Team USA’s Dominance in Women's Basketball
Flashback to the 1996 Olympic Games held in Atlanta with Team USA rolling through the competition. Their dominance was special; playing at home they won each game by an average of twenty-eight (28) points, and brought home the Gold. With legends like Edwards, Weatherspoon, Leslie, Swoopes and Lobo, Team USA looked a class above the rest. Yes, I’m speaking about the Women’s team.
Fast-forward to today, and the just concluded Games of the XXXI Olympiad in Rio, Brazil where Team USA women basketball dominated the competition yet again. It’s amazing that through this dominance and the aftermath, there has been no media coverage to speak of. The average basketball fan has never seen the team play and can’t possibly name five players, or even the coach. What must a team do to gain a little respect in this country? Do you realize that even though the USA women contingent won the third most medals in the entire Olympic Games? We the fans do not respect the accomplishments of the female athletes simply because we have taken a stance that their competition is ultimately inferior. Personally, I am of the opinion that calling women’s sports inferior is blatantly misogyny and just male chauvinism. As a society we have simply come too far to abide by such thoughts from what may very be the Dark Ages.
Now before you decide to challenge my knowledge on the women’s game or wonder if I’ve ever even been to a women’s game, rest assured that I have. My most recent outing was to see Team USA women take on rivals Australia in the Madison Square Garden as part of both teams’ preparations for the Olympics. First thing, the tickets were ridiculously affordable. A crew of four (my girlfriend, her sister, her friend and I) sat in row eleven on the baseline, paid one hundred dollars ($100) total for those seats. Compare that to trying to gain admission for their male counterparts, the price increase would have been tenfold or at least close.
The team coached by the magnificent mastermind Geno Auriemma and included assistant coach Dawn Staley (who was a member of the 1996 team) were a well-oiled machine versus Australia in that tune-up. They moved the ball very well, shot efficiently and were disciplined yet not overly aggressive on defense. I honestly don’t recall the final score but I left MSG knowing Team USA were going to dominate in Rio. Though the fans came out in large numbers, well over ten thousand patrons showed up, Team USA women preparations went pretty much unnoticed.
Team USA selection was mildly controversial in women basketball circles as they team did not include superstar Los Angeles Sparks Forward Candace Parker. No one cared. Imagine for Team USA men’s basketball team that LeBron James made himself available for selection, but was effectively discarded and overlooked. There would have been weeping, moaning and gnashing of teeth in many parts of the country. However, Candace Parker was just a woman and no one took notice. The rest of the team was absolutely loaded. Members included veterans like Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird, Tamika Catchings, Lindsay Whalen and Seimone Augustus also included Maya Moore, Tina Charles, Sylvia Fowles, Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne, Angel Mccoughtry and (the youngster fresh out of playing for Auriemma) Breanna Stewart. When all is said and done, this team had at least six future hall of famers and no one noticed. How could this be?
Taurasi’s all-round play is simply amazing to watch. Her on court IQ would rival any current day great you would choose to name. Sue Bird, the veteran leader. She has seen it all and won it all. Tamika Catchings, veteran two-way player and champion, never afraid of the big moment. Catchings was molded by Pat Summitt RIP herself. Seimone Augustus has a crossover that resembles Tim Hardaway’s “UTEP 2 Step” poetry in motion really. Maya Moore, my absolute favorite. Moore is phenomenal to me, maybe I have a crush. I love her game because she does it all. Tina Charles is a technician inside. Brittney Griner dunks in games, how many women does that? Delle Donne a forward/center with guard skills. McCoughtry is a dangerous scorer anywhere on the court. Fowles is a pick and roll savant as a center, which complements Whalen who uses the pick and roll as well as any NBA point guard you may think of. Young Breanna Stewart is a forward/center also with decent ball skills and excellent footwork, yet a little raw. That said she’s still so young.
As an opposing coach, I would have sleepless nights before playing them even if my team consisted of men, because as I saw it the only difference between the men and women was the size and physicality. This is often mitigated by officiating so I’d be beyond nervous. During the group play, these women went undefeated, winning by an average of at least twenty-five points, including defeating Canada by thirty, and defeating China by forty-three. They dominated Japan in the quarterfinals crushing them by forty-six and the scoreboard didn’t do the domination justice. In the finals, Team USA was merciful only defeating Spain by twenty-nine. Spain never had a chance. Nobody had a chance. Don’t tell that to Coach Auriemma though, who at times looked most unsatisfied with his ladies play, as he only demanded excellence. He wanted the team to “play properly” regardless of the opponent.
So congratulations to Team USA, you brought home the gold for the sixth straight Olympic Games. I swear, this time looked like shooting fish in a barrel. The scary thing is, the core of this team could very well make up the roster for Tokyo 2020. They are awesome to look at. They play with the skill that most of us ever dream of. It is shameful to think that these women all of whom play in the WNBA, make appreciably more money playing in Europe and China. As fans, we are doing them a huge disservice, we have chosen to watch bad basketball simply because men are playing as opposed to watching smooth, skilled operators do work as women. This is interesting as the country is faced with a similar decision in politics, where we have a gas-bag loud talking man versus a woman. Who do you think will win come November? I look forward to seeing you at the games as I’m New York Liberty fan.