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WNBA All Star Gameday

By Don Collins
Today, the WNBA has its All Star Game. I’ve only had the pleasure of attending one WNBA game in my life and it was awesome. The game I attended was on Saturday, July 7, 2018 and featured the Chicago Sky and the Minnesota Lynx at the Wintrust Arena in Chicago, Illinois.
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Outside of the Wintrust Arena. Chicago, Illinois

I decided to go to this specific game because the G.O.A.T., Maya Moore, was coming to town. Moore, who is also an All-Star this season, happens to be one of my favorite players of all time so I literally got chills seeing her warm up.
This game, which resulted in a Sky victory, really opened my eyes to how fun the WNBA games are. One of the things that I noticed was how involved the league is with the community and the sponsors. Not that the other leagues aren’t involved, but the community appeal was at the forefront of my experience and I absolutely loved every second.
Looking forward to the game this afternoon, I think that we’re in for a real treat. This year’s event will be like none other. The media presence for this game has really been ramped up. The number of cameras has been increased, the players will be mic’d up and there will be locker room access galore.
The one thing that I’ve learned is that the media plays a vital role in getting people who are interested to watch, but more importantly, the media can attract new fans to the sport. The good news, according to wnba.com, is that viewership is up 38% in the first-half.  Hopefully, the trend can continue after people tune in to watch this game that tips off at 3:30 p.m. (ET).
Reference
Star-studded Verizon WNBA All-Star Game 2018 on ABC airs Saturday. (2018, July 25).  WNBA.com. Retrieved from http://www.wnba.com/news/star-studded-verizon-wnba-all-star-game-2018-on-abc-airs-saturday/ 

Good On You, Liz Cambage!

By Bre Moorer

The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) will have its 19th annual All-Star Game at the Target Center in Minnesota, where the home team Lynx won the championship against the Los Angeles Sparks last season.  The game is on Saturday, July 28 at 3:30 pm ET as Team Parker takes on Team Delle Donne.  Maya Moore earned the Verizon WNBA All-Star MVP trophy last year, but this year all eyes will be on the woman from Down Under – Liz Cambage.

Elizabeth “Liz” Cambage has been a professional since 2008, as she took part in the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL).  The 6ft 8 in center was drafted 2nd overall by the Tulsa Shock, now the Dallas Wings, in 2011.  She even represented Australia in the Olympic Games in 2012.  Although the 26-year-old has had an eventful and successful career, something happened on Tuesday, July 17 that fans of basketball will remember for a long time.

In a 104-87 home win against the New York Liberty, Cambage scored a record-setting 53 points for all of Twitter and women’s basketball fans around the world to watch.  In addition to her whopping 53 points, Liz had 10 rebounds and 5 blocks.  Before Cambage, the WNBA record for most points in a game was 51.  That record was held by Riquna Williams, who also played for the Tulsa Shock, but is now a member of the Los Angeles Sparks.  As the Wings pulled away from the Liberty in the 4th quarter, every sports site had their article ready to publish about Cambage’s special performance.

Just to name a few, Bleacher Report, CBS, Ballislife, SB Nation, The New York Times, ESPNW, and Sports Illustrated expressed their amazement in Cambage with tweets and articles.  NBA player Kevin Durant left a comment on Instagram that suggested we all are witnessing Liz’s “era of dominance.”  During her post-game interview, Cambage addressed those who doubted her ability to play in the American league.  She mentioned her “big numbers” in other leagues and ended the interview with, “I guess this game is for y’all.”  The attention that Liz is getting comes at a time when WNBA players and fans are asking for more attention and support for the league. If making history does not do it, then what will?

The WNBA’s Low Pay in the Age of Social Media

By Bre Moorer

For the past couple of months, WNBA stars have been more outspoken than usual about the pay gap.  Or maybe they have always shared their thoughts, but did not get as much attention as they are getting now.  It could be because they can just type their thoughts out in 140 characters or less and simply hit a button that shows their message to millions of people.  That has been an option for years, but why are the fed up women of the professional basketball league seemingly being heard now more than ever?  With the help of social media, specifically Twitter, the low salaries in the WNBA are back in the spotlight this summer, but this time it feels different.

To get the discussion started this time around, Skylar Diggins-Smith of the Dallas Wings appeared on ESPN’s Get Up on May 28th to address the issue with Jalen Rose and Michelle Beadle.  Jalen directed his frustration toward the NBA by saying they need to do a better job of “dedicating resources to help promote” the women’s league since the WNBA is a “subsidiary of the NBA.”  While Diggins-Smith did not flat out agree with Jalen’s point about the NBA being responsible for WNBA players not getting paid as much, she did bring up the fact that “it’s all about exposure.”  In the same breath, the fearless leader of the Dallas Wings also mentioned social platforms should be better utilized.  She recommended showing more games on Twitter.  The South Bend legend’s comments inspired her peers to express themselves without regret.

In the wake of LeBron James signing a 4-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers for a whopping $153.3 million, rookie sensation A’ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces took to Twitter to “congratulate” King James.

While some Twitter users backed Wilson, most users bombarded the 1st overall pick in the 2018 draft with reasons as to why they think she should get back in her lane.  One person said ratings are too low for the women hoopers to get more money, to which Wilson responded it is more than just viewings.  A couple of users tweeted that if she was as good as LeBron, then she would earn more.  The power forward laughed at those tweets for the most part, but she did say to one troll that bench players in the NBA get paid more than starters in the WNBA – eliminating the arguments that the pay gap is about skill set.  Perhaps the most popular argument against the WNBA getting paid more is the NBA bringing in more revenue than the WNBA.  The 2017 NCAA champion had a response for that too.  She said that the NBA gets more of a percentage of the revenue they bring in than the women so it is still unfair regardless of how much revenue is brought in.  Wilson spent a whole weekend defeating Internet trolls in the beginning of July. She ended her run by hoping that the men in her mentions had daughters who want to play basketball so that they can grasp where she is coming from.  She was “glad to stir the pot.”

This past weekend, NBA superstar Damian Lillard watched A’ja Wilson’s Las Vegas Aces and the Connecticut Sun work.  He was obviously impressed by what he saw and backed Wilson’s call for equal pay.  By the end of the game, a video of Lillard revealing his thoughts on the lack of respect WNBA players get was trending on Twitter.

In Lillard’s opinion, the women as individuals should be treated as the pros they are as far as salaries go and their league deserves to be exalted.  Having someone like Damian Lillard, who is a 3-time NBA All-Star, could start a trend of NBA players speaking up in support of WNBA players getting paid more.

After all is said and done, the WNBA is in need of support and exposure in order for its players to get what they deserve in the first place – more money.  As long as the women continue to use their platforms and their male counterparts actively show their love for the WNBA, the future looks bright for equal pay between the NBA and WNBA.

Why Can’t I Buy A WNBA Jersey?

By Don Collins

The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) season tipped off Friday night, May 18 at 10 pm ET. The match-up featured the Dallas Wings vs. the Phoenix Mercury, with the Mercury winning, 86-78. This year marks the 22nd year of existence for the WNBA. Let me be the first to say that last year’s Final was compelling and awesome. Here’s to another successful season.

If I have any gripes about the 2018 season, it is that I sought to purchase the jersey of one of my favorite basketball players of all time: Minnesota Lynx forward, Maya Moore.

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Minnesota Lynx Forward Maya Moore

Let me clarify. I could not purchase an officially licensed jersey from the WNBA team store. I’m sorry, but I don’t want to order some poorly made jersey from eBay and hope that the stitching stays together. It wasn’t just Moore’s jersey that was unavailable. Almost every player in the league was missing their threads online, save for a few.

My problem became something I wanted to write about because I was curious and decided to make my way to the NBA G League page just to compare. Granted, there was an absence of replica jerseys there as well, but I could purchase a customizable jersey for the team I searched.

I’m not naïve, I know that the revenue for the G League and the WNBA isn’t the same as the NBA, but to be fair, I DON’T CARE. These are the premiere women athletes and yeah, I want the option to purchase a Maya Moore jersey. And Elena Delle Donne’s. And Skylar Diggins-Smith’s. And Candace Parker’s. I think you get it.

At the time of this writing, there very well could be a plan of action in place to create the apparel. If so, then alright, I’m ecstatic. But if not, I think Nike needs to get on it and expand the line. I’m talking jerseys, hats, t-shirts, etc. I’m going to one of the two games the Lynx play in Chicago this year against the Chicago Sky and even though my hometown team  is hosting (and I want them to be successful), I would much appreciate rocking my #23 jersey.

Did The Toronto Raptors Fix Their Problem?

By Don Collins

The Toronto Raptors have relieved Dwane Casey of his duties as head coach. The team made the move after the sweep at the hands of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Another year of not advancing past James and company apparently was enough to hand the coach his pink slip. After winning 320 games in seven seasons, I wonder what Toronto is going to do to upgrade from Casey.

Look, I get it, you probably should not get swept by this current iteration of the Cavs, but this feels like a knee-jerk reaction. After posting 59 wins and being the number one seed in the Eastern conference, to fire your coach because his team succumbed to the greatest player of all time is not the course of action I would take. Is it not better to allow the team to learn from this most recent loss? Or is three years of falling to James enough? I don’t cut the checks, but some factors must be examined.

My concern for the Raptors is that they won’t find the greener pastures they are seeking. Recently, several franchises have experienced various degrees of success in replacing a successful coach with a new one to try to reach the pinnacle of the NBA. In this case, I see more of what the Chicago Bulls did with Tom Thibodeau than what the Golden State Warriors did with Steve Kerr.

This is a team that, for better or for worse, must try to figure it out when it comes to LeBron James. They are not swimming in cap space so unless a trade comes, they will have to rely on the duo of Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan to figure it out. I’m not too sure a leadership change from the most successful coach in team history was necessary. Allowing continuity to improve a team with a deep roster without clear on-the-court upgrades surely was an option and I wonder why it was not chosen. For the time being, LeBron is still the mental hurdle the group must overcome regardless of who is in charge.

In the past few days, the Raptors surely discussed how they could reclaim Toronto from the vice grip LeBron has on their prospects for a championship. Firing the coach is one way to try and fix the problem and it is common with a lot of teams. A new voice may be able to get better out of the same ingredients, but it’s a calculated risk that could be deemed unnecessary if the new coach experiences a decrease in success.

Casey did a wonderful job during his time in Toronto. His tenure is not defined by failed expectations but rather by exceeded ones. Championship or bust is a reality in the NBA, but that mentality can be the untimely demise of an entire era of a team.

The 2018 NFL Broadcast Boot Camp from My View

By Bre Moorer

Bre Moorer is a senior at Bowling Green State University where she pursues a major in Sport Management with a specialization in General Business.  She is originally from Akron, Ohio, about forty miles south of Lake Erie.  Her primary sport interest is basketball – at the amateur and professional level.

Since my first day on campus at Bowling Green State University (BGSU), I have been inspired to “put myself out there.”  From interviewing for a manager position with the women’s basketball team, to earning a spot on the Sport Management Alliance’s professional development committee.  Whenever someone asks me why I call BGSU home, the answer is clear.  The students come first and have endless opportunities.

This spring I received an e-mail telling me I was selected, along with 7 of my peers, as a student ambassador for the 2018 NFL Broadcast Boot Camp.  It feels good to know that faculty members thought of me when presented with this once-in-a-lifetime experience.   This year was the NFL’s 12th annual Boot Camp, which is just one of the Player Engagement’s many educational programs offered to active and retired players (also known as legends).  There were 36 players in all, but some high-profile faculty also came to educate them.  On the first day, I was paired with a fellow student ambassador, Mitchell Bailey, to supply players and faculty members with credentials and the week’s itinerary as they checked into the hotel.  Later on, the players were divided into 4 groups in order to make the sessions more personal and engaging.  My group of 8 consisted of Rahim Abdullah, Bobby Brown, Donald Willis, Tori Gurley, Joselio Hanson, Fred Jackson, Jerry Porter, and Carlos Rosado.  I guided the most fun group, in my biased opinion, to breakout sessions around campus in a timely and low-profile manner.  I found shortcuts to keep the players “safe” from the infamous Bowling Green wind.  Most of them live down south and reminisced on the days they had to battle a cold campus.  The first day of rounding the legends and active players up was not easy.  I had a hard time telling men who are over 6 feet and 230 pounds what to do, where to go, and when to stop eating for a walk across campus, until Rahim Abdullah said, “You have to speak up”, he continued, “and know that we trust you to look out for us”.

I have to admit, as a sport management student, I am not the most passionate about journalism.  Therefore, I sat out some sessions and updated the group on the time they had left with the faculty members from the hallway.  However, I found myself extremely interested in the “Ethics in Broadcast Journalism” and “Sports Media Coverage of Social Issues” sessions.  To show just how sweet the guys are, I will share a story.  During the “Ethics in Broadcast Journalism” session, the players had discussions about protesting the anthem and domestic violence in the NFL.  After they all shared their views and learned how to communicate them properly on camera, a couple players checked to make sure I was comfortable during the domestic violence conversation since I was the only woman in the room.  I knew then that they had my back.

The highlight of my time as a student ambassador was watching sportscaster James Brown (J.B.) in action.  His first interaction with us was when he interviewed past participants of the NFL Broadcast Boot Camp.  We all marveled at his smooth transition from topic to topic and knowledge of the panelists.  J.B. stopped to talk to everyone who wanted a word and was just as kind as he seems on television.  He was open to giving out advice and sat in on some sessions to give his expert input.

In conclusion, the 2018 NFL Broadcast Boot Camp was an exceptional experience that I will remember forever.  I grew professionally and personally.  It was a chance to network and I learned to take charge as the leader of my group.  Future student ambassadors for this program will definitely enjoy it and I hope they happen to be BGSU Falcons!

The King’s Court?

By Don Collins

(Collins – below left, with Bre Moorer and Randy Norman)

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Sheesh. I was wrong. Not about LeBron James. He’s been his usual brand of excellence. You could argue this is the best he’s ever played. No, I was wrong for another reason: the state of the Cavaliers. I want to issue a public apology to the Indiana Pacers. On my podcast, Can’t Be Stopped, I was making predictions and I chose the Cavaliers (like any normal human being outside of the Hoosier state would) and I said they would dispatch them in the minimum four games. I never would have imagined what would happen next.

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Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis, Indiana

I was able to get a first-hand look at the Cavaliers’ first attempt to eliminate the Pacers. I was fortunate enough to be in Indiana for Game 6 and from the beginning it was clear that Indiana would not be going quietly. The mere fact that it was even in a Game 6 was unfathomable going into the series.

Indiana did not get swept. In fact, they were the better team the entire series. How is it possible, you ask? It was a continuation of what they had done all year. Indiana was 3-1 against the Cavs going in and I was blind to the fact that they had handled them up until LeBron used his powers to somehow will his team to victory.

I was able to see just how poorly this Cavaliers team can perform. Game 6 ended with a final score of 121-87. LeBron finished with 22 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists. The benefit of going to the game live was that I was able to see plain as day that no one else contributed statistically. On television, you often just get to focus on the bottom line. LeBron is producing, and they will show a graphic totaling the rest of the team’s stats. Being in person, I was able to see the whole scope of how Indiana attacked them and vice versa. Reading the program for the evening showed the disparity of the series: LeBron was averaging 34.8 points per game and the next highest was Kevin Love with 11.8. That is insanity.

The other thing that makes going to an NBA playoff game in person so special is just the atmosphere. Most 34-point blowout wins on television are causing me to change the channel. Being present changes so much due to the energy level of seeing the home team destroying the other team. I had never been to a Pacers’ home game and I can say that while I still love Bulls’ home games the most, Indy was an excellent venue.

LeBron did his job, however, in the long run and they sent the Pacers home for the summer, but I will not underestimate them in the future. I learned that just because a team isn’t in the regular rotation of TNT games doesn’t mean they can be taken lightly.

Indy coming to play for 7 games has repercussions going forward. I normally do not doubt LeBron but seeing how much energy he spent while getting hounded by Indy makes me worry about the chances he keeps his Finals appearances streak.

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Is LeBron getting beat up too much?

Lebron is functioning at the height of his powers and I don’t know if he can keep this pace up. Or if it would even matter as the teams get better. Especially with the Raptors looking legit this year. Time will tell.