David Stern Is Looking for the Wrong Things From Women's Sports and WNBA

Ken FossAnalyst IDecember 5, 2009

DENVER - APRIL 19:  NBA Commissioner David Stern speaks to the media prior to the tip off between the New Orleans Hornets and the Denver Nuggets in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Pepsi Center on April 19, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

While I can't say I read Sports Illustrated, or browse their website very often, (unless our MMA community is being spotlighted and I missed the piece the first go-around) Ian Thomsen's piece on Sportsillustrated.cnn.com made splashes on PTI (Pardon The Interruption) today. And thus caused me to thoroughly massage my temples.


In the piece, Ian interviews NBA Commissioner David Stern about the possibility of a female player breaking into the NBA. "Sure," he said matter-of-factly. "I think that's well within the range of probability. " He later went on, I asked if we might see a woman playing NBA basketball within a decade.


"I think we might," said Stern. "I don't want to get into all kinds of arguments with players and coaches about the likelihood. But I really think it's a good possibility."

While I've spent a good portion of my time so far on this site arguing in favor of women's athletics, this is just lunacy. And I can't take it anymore.

David Stern has always had intentions for the product that I haven't agreed with. For starters they've marketed the game to female audiences that won't ever care enough about it to fill 16-20 thousand seat arenas.

Secondly, he's had this altruistic sense that women's athletics can compete with men's athletics both on and off the court.

The simple fact of the matter is, they can't, for a whole slew of reasons.

For starters, women are limited by the fact that men carry 40-60 times the base testosterone level as they do, and have high levels of estrogen, which depresses muscle mass, and decelerates their peak growth.

This means that at their athletic peaks, women can virtually never be faster, stronger, taller, or bigger than the average male.

To make matters worse, no sport emphasizes height, and explosive physical athleticism more than the NBA does. It really adds up to a situation where even the most highly skilled of women can't overcome, or prosper.

In other more skill-oriented sports (MMA, Jiu-jitsu, race car driving, Tennis, Bowling etc.) this could be possible, but not in the NBA.

Speaking of skill, The WNBA is now 13 years old. And it's just starting to showcase it's second generation of stars: women like Candace Parker, Sue Bird, and Diana Taurasi.

While the quality of the WNBA product has developed some, it's still too similar to the men's game back when the Lakers nickname actually made sense.

The WNBA fan (all 14 of you) claims that women's “fundamentals” are far better than the men's game. Even if that's true, who actually believes having slightly better fundamentals is going to help the poor girl who has to guard Shaq in the post, or Kobe on the perimeter?

It's just not possible anytime in our lifetimes, with the NBA's current emphasis on size, speed, and strength.

Which brings us to our next question. If women's athletics can't ever be better than the men's game, why should it exist at all?

Because it can entertain. In this country, we seem to have this unreasonable expectation that if its not the best, then it's not worth owning at all.

In combat sports, they have divisional structures, where nobody asks, “Well, if Brian Bowles can't beat up Brock Lesnar, then why should we take it seriously?”

Because it's just more fair to compare yourself to your peers, than everybody on the whole.

And even when we have complex talks of who's the greatest fighter ever, we do it through the prism of “the pound-for-pound rankings.”

Women's athletics should be judged for what it is, and not what we hope for it to be. For some (like myself) watching the pass first, team-oriented, inside game of women's basketball is more what basketball is supposed to be.

For others watching the high flying, fastbreak, run and gun, isolation style of the NBA is more exciting, and curries more favor towards our fast-twitch, action-oriented society.

Both things can, and should exist, to various levels of success. However, never the two should meet.