Women’s basketball, like most female sports, has had a tough time getting publicity.
Sure, it’s a seasonal league that comes on once the big boys are done playing. Granted the style of play is several notches below the NBA.
But for a league billed as the most elite for women, it has come up way short. The league desperately needs an act that will inject interest and media attention. On Tuesday night, the WNBA got just that.
In the waning seconds of a game between the Detroit Shock and the Los Angeles Sparks a fight broke out.
Apparently, LA’s Candace Parker was fouled hard by Detroit’s Cheryl Ford on a previous play and they got into a shoving match.
Infuriated by the attitude of Parker, Detroit’s Plenette Pierson intentionally ran into Parker. From there the girls went at it.
In seconds things escalated to the point where both players were on the floor battling it out. Both team benches cleared, referees rushed to the scene and coaches grabbed whoever they could.
Detroit assistant coach Rick Mahorn, in an effort to play peacemaker, shoved LA player Lisa Leslie away from the pileup.
She fell to the ground and right afterwards LA team-mate DeLisha Milton-Jones punched Mahorn in the back.
As a result Parker, Pierson, Milton-Jones and Mahorn were all ejected from the game.
As of this writing the WNBA is investigating into the incident and is set to announce punishments.
At this point my reaction is mixed. Yes, I’m astonished by female basketball players getting into a scuffle on the court on such a grand stage. It was an ugly scene when the NBA witnessed the Pacers-Pistons brawl and this fight is no different.
Granted Mahorn made a step in touching an opposing player and knocking the person down. To separate a fight is one thing. To go after the other team’s player and knock them down is another.
But who knew the players felt so strongly about the sport? For me the fight shows how intense games can get. If there’s no passion then there’s no fire. Without that fire there’s no way there would be such an explosion of emotions.
Moreover, people will be forced to reckon with the league now. It might not be the best way to draw attention but after billing itself as a friendly league for awhile now a little bit of spunk to that image is refreshing.
In my mind women’s basketball has been in the shadow of other sports for a long time. Some of the sports that supersede it are soccer, softball and track and field.
It’s no surprise that the league has been wallowing in anonymity. I reckon most people could name a star athlete in another sport before they could name a female hoops star.
However, don’t get me wrong in thinking I condone the fight. Everyone involved was at fault. The players were wrong to start a fight, regardless of the point in the game.
Mahorn was wrong in going after an opposing player instead of his own.
Ejecting them was the right call and I don’t really have a problem with the league issuing further penalties. The only caveat I would state is the league has to be careful not to overdo those penalties.
Something like say a season-ban would go too far and in my mind tarnish the game, especially if those two teams meet up in the playoffs.
Ultimately there is no excuse for fighting in basketball. In some sports, like hockey and American football, there is a time and a place for fights. But basketball is definitely not one of them. It has been a tactical, finesse game from the get-go and physicality only goes so far.
The most interesting thing for me going forward will be the public’s reaction. So far the incident has caused a buzz throughout the media. Time will tell if that interest hits the fans and will make people care about the WNBA.