I’ll be the first person to tell you that basketball has never been my forté. My brain works well with the minutia of the sporting world, and basketball never seemed to check those boxes.
Basketball was smooth, but brash, living on a larger scale. There wasn’t much mystery to the game. Get the lane, drive, layup, get back on defense. Get an open shot, take the open shot. The only piece of the game that I’m still struggling with is how to determine if a foul is legit. I’m doing the work, but basketball still feels out of reach.
And then Covid shut down everything, and I was presented with a lot of free time and an infinite trove of games to watch. I began with the more recent NBA Finals, watching JR Smith forget what planet he’s on, LeBron makes good on his promise to Northern Ohio, Curry’s first Finals, and kept going.
Once I got to the 1980s, I understood the game in a way I finally understood, within the minutia.
The NBA has often been described as JAzz, and I think that’s true to an extent. It’s got feel, it’s got rhythm, and it’s got flow. There are pops of excitement here and there and a good game, like a good song, gradually builds to a crescendo.
But the current NBA is more like Big Band Swing than Jazz these days. There’s a sense of strength before grace, brute force over sustained pressure, and rock beating scissors.
The vintage NBA I found myself connecting to isn’t that. That style of play is Jazz. A Pete Marinovich pass, a Kareem Sky-Hook, a Larry Bird three, the rhythmic percussive nature of the Detroit “Bad Boys.” Coming from that style into the NBA bubble, felt jarring.
The WNBA is vintage basketball being played at it’s best. There’s a strong fire that fuels these women each game and they bring it to the court in more ways than just aggressive play. And I’m not the only person to notice, as viewership is up in a big, big way in 2020.
It’s the smooth passes, the quick development of sharp plays, the effortless threes, it’s an old school style of play that’s missing from the NBA.
That’s not to say that the WNBA is NBA-Lite. That’s very much not the case. But if you’re finding yourself yawning at the Lakers/Heat NBA Finals, tune into the Aces/Storm series that’s brewing in the Wubble. That sense of fight, power, and determination to win at all costs is at the forefront of these games.
Also at the forefront are some killer stars, whose names you should know.
Sue Bird, the perennial Seattle All-Star, has spent her entire career flirting with greatness, earning her spot as one of the greats. Bird is 39 years old and is going after her fourth WNBA title. Sue Bird has won more championships than all but 8 of the current NBA franchises. Bird has four years on LeBron and is doing the same thing he’s trying to do.
The Las Vegas Aces have a star of their own, rostering the reigning 2020 WNBA MVP in A’ja Wilson. Wilson plays with a ferocity that is palpable, and no one puts the team on her back more, as was evidenced in their series with the Connecticut Sun.
… Except maybe Angel McCoughtry, who left the Atlanta Dream after 10 years to chase a title in Las Vegas. (Sound like someone you know?) McCoughtry has been a huge contributor to the Aces title efforts, and her 29 point effort in Game 4 of the semifinals evened the series at two games apiece, Without McCoughtry the Aces wouldn’t be three wins away from winning their franchises first WNBA title.
Countering Las Vegas’ claim to the 2020 league MVP is Breonna Stewart, who won the honors in 2018. Stewart along with Jewel Loyd, two back-to-back first-round picks, are a dynamic duo that sets Seattle up for a dynasty-type run over the next few years. These women FLAT. OUT. BALL.
If you didn’t know who those women were before reading this, that’s a problem. It’s most certainly not the WNBA’s fault that you couldn’t be bothered to enlighten your basketball fandom. That’s on you, full-stop.
I am fully into the WNBA now. These women are my heroes, and I’ve only been keying in for the little bit of the 2020 season we’ve been granted. Why so much respect for these women? Because regardless of their viewership, or their team’s place in the standings, these women put everything on the line both on the court and off.
The WNBA isn’t going to demand your attention, because they’re better than that. However, if you have yet to tune in and watch basketball in it’s purest, hardest and most intense form, you’re in luck. Because the Aces and Storm are about to start a 5-game series for the WNBA title, and you should be there to witness their greatness.
- Game 1 – Friday, Oct. 2 @ 7 p.m. (ESPN2/ESPN App)
- Game 2 – Sunday, Oct. 4 @ 3 p.m. (ABC/ESPN App)
- Game 3 – Tuesday, Oct. 6 @ 7 p.m. (ESPN/ESPN App)
- Game 4 (if necessary) – Thursday, Oct. 8 @ 7 p.m. (ESPN2/ESPN App)
- Game 5 (if necessary) – Sunday, Oct. 11 @ 3 p.m. (ABC/ESPN App)