Friday, May 26, 2006

WNBA at 10. In Need of Cosmetic Surgery.

It's Nip and Tuck Time for the WNBA Game.

I was fortunate enough to be part of the marketing team that pulled the WNBA idea and League together back in 1996-97. It's been one of my career highlights and something to this day I'm very proud of. It's time for this League to truly succeed and become part of our sports culture, permanently. But 10 years later and it's become it's showing its age and in needs of some cosmetic surgery.

The WNBA Game is NOT easy to watch these days. But for me it's not the womens' fault, nor the fans, nor even the marketing. Heck, marketing the WNBA since the We Got Next! campaign launched back in 1996 has been one of the League's strengths.

The reason the WNBA after 10 years is not catching on is the game itself. It's unwatchable basketball much of the time.

Let's try and conjure up different ways to tinker with rules to improve the product:

1- Lower the baskets. The only time the WNBA gets any sports news buzz is when a WNBA dunks in a game. Modern hoop fans love the old Slammonna.

The WNBA baskets are at least six inches too high. The WNBA standand move: drive/scoop lay-up after drive/scoop lay-up is reptitive and boring. We need the dunk in the WNBA.

2-Smaller and brighter orange ball. The basketball is too big for the women's hands and needs more color to increase the intensity on broadcast. The current ball is already a few millimeters smaller so keep going.

3- More real coaching, The players are generally need more development. While it's important to have WNBA girls involved in community programs, giving back, etc. give me WNBA girls that can shoot, rebound and pass, and we'll have something going.

4- Make the courts smaller. Try a 5 feet less in length and 3 feet less in width to start.

5- Have bonus points time segments. For the last minute of the half and 90 seconds at the end of the game make a 3 pointer, count for 4 points, make a 2 pointer count for 3. Adjust the scoring to create more scoring swings. I know a bit bizarre but antything to build interest in the brand.

I went to the first WNBA game ever, New York Liberty vs Los Angeles Sparks back in June of 1997. Such high hopes. Such high flying exuberance. Such a glow around that game at the old Forum. So much promise. Ten years later, I was lucky enough to attend the Chicago Sky's first game.

Same feeling. Really big expectations. Such lofty "Reach for the Sky" goals and dreams,

Then the game started and legendary player and new Sky head coach Dave Cowens even seemed bored after the opening tip. It is just not a pretty thing to look at. Maybe the WNBA can repair itself like the NHL fixed its rugby-like "neutral trap" thing, the WNBA needs some serious re-architecting and very soon!

Tom

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From Brandon-

I used to think that changing the game would be a good fix, especially lowering the baskets. But I realized that the trickle down effect that this would cause makes it totally implausible. You would have to change basketball courts not just at the WNBA level, but at the college level, at the high school level, at the community gym level, and so on. That just isn't going to happen.
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Tough to argue your point. Bradnon. However, we have seen some key differences to WNBA rules and the physical appearance to the game besides the obvious.

The WNBA when formed took steps to increase the games acceptance such as:

-A slightly smaller (and mulit-colored oatmeal and orange) WNBA ball.
-A shorter 3 pt. line (college length).
-More time to bring up the ball at half court (to prevent turnovers).

Plus other sublties to the WNBA game to raise scoring overall.

Commissioner Stern is a brilliant marketer and you'd be surprised at how much a basketball game studuent he really is. If Renee Brown (WNBA Operations) and Stu Jackson (NBA Operations) and the WNBA rules committee proposed radical changes to increase the game popularity, Stern would act on these I believe immediately.

The goal is to drive more scoring and make the game resemble the NBA a bit more. Any moves that would turn the WNBA into a "novelty" are not necessary.
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From Brian F.

The WNBA ball is the same size as those used in the women's college game and inhigh
schools across the nation. So what you're saying is, once the players arepros, the
ball that they've been using all their lives is now too big for their"small hands?"
That doesn't make any sense. Again with the smaller court, why issomething that the
athletes have been competing on all their lives suddenly too bigfor the game's elite
players?I work in collegiate athletics, specifically on thewomen's side, and I've
seen a great deal of women's basketball games, often betterthan women's pro games.
Why are the college games better and more exciting? It'ssimple, more practice time
and a longer season. Think about how bad the basketballis in the first month or two
of the NBA. In college, noone gets to see how bad theplay is the first two months
because the fans are still focused on collegefootball. My point is, the WNBA season
is two short. The quality of play increasesexponentially as the season goes on. The
problem is, by the time the teams start togel, the three-month season is over. I
agree 100% with you on thepractice/coaching thing. Women don't need MORE coaching as
you said, they just need BETTER coaching. Hire real coaches instead of washed-up
men's college and procoaches (Henry Bibby? Kobe Bryant's dad? Give me a break).

From Tom President // SBS
More WNBA games? Sure, let's just make sure the product is improved.

-Smaller ball means better control, better control, better passing and shooting= Better games.

-Bigger rinks in international hockey make better games. Smaller courts mean less running and reducing the 3 point shot distance increases scoring=Better games.

-The college game does feel better to me, I agree. Why? Not sure. We should investigate.

The better women college coaches stay in college...for the money, power and prestige they have at the bigger programs. Think Pat Summit wants to coach the Chicago Sky? No chance.

Thanks for your responding to our blog Brian. We appreciate it.

Tom

4 comments:

Brandon said...

I used to think that changing the game would be a good fix, especially lowering the baskets. But I realized that the trickle down effect that this would cause makes it totally implausible. You would have to change basketball courts not just at the WNBA level, but at the college level, at the high school level, at the community gym level, and so on. That just isn't going to happen.

President, SBSofA said...

Thanks Brandon.

Brian Rice said...

The WNBA ball is the same size as those used in the women's college game and in high schools across the nation. So what you're saying is, once the players are pros, the ball that they've been using all their lives is now too big for their "small hands?" That doesn't make any sense.

Again with the smaller court, why is something that the athletes have been competing on all their lives suddenly too big for the game's elite players?

I work in collegiate athletics, specifically on the women's side, and I've seen a great deal of women's basketball games, often better than women's pro games. Why are the college games better and more exciting? It's simple, more practice time and a longer season. Think about how bad the basketball is in the first month or two of the NBA. In college, noone gets to see how bad the play is the first two months because the fans are still focused on college football. My point is, the WNBA season is two short. The quality of play increases exponentially as the season goes on. The problem is, by the time the teams start to gel, the three-month season is over.

I agree 100% with you on the practice/coaching thing. Women don't need MORE coaching as you said, they just need BETTER coaching. Hire real coaches instead of washed-up men's college and pro coaches (Henry Bibby? Kobe Bryant's dad? Give me a break).

Brian F. said...

The WNBA ball is the same size as those used in the women's college game and in
high schools across the nation. So what you're saying is, once the players are
pros, the ball that they've been using all their lives is now too big for their
"small hands?" That doesn't make any sense. Again with the smaller court, why is
something that the athletes have been competing on all their lives suddenly too big
for the game's elite players?I work in collegiate athletics, specifically on the
women's side, and I've seen a great deal of women's basketball games, often better
than women's pro games. Why are the college games better and more exciting? It's
simple, more practice time and a longer season. Think about how bad the basketball
is in the first month or two of the NBA. In college, noone gets to see how bad the
play is the first two months because the fans are still focused on college
football. My point is, the WNBA season is two short. The quality of play increases
exponentially as the season goes on. The problem is, by the time the teams start to
gel, the three-month season is over. I agree 100% with you on the
practice/coaching thing. Women don't need MORE coaching as you said, they just need
BETTER coaching. Hire real coaches instead of washed-up men's college and pro
coaches (Henry Bibby? Kobe Bryant's dad? Give me a break).