Keeping Score: Slam dunk


Over Thanksgiving weekend, the Wall Street Journal ran a profile on women basketball players who can dunk. It struck me as odd that America’s leading financial newspaper was rolling out pictures of Maya Moore, but I suppose they can’t be expected to watch our money burn all the time.

There was one comment about the article that sent me searching for an eight-year-old copy of Sports Illustrated. Consider this little gem: "Dunking a women’s sized basketball is almost as easy as dunking a volleyball. Let me know when they work up to a ‘full-sized’ basketball." (Quotation marks are the male writer’s.)

In December 2000, Tennessee’s Michelle Snow dunked during a game. It was the first time it had happened in a game since 1994, so, of course, Sports Illustrated wanted to talk about it. They also asked readers to write in and share their opinions on Snow’s hops.

Here’s a sampling:

I don’t see there being a problem with women dunking the ball as long as they are able to do it. I know that it made the game much more exciting and enjoyable. Totally Awesome!

As long as dunks remain rare in the women’s game, I have no objection.

Women’s basketball is much better off without all the hoopla surrounding dunks.

Don’t encourage the dunk, encourage the play!

I think that dunking will never be as common place in the women’s game as it in is the men’s. It has nothing to do with ability. It has everything to do with the way women think. Women are not as "showy" as men in that way. We don’t have to jump to great heights and prove that we can do something to feel a sense of accomplishment. We’d rather display a flashy pass (as long as it reaches its target) or a behind the back lay-up. It’s just different for women.

Let me just say now what I said the first time I read this article eight years ago: Seriously, what?

In 1984, Georgeann Wells was the first woman to dunk during an NCAA game. At the time, people predicted that that it would cause an immediate explosion of interest in women’s basketball, and would probably even result in a women’s professional league.

Twenty years later, in 2004, Candace Parker won the dunk contest at the McDonald’s High School All-American game. ESPN called it one of those "stunning indelible moments that transcend sport, crumble barriers and create icons."

Kinda dramatic, don’t you think?

I will never understand the controversy or awe surrounding women’s basketball players who can dunk. If you’ve got the ups to make it happen, make it happen. If you don’t, shoot a lay-up. They way people debate it, you’d think the fate of the entire game rested on it.

If that were the case, the Houston Comets wouldn’t have folded yesterday. With Parker, Leslie, Moore, Sylvia Fowles, and the up-and-coming Brittney Griner, there are more dunkers in women’s basketball than ever.

After all the hype, the shot is only worth two points. Besides, everyone knows the thing that really keeps the WNBA alive isn’t dunks: It’s lesbians.

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