primary participant to dunk in a WNBA recreation and paving the way in which years later for Brittney Griner to thrill followers along with her personal high-flying dunks. Leslie can be charting a brand new course for feminine basketball gamers. In 2019, she joined Ice Dice’s BIG3 skilled basketball league and is at the moment the top coach for the Triplets group, whom she led to the 2019 BIG3 Championship in simply her first yr on the helm.
Breaking limitations, inspiring generations, silencing the naysayers—within the phrases from Nike’s 2020 Dream Crazier industrial: “It’s solely loopy till you do it.”
One other early barrier breaker was Tamikia Catchings, some of the embellished and legendary feminine basketball gamers of all time. Catchings received a WNBA championship, common season MVP, Finals MVP and is a 5x Defensive Participant of the 12 months winner. Add to that 4 Olympic gold medals, a plethora of different awards and honors and you may see why the Corridor of Famer and former president of the Participant’s Affiliation is a trailblazing icon for younger feminine athletes all over the place. She’s additionally helmed a group as each VP of Basketball Operations and Normal Supervisor, displaying that girls are about greater than Xs and Os with regards to sports activities.
The baton was picked up by future Corridor of Famers Sue Chook, Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore. Chook, thought of to be one of many biggest gamers in WNBA historical past, is a four-time WNBA champion with the Seattle Storm. She’s received a historic 5 Olympic gold medals. With three different athletes, she lately co-founded the digital manufacturing platform TOGETHXR, which uplifts ladies in all sports activities.
Taurasi, her Olympic teammate, is usually referred to as the GOAT of the WNBA. The League’s all-time main scorer, on June 27, 2021, she grew to become the primary participant to surpass 9,000 factors. Taurasi is considered one of 11 ladies to win an Olympic Gold medal, an NCAA Championship, a FIBA World Cup Gold and a WNBA championship.
Moore is a 4x WNBA champion and Olympic gold medalist who is taken into account one of many biggest winners in ladies’s basketball historical past, with championships that span throughout the League, faculty and EuroLeague. Off the court docket, Moore walked the stroll by taking a hiatus from the League in 2019 to concentrate on reform within the American justice system. Earlier than 2020 heightened the nation’s concern for social justice, Moore was already at work, serving to set the stage for the social and political activism rising amongst ladies athletes. Their activism has prolonged from racial injustice and voting inequalities to rights of LGQBTIA residents and pay and well being inequities.
With examples of the aforementioned and plenty of extra, a brand new technology has arrived on the scene to maintain pushing the game ahead. That features the Las Vegas Aces’ A’ja Wilson, the League’s 2020 MVP, who received her first Olympic gold medal final summer season in Tokyo. She’s additionally a key participant within the W’s push for social justice and reform as a member of the Social Justice Council and spends time encouraging and uplifting younger ladies by way of her basis, which advocates for bullying prevention and educating about dyslexia.
Two-time WNBA champion Jewell Loyd of the Seattle Storm, Minnesota Lynx ahead Napheesa Collier and the Washington Mystics’ Elena Delle Donne are different examples of the latest technology of girls basketball gamers carrying the torch into the longer term.
As we honor the previous and rejoice the current, let’s have a look to the way forward for the ladies’s recreation. It’s certainly shiny—virtually blinding—as one thinks of what’s on the horizon. There are such a lot of methods through which the ladies’s recreation may be introduced as much as the extent of the boys’s recreation, and I’m not speaking in regards to the stage of play.
Personally, I see a feminine head coach of an NBA group, sooner quite than later. Leslie has already confirmed it may be carried out on a smaller scale with the BIG3. Why can’t males within the execs take heed to, study from and win championships with a feminine coach? Additionally on the horizon, and undoubtedly lengthy overdue, is growth of the WNBA from 12 groups to extra, and what many are advocating for—Summer season League and a Developmental League, very like these within the NBA. Twelve groups and 144 spots is solely not sufficient for all the gifted, athletic ladies popping out of our nation’s excessive faculties and faculties. They want the identical alternatives to hone their abilities and play alongside a few of the better of the very best. This could solely occur with growth, funding and dedication on behalf of the League, followers and companies.
I additionally see a future the place there’s equal protection of the WNBA and NBA drafts. Sports activities pundits, writers, columnists, photographers of all races and genders will likely be despatched to cowl WNBA video games as a common beat, not only for the second as a result of it’s the “it factor” to do. They’ll be current to seize the WNBA draft as a main occasion identical to the NBA’s. Protecting feminine ballers received’t be an afterthought, will probably be a given.
There’ll be extra women-owned sports activities conglomerates like Chook’s TOGETHXR, pushing feminine athletes, tales, passions and tasks ahead into the minds and hearts of all. When a brand new SLAM cowl that includes A’ja Wilson or Sabrina Ionescu drops, it’ll go viral, identical to a brand new Kevin Durant cowl would.
I see a future the place assist—monetary and in any other case—will likely be equal. From amenities to funding to facilities to pay (for the professionals), issues will likely be loads nearer to equal than they’re now, whatever the stage. It’s all lengthy overdue.
Nike mentioned as a lot in its 2020 advert, “One Day We Received’t Want This.”
“At some point, we received’t want today. We received’t want a day to rejoice how far we’ve come. We received’t want a day to show we’re simply as quick or robust or expert; We received’t want a day to relive the comebacks, the firsts, or the titles we’ve received. We received’t want a day to rally behind those preventing to alter the foundations. At some point we received’t want today in any respect. As a result of sooner or later, today, will likely be our each day.”
Let’s make it occur. Actually, let’s simply do it.