If you haven’t watched the latest 30 for 30 on ESPN, check out the Dream Team. It’s about the 1996 Olympic women’s basketball team.
The documentary focuses on how the success of this team led to the creation of the WNBA. This was significant because it finally offered an opportunity for women to play basketball professionally in the US.
There are critics who say well the WNBA sucks. No one goes, no one watches. It’s not good basketball.
Is it as good as men’s basketball? No. But it’s still very skilled basketball played by very talented women.
It’s not the adults that matter but the girls. Think about all the girls who love and play basketball. They can now dream of playing professional basketball in their home country. They don’t have to go overseas like so many college women’s players had to do for years. They can go and watch their favorite college players after they are done college. They are who matter.
When I first started playing basketball, only the women’s NCAA championship game was televised. One game a year. I remember getting to see Dawn Staley lead Virginia to a National Championship. She was an amazing player, super quick and so talented. I got to see the rise of UConn as their championship run began while I was in high school, when more games were aired on TV.
I was in my senior year of high school when the WNBA first started. It was a big deal for female athletes like myself to get to see a women’s professional sports league. My friend Ali and I used to take the train up to Madison Square Garden to watch the Liberty play. Rebecca Lobo and Theresa Witherspoon were two of the Liberty’s stars and it was so much fun to watch. I remember watching the Liberty play the Sparks and getting to see Lisa Leslie play. We also saw the Houston Comets play, a great team led by Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson. This was the best of the best for women and I loved going to games.
Women’s basketball and sports were growing at this time and as a athlete myself this was amazing to see and live through. One of my favorite memories from high school basketball wasn’t related to any games, it was a trip we took with our coach and team over Christmas break to go watch Tennessee women’s basketball play at MSG. Tennessee was my favorite women’s team and I loved Pat Summit. It was so exciting to get to see the team and coach I was growing to love play in person. It’s still something I will never forget.
So when you hear people complain about women’s college basketball or the WNBA, stop them. Tell them to complain to little girls or girls in middle or high school who love basketball. I got to see the growth of the sport and I hope it never goes back to the limited opportunities and exposure that I spent most of my basketball playing days used to.
I had a poster of the 1996 women’s Olympic basketball team on my wall. I loved this team and idolized the talented players. Now after watching the 30 for 30 I idolize these players for different reasons, mainly that they helped pave the way for women’s sports and girls like me. They underwent a lot: crappy conditions in hotels and road trips, forced sexualization and many other things that were hard to believe except that I grew up at that time and understand so well.
Ironically I post this two days after women were struck a huge blow in the overturn of the Roe v Wade decision. This blow came a day after celebrating 50 years of Title IX which is a piece of legislation that paved the way for more opportunities for women in higher education which included sports. It’s devastating that our reproductive rights were set back when women’s sports continues to grow and flourish. I hope this growth in sports continues and hope women regain the right to choose. We have come so far in some areas especially sports which makes the Supreme Court’s decision that much more shocking and devastating.
#dreamon #30for30 #96womensolympicbasketballteam #growthofwomenssports #wnba #nyliberty