No such thing as basketball off-season

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After a bit of a hiatus, I’m thrilled to be back writing about women in sports. I’ve always followed the NBA more than any other league, so I usually get a little sad at the end of the season. This year, however, I didn’t have those same feelings because I’ve decided to follow the WNBA more than ever before, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I’ve always watched the games and kept up with the players, but there’s a whole world of amazing WNBA content on the internet beyond the mainstream media’s basic coverage that I’m excited to continue to explore. The season is already a month in, but it’s never too late to start following. WNBA League Pass is only $17 for EVERY GAME (compared to the NBA’s $200 rate).

For a league that is so inclusive and community-focused, it’s no surprise that the WNBA is on the up and up. Lisa Borders, president of the WNBA as of 2016, has a business background and knows the importance of strategic marketing and reaching consumers. The league has also succeeded in marketing its biggest stars, like Maya Moore, Brittney Griner and Skylar Diggins-Smith. The rivalry between the Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks has created genuine buzz, particularly around the playoffs. The WNBA teams themselves are stepping up their social games (see the Lynx Twitter for great GIFs and solid clap-backs).

But for the league to grow even more, it has to continue to expand its fanbase. The WNBA has always been popular among young girls and their families — the athletes are at the top of their field, and they’re the ideal figures for young athletes to look up to. Now, though, it’s time for the WNBA to focus on older, more knowledgable consumers that can help spread the product via social media and word of mouth. The WNBA has fascinating storylines and competitiveness like the NBA, so in theory, the league just needs to capture that audience. The Ringer’s Shea Serrano has recently been promoting the WNBA on Twitter, and although some criticized him for showing superficial support, I’d argue that any level of support for the WNBA is crucial, particularly from well-respected, popular internet presences like Serrano. If it takes a few corny-but-enthusiastic tweets like his for NBA fans to get excited about the WNBA, I think it’s worth it. When it comes to women’s sports, mainstream coverage is so lacking that some sports fans just need a little nudge in order to find quality coverage. If Serrano’s tweets encourage even a few of his 240K followers to purchase WNBA League Pass and lead them to talented, dedicated WNBA writers, I’d consider that a step in the right direction.

There will always be the overtly sexist people who have no interest in watching women’s sports — the endless kitchen jokes on Twitter have proved that much. But I’m confident that there’s a huge cohort of sports fans out there that would join the WNBA train if enough of their friends were doing it. If the internet has taught us anything, it’s that nobody likes to feel left out of the discussion. If enough people are talking about the WNBA with excitement and reverence rather than dismissal and condescension, league interest will grow exponentially, and I can’t wait to see it happen.

 

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SLAM reminds us that basketball is bigger than just the NBA

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I started subscribing to SLAM Magazine because of the cool posters that come with every issue (and, to be honest, that’s still a major reason why I subscribe to this day – my bedroom looks a bit like a teenage boy’s room with posters of LeBron James and Allen Iverson plastered across the walls). However, in terms of content, I’m consistently impressed by SLAM’s coverage of women’s basketball. Although the ratio of WNBA to NBA coverage is nowhere near equal, SLAM focuses on women’s basketball way more than most sports outlets. From feature pieces on the players to simple game coverage and trade stories, SLAM highlights a league that doesn’t get a lot of recognition in the mainstream media. Take a look at this 2015 special edition featuring some of the best:

 

SLAM’s coverage of the WNBA playoffs is always extensive, and even women’s college and high school basketball gets a bit of attention from the magazine. It would be great to see more news outlets put this type of emphasis on women’s sports. In my opinion, if you consider yourself a basketball fan but have no interest in both the NBA and WNBA, you are cheating yourself out of a lot of quality basketball and storylines.

SLAM may not be the premier sports magazine in the country, but its ability to seamlessly blend both men’s and women’s basketball into one product is both progressive and commendable. I hope to see SLAM and other media outlets to continue to increase their coverage of women’s hoops.