The WNBA is in a pretty good place on the grocery list at the moment.
Top-notch players – check
Good coaches – check
Supportive cities – check
A fully-competent and engaged league president – check
However, I am missing two big missing ingredients:
Let’s discuss major rivalries first…….
Back in the early days of the WNBA, it was the Los Angeles Sparks vs. Everybody Else. The Sparks had Lisa Leslie, Mwadi Mabika, Delisha Milton (feisty version), Latasha Byears and Tamecka Dixon. They were a great team, and they were cocky…..so everyone loathed them to death. When they came to your town, you were prepared to heckle.
A few years later it was the Detroit “Bad Girls” Shock that everyone hated, because they’d taken a few lessons from their former “Bad Boy” coach Bill Laimbeer, of Detroit Pistons fame. There was a “Bad Girls” poster; in 2008 there was an on-court brawl between the Sparks and Shock that was legendary.
Then there are the villains…….
Leslie was the villain for many years. She is one of the game’s greatest players, but her – shall we say – belief in herself didn’t endear her to too many outside of the Los Angeles area. Then she retired in 2009, leaving the villain landscape relatively empty, except for…..
Diana Taurasi. Her swaggering, cursing, court-spitting demeanor turns off a lot of people, and she’s been the closest thing to a bad girl since Leslie left the scene. But her taking last year off made for a pretty bland year on the court. The Mercury weren’t their usual throw-the-opponent-to-the-ground selves.
We need some more hate to love. C’mon now.
Cleveland’s hate for LeBron James and the entire country’s rejoicing at the fall of the Lakers is FUN stuff. It spices things up. Rivalries are what sports are all about. It’s why, almost a decade later, college fans are still whining for a Tennessee-UConn game.
I need some WNBA rivalries and villains to show up this year. Throw some cayenne pepper into the pot. It’s all we’re missing right now.