"Basketball Beyond the Floor"

"But if there is one quality I see fading from U.S.A. Basketball, it is the concept of teamwork. The individual, 'me first' approach just does not work"- Lisa Leslie in Don't Let the Lipstick Fool You- The Making of a Champion (with Larry Burrett). She feels the U.S.A. Men's National Basketball team has problems playing overseas since their opponents have better team skills than individual talent. Interesting. This is the one contradiction she gets caught in over the course of the book: "There is nothing wrong with averaging 6 points per game in the Olympics if your team wins gold. It is not OK to average thirty points individually while you watch your team loose". True. But on February 7th, 1990 with Morningside High school, she scored 101 points in a single game. South Torranee, her opponent, forfeited the game in the second half wondering what she was doing. I say 'her' opponent because her team just fed her desire to make that milestone and feed her the ball. Lisa Leslie is a legend and forever will be a legend in the WNBA. Her stats and life story proves this as chronicled in the book. And although I could have done without the details of her engagement to husband Michael Lockwood (and his added commentary) she really got personal with this book and that takes a lot of courage. (Incidently, one of the same reasons I loved Character Driven by Derek Fisher). Let's peel back the layers.

A little indigestion - nothing to worry about

"We keep winning gold medals but it does not seem to matter. Nobody seems to pay attention and it is really hard for me to digest" (Lisa Leslie). The age old argument for why the WNBA can't survive on its own without the NBA. This is an argument hard for ME to digest. How quickly we forget the WNBA is only 14 years old with its inaugural season in 1997. Now flip to the NBA. Technically, the league began in 1946 as the Basketball Association of America (BAA). They changed it to the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 1949 after merging with the National Basketball League (NBL). This makes professional basketball for men 64 years old. I would hope that after leagues merging and sustaining itself for this long, it would be successful enough to stand on its own. The WNBA has 50 years to catch this milestone. Plus, the NBA has 30 teams in its league to the WNBA's current 12. Another mild difference? No Canadian teams in the WNBA. See? I knew we could find a solution.

More than just a Basketball Player

"...the players are responsible for the WNBA's image and I believe the best and strongest image is the one that shows the unique beauty and strength of women" (Lisa Leslie). Hence, the title of the book Don't Let the Lipstick Fool You. When Tina Thompson was with the Houston Comets (now folded), I remember watching her for the first time and remembering two things. One, her aggressive style of play and two, the bright red lipstick. One of the things Lisa Leslie argues in her book is for the need for players to properly present themselves as neat and tidy before stepping onto to the court. I believe she means to give respect to yourself, your opponents, fans and the game. She certainly endeared herself to fans and the Los Angeles Sparks as an organization (and a team she stayed with for the duration of her career) by the way she presented herself. When the WNBA celebrated its 10th season, the Sparks honoured Lisa on her birthday by dedicating a portion of the court at the Staples Centre as "Lisa Leslie Court" - a testament to all her hard work and determination in making the league what it is. I think it's funny and admirable she gives credit to Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Billy Jean King, Ann Meyers, Nancy Lieberman and Pat Summit (to name a few) as blazing the trail for her and other female athletes like her. She says she and her WNBA colleagues are riding their coat tails. Very interesting.

Spreading the Wealth

In the beginning, the WNBA had teams in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Sacramento and Utah (Western Division) and New York, Houston, Cleveland and Charlotte (Eastern Division). This is where it gets interesting. WNBA officials figured out who its top 16 players were and assigned 2 to each of its teams. Some might say that is a little elementary, maybe better off in pick-up leagues and not at the professional level. However, I think this method worked; especially for the first year of a new league. It would have been interesting if Lisa Leslie talked to some of her friends in the NBA, namely Dwayne Wade and LeBron James, to see what they thought about NBA officials spreading out the talent pool.

Flick Pick of the Week

This week I want you to check out "Love and Basketball" starring Omar Epps and Sanaa Lathan. This is a cute story about two kids who have a real thing for basketball and how each is trying to carve a future in it. Oh and they have a thing for each other, too. Next week we will be discussing the book: Blood on the Horns by Roland Lazenby. This is another gem my mom bought for me (remember Hoop Dreams?). There are probably enough books about Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls to fill the United Centre, but this one will open your eyes. Happy reading and see you on Tuesday for another serving of Jiggly Bits.

1 comment:

  1. Very nice post! I am now a dedicated reader of your blog.