It’s starting to become a spring/summer tradition: One DimeMag.com writer takes his shot at defending/promoting the WNBA, while trying to get to the bottom of why the particularly vocal WNBA haters hate the league so much. Since most of the Dime crew pretends like they’re allergic to women’s basketball, I figured it would have to be me doing the dirty work every year, until Ben York stepped to the plate yesterday.
So I’m not here for that. I just want to address one of the “solutions” critics (sometimes seriously, sometimes jokingly) often propose to raise the WNBA’s profile: Lowering the rim.
As patently dumb as it sounds, this idea actually has supporters. The premise is that if it’s easier for women to dunk, more of them would dunk, and all of a sudden a wave of guys and kids who stayed away from the WNBA would come running to the arena and the TV ratings would skyrocket.
Here’s the deal, though: Lowering the rim for the women’s game would be (1) totally unnecessary, (2) insulting, and (3) wouldn’t increase viewership nearly as much as you think.
Lowering the rim to nine feet or 9.5 feet isn’t the same as shortening golf courses or contracting baseball/softball diamonds for women. Those two concepts have a wide-ranging impact on the entire sport — almost to where it’s not even the same sport — and its main components, whether it be running, pitching, driving, etc. Dunking isn’t a main component of basketball. It’s a luxury, a singular move, kind of like a spin move in football. You don’t alter the field of play just to make one move happen more often.
It’s not like women have problems shooting the ball at a higher rim — half the time they beat the guys in the NCAA three-point “Battle of the Sexes.” Lowering the rim wouldn’t cut down on turnovers or even increase scoring, two of the biggest parts of the women’s game that turn off WNBA critics. (Those issues in the women’s game have already been addressed by having a smaller ball.) If anything, shooting percentages would drop dramatically and scoring would go down for at least a few years with a lowered rim, since these women who all grew up shooting on 10-foot rims would have to re-adjust their years of repetition and training.
So really, the only benefit of lowering the rim is that it’d become easier for players to dunk, to please one segment of fans — and yet those people who claim they’d start watching the women’s game if they dunked more often would most likely stop watching after the novelty wore off, anyway. It’s like the people who said they’d watch hockey if they could follow the puck easier; How did that whole “blue puck” thing on TV work? Either you appreciate the game or you don’t, no gimmicks necessary.
Not to get all whimsical, but part of the beauty of basketball is that the game is the same for everyone. From little kids to grown men to grown women, from French Lick to Little Rock to Jersey City, the rim is 10 feet high. Maintaining that uniformity is in the best interest of not just the women’s game, but the game in general.