Someone tweeted me earlier this week saying there should be more “Twitter beefs” between WNBA players. His argument, basically, was that people love that stuff.
Last night, Aces center Liz Cambage and Sparks center Kalani Brown were pushing each other in the post to the tune of a flagrant and technical foul, respectively. Someone tweeted jokingly, “let them fight.”
Those who watch the NBA are used to beefs and physical fights, which go down among those athletes often. But it doesn’t work the same way in the WNBA.
As in any sport, the women’s basketball community is an intimate circle. But because it is smaller than other sports communities, there is much more familiarity. At the college level, it is common to find women who grew up playing together – either in high school or on the same club team – suddenly on opposing sides when conference play comes around. Throw in some USA Basketball, which often features a team of athletes from 12 different institutions, and the friendship and bonding tree grows.
A mere 144 women form the WNBA – less than a third of the size of the NBA. Chances are, they already know a lot of the people they play with or against. And then there are the bonds of pride in a shared college alma mater.
Let’s take a ride to illustrate this example. Dallas Wings guard Allisha Gray transferred from North Carolina, where she played with Chicago Sky guard Diamond DeShields, to South Carolina. There, Gray played with Dallas Wings guard Kaela Davis, who had transferred from Georgia Tech. DeShields grew up with Las Vegas Aces forward Dearica Hamby, and the two consider themselves sisters. DeShields played with Seattle Storm center/forward Mercedes Russell at Tennessee. Russell played USA Basketball with Storm point guard Jordin Canada, who played with Dream forward Monique Billings at UCLA. All three Atlanta Pac-12 players – Billings, Marie Gulich and Maite Cazorla – played against each other for 3-4 years, and already knew each other a little bit before becoming teammates.
That’s just one string.
The New York Liberty’s Brittany Boyd and Reshanda Gray played side-by-side at Cal for four years; the Indiana Fever’s Victoria Vivians and Teaira McCowan were teammates at Mississippi State for three seasons; Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles of the Minnesota Lynx played at LSU together for two years. Just to name a few.
The photos here show Cambage talking first to Sparks forward Chiney Ogwumike, and then to forward Candace Parker. Cambage was hanging out with Parker at Coachella in April. She probably knows Ogwumike already because Parker has played with her sister, Nneka Ogwumike, since 2012, and considers both Ogwumikes her sisters. So when Cambage and Brown had a little Twitter dust up last night about some hair, it didn’t last long.
And it goes beyond that.
Regardless of who knows whom, when rookies come into the league, veterans take care to mentor them and help them find their way. They view it as a sisterhood, and they see bringing the newbies along as a kind of “us-against-the-world” duty. It’s their responsibility to make their sisters in the game great, so they can further evolve the sport.
For the most part, women’s basketball relations work well. There have been a few fights in WNBA history, some scuffles, and some harsh words. But those fade away.
To anyone hoping for more pro hooper fighting on or off the court, first I would say I hope more peace be with you. The next thing I would say is, it’s not going to happen.