by Ryan Meehan
Chuckie touched on this a little bit in his previous piece from a couple of days back, but I want to take this in a little bit of a different direction.
Mark Cuban’s Dallas Mavericks were eliminated from playoff contention on Thursday night after falling victim to a last second shot at the hands of the Denver Nuggets. A few days before that, he stirred the pot as only Mark Cuban could do by suggesting in a radio interview that it might not be a bad idea for NBA teams to at least invite Brittney Griner to a summer league game to see if she could hack it against some of the male players given the opportunity.
The overall assessment of this is it was probably just Mark Cuban trying to build the brand that is himself and the Dallas Mavericks. If something like this did come to fruition, the media would jump all over it and Cuban would get exactly what he wanted.
However, this is a horrible example of whether or not a woman could physically compete in the NBA. Yes, Griner is the best player in women’s NCAA history without question. But there are two primary reasons why this would be a bad point in time to do this:
1) The WNBA still provides a haven for women to play basketball at the professional level
2) Griner stands 6 foot 8 and weighs 207 pounds
These two are important facts to consider when you figure that the next women’s basketball player that will dominate at the college or pro level is going to look at lot different. So let’s look at a couple of possibilities at what that scenario might look like when it happens…Let’s say for the case of this argument that this player becomes known to the general public at sometime around the year 2038.
1) It’s quite possible that in 25 years from now that the WNBA will no longer be a place to provide a haven for women to play basketball at the professional level
2) Let’s say the next player is of much heavier of a stature, say she weighs in at 260
What does this have to do with Brittney Griner? Well, as of right now there IS a place for her to take her talents and she IS too small to play in the league. It’s a structural issue, and there will eventually come a time when a player comes to light that will be heavy enough to compete against the big boys. There’s no doubt in my mind that Becky Hammon from the San Antonio Glitter Sparkles or whatever the hell they are called can outshoot some of the NBA’s poorer perimeter shooters, but that thought will never get past the skills competitions at All-Star Weekend because she just simply isn’t tall enough.
I realize some of this might sounds mysogynist, but it’s just the way it is and nothing more. And most of America would tend to agree with me that it’s just not safe. After seeing Kevin Ware’s leg break like that a couple of days back, you can’t help but worry about somebody with Griner’s stature and how they would fare in the paint.
Now let’s go back to my first point – The WNBA. It’s very likely that Griner will dominate the WNBA when she gets there, but it’s also very likely that a quarter of a century from today the WNBA won’t be in business. Don’t believe me? It’s all spelled out in the finance section of the the league’s wikipedia page:
“So far the WNBA has not been able to support itself. During the mid-2000s, the NBA spent more than $10 million per year to keep the WNBA financially solvent. In 2007, teams were estimated to be losing $1.5 million to $2 million a year. In 2011 it was reported that the league had its first-ever “cash flow positive” team (Connecticut Sun).”
That tells me that while on the surface the WNBA might be a good idea, it’s not making money, and eventually the NBA is going to have to cut it off at some point. If that entire decade the league spent ten million bucks a year, that means that over ten years they spent over a hundred million dollars to keep it afloat. That is just not going to fly with a new comissioner coming in at the end of the season. Especially when you consider that the men’s league itself happens to be the home to several franchises that are struggling finacially to keep their head above water. (New Orleans, et cetera…)
Returning to Cuban, although this may be an interesting to decent publicity stunt, it would also be a complete waste of a draft pick which is something that not a lot of people seem to be discussing. He’d also have to pay her more than she would be worth in the NBA, and for a team that just missed the postseason that’s a mistake even Mark Cuban can’t afford to make.
When the WNBA eventually folds (and it will), and when a woman comes along that is of thicker stature, then I think that this becomes more of a talking point. Until then, there remains a place for Brittney Griner to play amongst athletes that are of similar skill set and gender. A woman will play in the NBA someday, but it will not happen in the next fifteen or twenty years.