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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: WNBA hoop should be lowered to increase interest

Legendary University of Connecticut women’s basketball head coach Geno Auriemma has joined the ranks of those with the courage and common sense to call for the WNBA and women’s basketball at all levels to lower the hoop to nine feet.

Thank goodness, because Auriemma is one of the few figures in women’s basketball venerated enough to make this obvious statement without being pilloried with charges of sexism. It makes no sense. Feminism isn’t about claiming that women are as tall or can jump as high as men. That is just not true, and usually it does not matter much in modern society.

Women already play with a smaller ball. In tennis, the most economically successful women’s sport, where women enjoy pay equity in many tournaments, they play best-of-three-set matches instead of best of five, a profound difference. Most analogously, women’s volleyball, which is more popular than men’s volleyball, uses a substantially lower net. If they didn’t, there would be no spikes, which would be horrible. Nobody decries sexism over women’s volleyball’s lower net, and they should not.

This is a perfect analogy to the complete lack of dunks and above-the-rim play in the WNBA. The Lynx’s extreme success relative to all other Minnesota sports teams is a testament to their importance. They just won their third of the past five championships and got an MVP season from Maya Moore last season. But still, I can’t gather the interest to watch anything but their playoff matches because they don’t play above the hoop; vertical game is exciting in basketball.

Yes, there would be a difficult transition. Years of muscle memory tuned to the 10-foot hoop would be hard to replace, and already lower shooting percentages might actually drop in the first season after the change, or at least jump shots might. Then, there’s the problem of the standardization of the 10-foot hoop.

However, adjustable hoops are the norm. There are already nine-foot hoops at many elementary schools and other courts that host a lot of children (which might make for an easier transition for today’s cohort of basketball-loving girls), and nine-foot hoops would quickly be built.

The overwhelming, enthusiastic response to the few women who do dunk in the WNBA should serve as proof and sufficient incentive to a league that continues to lose money that this move is a common-sense solution. People want to see players dunk and play at net height. If they can’t, that loses some of the draw of WNBA games and subsequently the league is going to lose money. As they already do, it makes sense to make some effort to get people more interested.

The priority of the league needs to be increased viewership and attendance, which a lowered rim would doubtless bring. Pretending that women are as tall as men and continuing to prevent dunking and net play will not.

Geno knows what he’s talking about. Look beyond the optics and the possible patronizing attitude and see that this would be the best thing for the players (whose relatively very low salaries would surely increase, possibly allowing them to spend more time on basketball and improve even more), the fans and the game.

Follow Martin Forstrom on Twitter.

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