The GOAT

“…we should applaud her for being the best, apologize for not seeing it sooner, and beg her to stick around.”

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On June 18th of this year a new GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) was declared, quite loudly, throughout the sports world. Diana Taurasi hit a lay-up in the final minute of the first half against the Los Angeles Sparks that propelled her past Tina Thompson to take the title of WNBA all-time leading scorer with 7,489 points. The game stopped and congratulations were heard all around. Other sports greats such as Mia Hamm, Kerry Walsh Jennings, Kobe Bryant, Abby Wombach, and LeBron James cheered her on twitter. Heck, Kobe was even at the game. But every single one of their reactions was the same. And every tweet held the same phrase – #GOAT.

And that is really great. Everyone came together and recognized that Taurasi is the greatest of all time. She has hit more points in her career than any other player in WNBA history. And there is a chance that she will be the best woman we ever see touch a basketball. She is the GOAT…and she was even before the ball was tipped off last Sunday afternoon.

Yes, Taurasi staking her claim as the all-time leading scorer solidified her stature as the best there has ever been in the WNBA. I would love to see someone argue that she isn’t now – honestly, it would be laughable. But what else is laughable is that she is just now being recognized as the GOAT. Did everyone miss the past 17 years of her career?

In case you did, here is a short list of her accomplishments:

 

  • 3x WNBA Champion
  • WNBA Most Valuable Player
  • 2x WNBA Finals MVP
  • 4x Olympic Gold Medalist
  • Holder of 5 WNBA Scoring Titles
  • WNBA Rookie of the Year
  • 7x WNBA All-Star
  • WNBA Record Holder for Most 3-Pointers Made
  • 4x USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year
  • 6x Euroleague Champion
  • 7x Russian National League Champion
  • 3x NCAA Champion

 

…I could go back to her high school career too, but I think we all get the point. Even without the all-time scoring title it is impossible to compete with that résumé. She was already the GOAT when she stepped on the court last Sunday, before she hit that lay-up, and before the world finally acknowledged her for the true champion that she is. And it kind of hurts my heart a little.

Because as a girl who grew up playing basketball, Diana Taurasi was a staple. When I was in high school she was one of the few female players that would make the highlight reel. She was one of the few that you could talk about and other people would know. And she was the one that always came out with that win. She had a legacy for greatness, and for any girl that has ever touched a basketball and felt their chest pound a little harder, she was the person we looked up to. She was the one that we admired.

So it stinks that it took this scoring title for the rest of the world to admire her too. It also stinks that there are a vast number of little basketball-loving girls who weren’t able to see it happen live. I know it made me mad. I went to turn on NBA TV (who was airing the game) and I got the message that this program wasn’t being shown in my geographical area. Seriously? It’s not like they were showing anything else on the channel – it was just a sign stating that I couldn’t watch the GOAT accomplish one of the biggest moments of her career.

Do you think that if someone in the NBA came close to surpassing Kareem that I would have the same troubles? Ponder that one for a bit…

…Because whether you watched it or not (or whether you could or not), Diana Taurasi made history on Sunday. And she did it quietly. Her celebration was tame. Her attitude was composed. She was every bit the humble hero that we all wanted her to be.

And she has always been that player – lethal on the court, but the perfect role model in almost every situation. With the exception of a DUI in 2009, a failed Turkish doping allegation, and the sort-of scandal of her sitting out the 2015 WNBA season by request of her Russian Team, UMMC Ekaterinburg, Diana Taurasi has been a WNBA model citizen. And her slight pitfalls are hardly wide known. Let’s face it, how many people out there actually knew these things about Taurasi before they read this post? Yeah, me neither.

She has been a quiet legend. And for that I salute her. And for that I also challenge her. I know that she could phone it in for the rest of her career and no one would call her on it. She could retire and go live the nice quiet life that she deserves with her wife and former teammate, Penny Taylor. She could fade to the back and wait out the days until someone threatens her title (I don’t see it happening anytime soon though). But I challenge her not to do so. To not be quiet, and to not relax, and to not walk away from basketball or women’s professional sports.

She can coach, be an analyst, be an owner, heck be a mentor for all I care, but I beg her to please just be there. Don’t leave. Because her voice is law at this point – that’s what being the GOAT gives her. She can give her opinion and everyone immediately shuts-up and listens. She can advocate for women’s sports and the world will believe in her cause. Because she is the greatest. She has never led us astray before. Why would she now?

And that is the point. Even when she steps away from the court and she takes off that jersey for the last time, we basketball lovers are still going to want her to lead us. We are going to want to follow her. And yes, it is mighty selfish of us. And no, we may not get our wish. But what if we could?

What if Diana Taurasi got loud and stuck around and didn’t let women’s sports take all the crap they are given? What if she kept pushing, even after that final whistle? What kind of changes would we see for women and young girls?

Maybe if she does stick around and we keep waiting to see what she does next there may be a possibility that the next time a woman gets close to achieving the WNBA all-time scoring title anyone would be able to watch it live.

Maybe that is too wishful of thinking though.

But regardless of if she sticks around or takes the much-deserved quiet life that she has earned for herself after retirement, she will always be the GOAT – the gold standard that everyone will aspire to be. So we should applaud her for being the best, apologize for not seeing it sooner, and beg her to stick around. Because she is a force – always has been and always will be.

 

8% of the World Fame

ESPN does not ignore women. We do.

I want to preface this blog article with the fact that this is not the post I wanted to write this week. In fact, this is nowhere close to that article. But that article needed a bit more time and research, and another article came out on Tuesday that forced me to take notice and respond – the release of ESPN‘s “World Fame 100.”

Essentially, the World Fame 100 is the compiling of the 100 most famous athletes in the world. It was created by looking at a lot of different sources, starting with the Forbes‘ list of highest paid athletes. The study then looked at numerous domestic and international resources, including social media, and ESPN journalists from around the world gave their input. The data that was collected on each athlete was then put through an algorithm created by ESPN’s Director of Sports Analytics, Ben Alamar. Salary was not a factor in compiling this list, and retired players are not included.

So where does that leave us?

With a lot of men. 92 to be exact. Yes, that’s right. There were only eight female athletes that made the list. And of those eight, none of them even cracked the top 10. In fact, they couldn’t even crack the top 15. That glass ceiling just proved a bit too hard in regards to world stardom.

But, without further ado, here are the eight female athletes that seem to hold some weight and represent women around the world:

 

 

It’s sad, right? Women only represent 8% of the 100 most famous athletes around the world. But whose fault is that? Newsweek seems to think it’s ESPN‘s. After the list was released, they wrote an article that was entitled “Why ESPN Loves Cristiano Ronaldo and LeBron, but Ignores Women.” But this one isn’t on ESPN. They just compiled the list. And I must say, the way they came about doing it was rather fair – they took a worldwide approach, sought out social media presences, and even had an analytical formula. Could it have been done a little better? Yeah, maybe. Maybe get journalists that aren’t just from ESPN. But other than that, not bad. So despite what Newsweek may think, ESPN does not ignore women. We do.

Just ask yourself the question, ‘When was the last time I watched a women’s sporting event?’ Was it the World Cup or the Olympics? Because if it is, then you too are part of the problem.

We can’t only love women’s sports every other year. We can’t say we love Serena, but refuse to know the names of any of the other top 5 women’s tennis players. We can’t only care when they are playing for America. And we certainly cannot only care when there is a scandal around.

Look at that list. I could make the argument that every single one of those women are famous for reasons other than their athletic ability. Serena – her current absence from the sport. Ronda – her complete demise from it. Masha – her PED scandal (read last week’s article). Simone Biles – her recent stint on DWTS where she was told to smile and then amazingly told the judges that smiling doesn’t win you gold medals. Hope Solo – getting kicked off the USWNT after a stretch of embarrassments. Caroline Wozniacki – getting dumped by Rory McElroy after their wedding invitations went out (it’s even referenced in the ESPN article). Eugenie Bouchard – opening her mouth with regards to the Masha PED scandal. And Aly Raisman – looking amazing for Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition and then telling off a TSA agent.

Do any of these sound familiar? Sure they do. But can anyone tell me who Hope Solo’s club soccer team is currently? Probably not.

Because let’s face it, being an amazing athlete is not enough for a woman. Maybe for the select few it is (I am betting that if Serena wasn’t pregnant she would still be on this list), but that is certainly not the norm. Our issue is that a woman has to be more – she has to be pretty, and spunky, or scandalous, or have a temper…oh, and of course she has to be the best at what she does. It’s not enough that she just be good at a sport. If she is to be known, she has to be the best. It’s why we can always remember Mia Hamm’s name, but Julie Foudy’s might be harder to come up with. And we do that to these women. We praise the select few into stardom and then let the rest fight it out at the bottom of the heap for their measly paychecks and their local endorsement deals.

But, oh, who could forget endorsement deals? The women on this list, according to ESPN, make a combined $57,650,000 in endorsements. Not bad, right? But Roger Federer, who is currently listed at #4 on the top 100, makes 60 million on endorsements all by himself. Yeah…let that sink in.

Women get the short end of the stick when it comes to sports all the time. They make way less money and they get way less media coverage, which means they have to work that much harder just to stay relevant and to get some equality. So yeah, some of it is on the media. They would rather ask a girl who she is wearing rather than how her training on set plays is going. They are almost forced to retain every single shred of femininity about them when all they really care about is slicing the perfect backhand down the end line. It would seem the media would rather show them off the court than actually on it. Because can anyone tell me what channel you can watch your local NWSL team on? I’ll give you a hint – it’s not on TV. But you best believe you can watch Hope Solo on TMZ. You can see Masha in OK Magazine coming out of a nail salon. Or you could catch Simone Biles perform a perfect cha-cha on basic cable.

But it’s not all on the media. It’s on us. Because we watch TMZ, and read OK Magazine, and tune into DWTS. But we don’t buy tickets to see the Houston Dash play live. We don’t flip through the channels to catch the L.A. Sparks play in a rematch against the NY Liberty. And we surely didn’t watch the French Open when we didn’t even know who was playing (seriously – last week’s article, guys).

We are the problem, my friends. We restrict these women by caring more about their social life than their game. We are part of the reason that they are only 8% of the top 100 and only make 77 cents on the dollar (or 40 cents if you are a US Women’s Soccer Player).

So what do you say? Maybe watch a game instead of a red carpet event. Go to a fan day at the local stadium. Hell, maybe just follow one of your favorite players on social media to find out how their training is coming along. Your changes don’t have to be drastic to make a difference – it’s all the small steps that allow us to bring about large change.

So that’s my challenge to you: care about what the woman does on the court just as much as you care what she does off of it.

 

 

 

You can check out the full list of the World Famous 100 here: http://www.espn.com/espn/feature/story/_/page/worldfame100/espn-world-fame-100-top-ranking-athletes

 

EDD: The Hero DC Needs

“They need to find the dark horse in the race – but the one they all should be rooting for: Elena Delle Donne.”

From most of world’s perspective DC is a tough place to be a sports fan. It seems as though every year there is some sort of heartbreak. This year it was the fact that neither Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals, nor John Wall and the Wizards, were able to reach a Final Four in their respective leagues. Last year it was that Bryce Harper and the Nationals couldn’t make it to the World Series. The Redskins are going to the Super Bowl every year (at least that’s what their die-hard fans say in the preseason anyway) and somehow they don’t ever come close.

But this year legitimately could be different for DC sports fans if they know where to look. This year could be the year that they get their big win. But they just have to know where to place their bets. And for that they need to look in an unusual place. They need to find the dark horse in the race – but the one they all should be rooting for: Elena Delle Donne.

Most people have never heard of her. Sadly, that’s because most people do not watch women’s sports. And that is a shame really, because she is a world-class athlete who actually wants to play for this city, and has the pedigree and determination to deliver DC sports fans a title. But the question remains, ‘Will DC take notice?’

There are a lot of reasons that people should tune in or buy a ticket to watch Delle Donne and the Washington Mystics play this season – it’s not a bad way to spend an evening, it’s a cheap date idea, it’s guaranteed to be a pretty solid game, or the mere fact that they have a real shot at winning a championship. But Delle Donne gives DC fans three things that they don’t generally get day-in and day-out from any of their other beloved players or teams – a new level of dedication, heart, and hope.

Elena Delle Donne is a beast at basketball. Like, freakishly good. In 2015 she was the WNBA MVP and scoring champion, she is an Olympic Gold Medalist, and has a career average free throw percentage of over 90%. Like I said, freakishly good…and freakishly dedicated to her craft. Let me put it in perspective for you – LeBron James’ FT% is sitting at about 74% for a career average. Yes, when it comes to a tie ball game with no time left on the clock and one player shooting a free throw to win it, I’m not picking the best player in the NBA to take it. I’m picking this girl. Hands down.

Delle Donne is a master at her craft. In fact, she is so good, her new coach at Washington, Mike Thibault, stated after their season opener last Sunday that he has a rule that if any of the players on the team violate the line while Delle Donne is shooting a free throw then that player gets fined $25. Because why throw away free points? And with regards to Delle Donne, the phrase ‘free’ throw really does take on a new meaning.

It’s easy to cheer for a player like that. The player that comes in to work everyday, does her job to the best of her ability, and leaves it all on the court. It’s even easier when she dominates her opponents. And that is what DC needs – someone who is dedicated to their technique at such a high level that people are shocked when there is a mistake. Let’s face it, DC has never had that before. In fact, most fans expect them to drop the ball at the one-yard line. They expect the crumble at the finish, or the win slipping through their hands at the last moment. Because that is always what seems to happen in DC.

But now DC has a hero in the shape of a 6’5 shooting guard that doesn’t have that pedigree – doesn’t have that mindset. She has the mindset of a winner and the mindset of someone who knows what she wants and goes after it. And that thing that she wants is us – Washington DC.

In fact, Delle Donne requested a trade from the Chicago Sky in the previous off-season to come play here. Even though the Mystics have never won a championship before. And even though DC can be a rather unforgiving place to play in general. She wanted to be here. She wanted to play for this team and for Coach Thibault and beside Emma Meesseman, the league leader last season in three-pointer field goal percentage (EDD being a close second at 42.6% versus Emma’s 44.8%). To put it simply, she wanted to dominate with this offensive scheme.

But in addition to a great team and a great city, she wanted to be close to family. Especially close to her sister, Lizzie, who has cerebral palsy and happens to be blind and deaf. It’s part of the reason she walked out on her scholarship to play at UConn and instead went back to her home in Delaware to start her NCAA Basketball career. And it’s part of the reason that DC gets a champion athlete – because this athlete has heart and she wants to keep that heart close to home. Family is important to her. And if you’re asking me, she has her priorities right. She is aware that the only meaningful communication she can have with her sister is if she is physically there. She is aware that physical proximity to her support net will help her play better basketball on the court, and help her unwind off of it. Why wouldn’t a DC sports fan want to back someone like that?

I should leave you with that. That should be enough for you to go out and buy a ticket to see this girl completely kill it from the line and be a force beyond the arc. But I am feeling a bit generous today and just in case there are still a few doubters out there I will give you one more reason to watch her and the Mystics this season.

Hope.

It’s something that every sports fan has deep in their heart, but sometimes it is hard for the fans within the DC metro area to find. After years of close calls and ‘just not good enough’ DC has been given a gift. A gift that proved in her first game playing for this city that she could handle the pressure – she scored a team-high 24 points and went 8 of 9 from the line. But how many people living within the DMV actually knew that?

DC has been given greatness, but if they don’t look they will miss it. Elena Delle Donne is the player that can give you hope. She is the player that can give you heart. And she is player that wanted you, DC (and her family, and her friends, and her sister). So what are you going to give her back? Maybe a bit of support? A bit of love?

She can be your champion, DC. She can carry this city on her back and get you a title. But you have to want her to be your champion. Otherwise her greatness will simply pass you by. And that would be the real tragedy.

You can catch EDD and the Washington Mystics this Friday at 10:30 PM take on the Los Angeles Sparks – tune in and check it out!

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Photo from: http://summitthoops.com/2017/04/27/elena-delle-donne-mystics/