Last week, the Washington Mystics beat the Connecticut Sun 89-78 in Game 5 of the WNBA Finals. Elena Delle Donne — the league’s regular season MVP — scored 20 points despite having three herniated discs in her back, a broken nose and deep bone bruise in her knee to earn her first WNBA championship.
The game was aired on ESPN2. The championship parade won’t happen until the Spring of 2020 because WNBA players go overseas to make more money during what is supposed to be their offseason. It’s clear they deserve better, and their allies in the NBA know it too. That includes Bradley Beal and John Wall, two Washington Wizards stars who were very public supporters of the Mystics during their championship run.
In a recent interview with Fred Katz of The Athletic, Wall said that the WNBA and its players are getting undervalued for the type of product they put together.
“I wouldn’t say we’re going out of our way (to promote the women’s game),” he said. “I think it’s just our love for the game. … I feel like they deserve more than what they get. I had a lot of girls writing me on Instagram talking about appreciating me for supporting the WNBA, but I got to. It’s like, ‘Y’all deserve more than what y’all get.’”
Wall pointed out that girls in high school follow the same pattern that boys do when it comes to earning scholarships, but the lack of professional leagues and opportunities for pros makes it difficult to grow the game. It doesn’t add up for him.
“That’s a thing I don’t respect that I speak on, because if you look at women, what’s the difference for them going through high school and then getting a scholarship to go play softball, volleyball, tennis, whatever, basketball, whatever — but why don’t they have a lot of professional sports for them? That’s taken away from them,” he said.
Wall’s All-Star backcourt partner, Bradley Beal, is on the same page as him when it comes to the WNBA and women in basketball in general. He spoke about the impact women had on him playing basketball and setting the trajectory of his pro career, one that many of his mentors simply didn’t get a chance to experience.
“A woman taught me how to play basketball,” Beal told reporters Friday. “A lot of people kinda raise an eyebrow or they look at me like I’m crazy when I say that, but my mom taught me how to shoot. My mom taught me everything. I wouldn’t be here today without her. I’m sure a lot of players are like that, too. But for me, I have to give credit where it’s due. And even the women in the WNBA now, they’re getting better. Their skills are getting better. They’re way more talented. There are women who give men a run for their money in my opinion.”
Beal also penned a The Players’ Tribune story about the Mystics in the midst of their intense playoff battle with the Suns titled “Masks On,” inspired by the mask Delle Donne wore to protect her broken nose. It was a thoughtful gesture by Beal, and those types of public displays of support are what’s going to change the public perception of the WNBA, increase revenue for the league and hopefully lead to increased salaries for the 144 players grinding it out on the court.
There has been a lot of progress made over the last two years, but there’s clearly still a long way to go. For Wall and Beal it’s not about being a fan of women’s basketball, or the Mystics in particular, but seeing good basketball for what it is.