I have seen the future...

Posted by Alex W.C. on 1:28 PM
..and the future is bright.

Watching the NCAA women’s tournament, it is obvious that the current talent level is the product of many players striving for a professional career in basketball. It was not that long ago however, that the opportunities for many female basketball players ended after graduating from college.

Women’s professional basketball has come a long way since then, and not without its obstacles.

In 1972, Title IX opened the doors for women’s athletics, mainly at the collegiate level.

Six years later in 1978 the Women's Professional Basketball League (WPBL) was formed, only to fold three seasons later. In 1980, In Ann Meyers-Drysdale (Co-MVP for the 1979-1980 season in the WPBL) was the first woman drafted to an NBA team when she signed with the Indiana Pacers. She would eventually not make the final roster. The ABL (American Basketball League) was founded in 1996 showing a great deal of promise as its teams included members of the Olympic gold medal team of that same year. The league disbanded after three seasons.

Needless to say, women’s professional basketball struggled over the years.

The WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) formed in 1997, will begin its fifteenth season on June 3rd, 2011; a historic landmark for the young league and for women’s professional basketball.

The league was founded with only eight teams; many of the players drafted for the inaugural season had already been playing overseas. That was the only way for a woman to make a living at playing basketball at that time. The movie, Love and Basketball, is a pretty accurate depiction of what life was like for a female professional basketball player prior to the WNBA. The main character, Monica Wright, spends most of her professional career in the movie playing in Spain.

As life imitates art, Spain is currently home to several WNBA players during the European basketball season. I don’t use the words, “off season”, as many in the WNBA do not have such a luxury. Even today, in order to make a living as a professional athlete, many in the WNBA seek supplemental income overseas. This also means that, unlike their male counterparts, they do not get much down time during the year.

During the years the WNBA has been in existence, many have tried to undermine the determination of the league and those who truly believe in it. One can easily scan the internet to find many an article alluding to the universal message that the WNBA will never succeed.

While over time some WNBA teams have folded and the league regrouped, it still stands strong fifteen years and twelve teams later.

The question now is, who has the star caliber to take the league to the next level? Who in the next generation will take the reins?

Meet Brittney Griner.

A 6’8” phenom, who can not only dunk, but block, shoot and outplay almost any opponent. Currently playing at Baylor University, she has already broken blocking records and racked up stats that many college players only dream of.

She’s only a Sophomore. And she's not alone.

Other players like Maya Moore of UConn, participating in the cycle of a record breaking 90 game win streak, is considered to be the best players in the US, and is favored to be the number one pick in the 2011 WNBA draft.

Needless to say, as Brittney's collegiate career continues, and Maya's professional career begins, their game can only get better. Players like these are poised to have a huge influence in women’s professional basketball.

But when these players graduate, who will enter college basketball to raise the bar?

Enter the Buford High School Lady Wolves.

The Season is the title of a web based reality series, following the two time state champion high school team, as they defend their title. After watching just the first episode, it is undeniable that the demonstration of sheer determination by the players of this team is absolutely stunning.

Now with an established professional league, young women as early as high school, (and probably even earlier) are striving for a professional career in basketball; a reality today that not too long ago was only a dream. The Buford High School Lady Wolves, what I hope, are just one example of the athleticism that has emerged in for young women at the high school level. This serves to raise the bar as these young women begin play at the collegiate level and push it even further at the professional level.

Perseverance and time will ultimately create a level of play where skill and ability can only be second to none. It will serve the WNBA by providing them with a generation of players inspired by the existence of the league and the opportunity it provides.

I have seen the future. I can’t wait for it to become a reality.


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