My love for basketball is as deep within the redness of my blood as my love for Sonic The Hedgehog, Street Fighter II Turbo, Marisa Tomei's acting, and sushi with sake on a saturday night. My belief in the game goes beyond a board of numbers that say who scores, steals, or rebounds. The goal of the game is simple, score more than the guys in the other colors, you can follow these standards even with the simplicity of playing the shirts against the skins. You can understand it with a Japanese tongue, a southern accent, or through the rhythmic poetics of hip-hop that shake the sidewalks with echoing bass. You can grind out every game with the edge of your elbow, thugging-out the space of the key, or you can say showtime and leave the defenders at the dust of your heels with a fast break. It's all part of the game not in ways that are right or wrong, but complimentary to going about that goal.
As Red taught us through the hardware he wore at the capacity of his hands, good basketball is about playing the right way. But as times change with the players in ways that have brought us longer shorts, sharper bounce passes to split through seams that were once thought to have never existed, three-point bombardments from greater distances, we realize that the team finding "the right way" to play starts with finding their own. For instance there was my case. As a kid, I learned basketball through fundamentals. Fundamentals for a point guard that got downright boring like turning your back to the defender at the top of the key and waiting for the forwards to unfold themselves for the next step of the play. And then one day as I sat along the sidelines awaiting my downs on a pick-up game, I asked myself what could happen if I was the quickest thing on the court. And that's when I experienced the joy of beating someone off the dribble dipping my feet into the paint to draw the bigs out leaving the doors behind them open for the back-cutting teammates. That's when I always kept an eye out on the perimeter to beat any and all cherry-pickers to the basket forcing them to earn their keep. In 90% of the games I have played, I have been the shortest and far from the strongest.
Decades ago the only advice on the sport they would have given me was to drop the ball and yield the hardwood to the tallest people around. A man of my stature, regardless of my skill, would have been the wrong way to play basketball. But then the game saw the crossover dribble, the pistol with the number 44, Steve Nash's MVP runs, positionless offenses that spread the ball to dismantle a zone defense one pass at a time. Even larger players began to sharpen up their skills. From Magic Johnson and Hedo Turkoglu, 6'10 players with handles, to the Dirk Nowitzki's and Rashard Lewis' that compliment their height with the range of their shot. The game of basketball will always be about change.
And that's all David Stern's trying to say with his comment about females mixing it up into the association. I'm sure it got a whole bunch of writers throwing fits, sent shivers down the spines of all the fine shock-jocks we know and not love, and may have served to deepen grudges people already have with the commish. Let me just relay the quote here: "I think we might," said Stern. "I don't want to get into all kinds of arguments with players and coaches about the likelihood. But I really think it's a good possibility."
Let me first and foremost say that I don't follow the WNBA, I just think Candace Parker is hot. And at this given time I don't think anyone in that league is ready to play at an NBA-level and certainly not within the next 10 years. But maybe, maybe , they're NBDL level. After all, a lot of the NBDL consists of flat-footed centers and those that live and die by the offerings of their three-point ambitions. There may be girl ballers that can play the game with more dimensions than a handful of male ballers who hold their sweat-drenched headbands in anticipation of a 10-day contract with an NBA team.
What Stern says, about the game coming into that change, is something I once witnessed at my high school where the girls won 5 state championships over a span of 6 years. The guys were okay but their games at best only drew about a third of the crowd the girls team guaranteed at every showing. It was the pride of the faculty, even half the school's students traveled upstate with their families to watch them dominate. No one in a gym class said anything against them balling among us in full-court pick up games. They just went to a different locker room when the day was done. I even dueled one in a scrimmage and found myself out-classed and out-scored with steam arising from my shaken ankles.
But of course the NBA is the best-of-the-best. And if you ain't got it, you're not going to get it. We all know that. And I might not even be the best basketball player here at the CBS office. I know that too. But as someone who has seen the reflection of his own personality through his inconsistent jump-shot, I also know that the game is going to change. What it will change with remains a mystery.
At this given time Diana Taurasi can't guard a backup point or even one that's on injured reserve. Chris Quinn, Speedy Claxton, Acie Law, and even Stephon Marbury fresh after a UStream marathon may still be better options. But Diana Taurasi is far from an Apex of a dream, perhaps she's more of a glass ceiling. One that, once surpassed, will take the girl-ballers to a new level. Already Candace Parker is so ridiculous that no one pays any attention to her husband's career. He comes off the bench for the Kings and went to Duke by the way. Skills will sharpen, IQ's will increase, shots will rain from the skies, Stern is saying that the dream is not dead.
In fact, on the subject of women getting drafted: it actually did happen. Twice really.
In 1977, Lusia Harris was drafted by the New Orleans Jazz. Ann Meyers, a 3-time All-American for UCLA was also drafted and actually signed by the Indiana Pacers in 1979 but was released before the start of the season. Women playing in the NBA already could have happened. I can say beyond any shade of doubt that David Stern knows of this. And maybe that's why I'm laughing at all the people hating on his comment.
So this is to every girl that has broken the ankle of a male defender with a shift of a dribble. To all the ladies splashing J's on the asphault and on the hardwood. To every woman that has to learn to shoot with both sized basketballs. Keep your head up, keep scoring, keep talking trash, and just keep doing your thing. Some of you may find the right way.
And some of you might be as hot as Candace Parker too.