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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Raising the bar, not lowering the rim — Strategies for WNBA success

Peyton McKenzie
Erik Drost/Flickr/NetsRepublic/Wikimedia Commons/Photoillustration by

Does the ability to dunk possess that much importance in basketball?

Social media users have long debated the possibility of the WNBA lowering the height of its rims. Most notably, Shaquille O’Neal pitched the idea to three-time WNBA champion Candace Parker on an episode of “NBA on TNT.” 

The claim asserts that if the WNBA lowers the height of its rims, women — who are typically shorter than the male athletes — would be able to show off more explosive and athletic plays like dunking.

O’Neal and many sports fans on the internet say that the addition of the dunk will make women’s play more exciting and attract more casual basketball fans, therefore increasing popularity in an unpopular league.

Lowering the rim in the WNBA will simply exacerbate the biggest issue the WNBA has — a lack of respect from the male-dominated basketball market. This solution ignores the current popularity of women’s college basketball and does not address the root cause of the league’s failure.

It’s no secret that women’s basketball is disrespected because of a perceived lack of athletic ability. This element of casual sexism in the sports community restricts the potential growth of women’s sports.

Lowering the net will just feed into the mob of disparagement the WNBA already receives, and will reinforce the narrative that female athletes are inferior to their male counterparts.

Let’s hypothetically say that this change would be a surefire way to increase the WNBA’s popularity. If you make this change at the pro level, what does that mean for every other level of women’s basketball across the country? If you lower the rim in the pros, you have to lower it everywhere else.

The NBA is not more successful solely because of the dunk. While dunks are exciting, they should not be seen as a cure-all for increasing interest in the sport.

Women’s basketball does not need dunks for people to take interest. 

On Oct. 15, Caitlin Clark and the Iowa Hawkeyes set an NCAA women’s basketball attendance record when they played in front of more than 55,500 fans at Iowa football’s Kinnick Stadium. How many dunks were in that game? Zero.

Instead of chasing after elements from the men’s game, the focus should be on celebrating the strengths and distinctive qualities that already exist within women’s basketball. Women’s college basketball does a great job of making those types of connections with the fans.

The easiest way to grow the WNBA is to target the existing NBA audience. From a viewer’s perspective, the WNBA is the most poorly marketed major professional sports organization in the U.S. Part of the focus of its marketing strategy has been to try and convert more women into basketball fans.

The problem with that is men make up more than 80% of the NBA’s fanbase. But what the WNBA doesn’t realize is that true fans of basketball watch because they enjoy the sport itself and a good storyline  — no matter the gender.

Many people like to say, “Women’s basketball is boring,” but when the media doesn’t attempt to generate any buzz around big games, of course fans won’t be as invested. When storylines are marketed correctly, people will watch.

Last year’s NCAA Women’s National Championship game between Iowa and LSU was heavily anticipated. The media did a great job of marketing the duel between superstars Clark and Angel Reese. In addition to the massive in-person audience, the game drew almost 10 million viewers, the largest television audience for any women’s basketball game ever.

That being said, the WNBA should also continue to target young girls who play basketball. That’s how you create stars, by giving young fans a role model. An entire generation of male basketball players can be influenced by an NBA star like LeBron James.

James was marketed as the next huge star in the NBA, which generated an entirely new fanbase. 

Young female hoopers do not have any highly marketed megastars to look up to on the professional level. This is solely because the WNBA has done a very poor job at creating them. Stars are formed when they are marketed extremely well, and failing to tap into a base of young basketball players craving for a role model is a driving cause for the league’s failure.

Promotions and events that highlight the skills of the best WNBA players help put the league in the spotlight it is capable of reaching. A great promotion that showcased the pure talent of the WNBA was the Stephen Curry vs. Sabrina Ionescu 3-point competition this past NBA All-Star Weekend.

Curry is considered the greatest 3-point shooter in NBA history and Ionescu is one of the WNBA’s biggest stars. Though she lost the competition against Curry by three points, Ionescu shot at the NBA’s 3-point line (which is a foot and a half further away from the hoop than the WNBA’s) and ended up finishing with 26 points, which would have tied the winning score of the NBA 3-point contest that same night.

ESPN needs to give more primetime exposure to the WNBA. The first two games of the WNBA finals averaged close to 700,000 viewers, with Game 1 airing on ABC and Game 2 airing on ESPN. Last year the WNBA was holding its own when competing for time slots with NFL games and the World Series. The WNBA should market its stars and their personalities and watch the league flourish in a primetime game.

Lowering the rim completely changes the root principles of the game. Basketball is a game that can be played by anyone. Though the WNBA has never seriously considered this change, it will just create more division within a sport where gender bias is the biggest hurdle. A lack of attention is what handicaps women’s basketball, not a lack of alley-oops.

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Ben Busillo, Associate Opinion Editor
Peyton McKenzie
Peyton McKenzie, Creative Director

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    Dee SnutsMar 31, 2024 at 9:19 pm

    It’s unarguable that on average male professional athletes are superior than female professional athletes. Thats not a slight towards women, it’s just fact. Because of that, in many sports, concessions are made for women to make the level of skill relative to sex. As it relates to women basketballs are smaller, golf tees are closer to the pin, nets are lower, etc. and everyone knows why. Fortunately these concessions make results in women’s sports more similar to men’s BUT they still don’t make the sports as exciting to watch. If the goal is increased viewership, my argument is that even more concessions should be made so that the end result is more similar and more importantly demonstrates a similar level of skill.

    It seems like you’re caught up on trying to convince people that we should appreciate competition for competitions sake. If that were the case children’s soccer should be broadcast on ESPN. Although it’s very competitive relatively speaking, it’s just not compelling to have an audience bigger than the participants immediate family for obvious reasons.

    Viewers want excitement based on the highest level of skill and athleticism regardless of sex. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but mid range jumpers, layups, and the once in a blue moon dunk are great but they’re the more mundane elements of basketball. The mindless hoard want carnage. They want DUNKS. Dunks from the free throw line, alley oops, reverse dunks, windmills, & tomahawks. They want the stare down afterwards and the moment the dunkee realizes they can either pick themself up up off the floor and respond in kind or tuck their tail and go sit on the bench. It’s a bloodsport where no one dies except your reputation unless you convince us otherwise.

    My suggestion is to get dunked on, dunk on someone else and until then use your smaller ball, casually shoot from the elbow, and stop commenting on things you don’t understand.