In the day-to-day process of running Swish Appeal and taking care of all the little administrivia that makes the site whatever you think of it, I sometimes forget to stop and just thank our writers for all the hard work put in to make the site go. This is definitely a labor of love for everyone involved and I can't say enough about how much I appreciate what each of our writers brings to the table, whether it be a different geographical region, specific interest, or style.
Everyone is doing these year-in-review articles and I suppose we're making ourselves no different by making it an annual tradition. But I enjoy putting these together just as a public thank you for all the work that people put in, along with some "objective" measures of quality based on the subjectivities of our readers from around the interwebs.
Anyway, the following is a brief summary of some of the most popular articles from the past year based on comments, traffic, Facebook likes, retweets, and selections for SB Nation's Best of the NBA (for those who have forgotten, Swish Appeal is part of SBN's NBA network rather than NCAA). Of course, popularity is driven primarily by the big news, but some of our best stories are the ones that our writers identify independently to put a spotlight on.
Without further ado, the most popular stories at Swish Appeal from 2013 in no particular order.
The new WNBA rule: "No apologies"
One of the biggest developments in women's basketball this year was ESPN's increased commitment to increasing the visibility of the game with a deal that extended the network's relationship with the WNBA until 2022. James Bowman's commentary and analysis of the deal was among the most recommended articles on the site in 2013, which was summarized nicely by pilight in the comments: "Laurel has found an acceptable way to say "Screw you, let's play ball" to the idiots who want to talk about everything else."
The 2013 WNBA Draft
The 2013 WNBA Draft was probably the most heavily-promoted college draft in the history of the league and, perhaps unsurprisingly, it was the biggest traffic day in the brief history of our site. Although I've been urged to brag about my mock draft, our coverage of the draft spanned the entire season and had contributions from multiple writers...so here's the entire 2013 WNBA Draft section for you to revisit.
It didn't take for most of us to tire of all the hype surrounding the so-called "three to see" in women's basketball this season and Albert Lee quickly became the leading voice of the opposition.
His May 29 post that asked, "Is this "3 to See" campaign just getting too biased and coming at the expense of other WNBA teams and players?" was one of the more active on the site and was selected as one of the Best of SB Nation NBA. I won't even re-hash the points here, but - as James suggested in his post yesterday about the State of the WNBA - the 2013 Draft class will probably be a subject of discussion for years to come as people discuss the direction and vitality of the league.
Brittney Griner coming out
Among the most controversial - and yes, as such most commented - series of stories in 2013 was about Brittney Griner coming out publicly in April of this year. A few of us shared thoughts on this issue and there were plenty of perspectives shared in the comments of each of those articles as well. Zack Ward did a nice job of gathering a combination of activist, academic and player perspectives on the issue to help put some context around Griner's coming out story.
Kelsey Bone defies the odds, leads Texas A&M to the SEC title
Taken just outside the 2013 draft's lottery, Kelsey Bone might have been among the players who were overshadowed a bit by the 3 to see hype.
M Robinson wrote one of our most highly-recommended and shared feature stories on how Bone's family has influenced her as a person even as people have doubted, given up, or questioned her commitment to the game. The story includes interviews with both Bone and her mother as they reflect on her college career and what's ahead.
When St. John's fans cheer for the Washington Mystics' youngsters too
You had to know that Nadirah McKenith being drafted by the Washington Mystics would inevitably lead to intrepid St. John's bloggers being in D.C., right? Well it finally happened in September after the New York Liberty's season of frustration ended. With Albert hooking the New Yorkers up with tickets to a Mystics game -- ahhhhh, community! -- we got some entertaining observations from a St. John's perspective straight from the Verizon Center.
Native American heritage draws support for Schimmels in Final Four run
If Louisville knocking off Brittney Griner and the Baylor Lady Bears in the Sweet 16 wasn't the biggest women's basketball "event" of the year, it has to be in the discussion. We won't bring up those bad memories for Baylor fans who felt the officials let things get a bit out of control, but Jessica Lantz put together a feature about the Schimmel sisters and their following in the Native American community, which was by far the most shared feature of the year.
It's still relevant even today as conference play for the 2013-14 season is beginning, but it's also some excellent context for the significance of that run in a broader social context.
Alyssa Thomas' impressive career at Maryland
Zack Ward did a great job covering the Maryland Terrapins and Washington Mystics this year before moving on in his career and his recent article on Alyssa Thomas being the female LeBron James was among the most-read and made the Best of SB Nation NBA.
You'll be hearing plenty from us about Thomas as the 2014 Draft nears, but that's our first major profile for a top prospect this college season.
Sophie Bikofsky: Among the top mid-major shooters
Nobody offers a wider breadth of coverage at Swish Appeal than Ray Floriani, who offers everything from his insights on grade school AAU games to interviews with the best in the WNBA. Easily one of our most shared articles about the mid-major ranks this past year was Ray's November article about Sophie Bikofsky, who worked hard in the offseason to become one of the nation's top early-season shooters and still remains among the best: as of today, she's 27th in the nation in 3-point percentage and sixth in effective field goal percentage, according to WBB State. Not bad.
The Phoenix Mercury: A season of unmet expectations and Corey Gaines' firing
The most commented upon fan post of 2013 was DaSharpshoota15's commentary about the Phoenix Mercury firing head coach Corey Gaines after coaching nearly 200 games with the team and leading them to a championship in 2009.
Although there is little doubt that Gaines was the victim of lofty expectations - there were commentators prior to the 2013 WNBA season wondering whether this team with rookie phenom Brittney Griner would even lose a game on their way to an inevitable title - DaSharpshoota also outlined a number of gripes that Mercury fans have had over the last few years.
Kevin Durant's engagement to Monica Wright
Kevin Durant does so many awesome things over the course of a week that an Oklahoma City Thunder fan might have a hard time identifying one moment that is even his individual best of the year. But for our purposes at a women's basketball site, by far the most talked about Durant story was his covert relationship preceding an engagement to Minnesota Lynx Sixth Woman of the Year candidate Monica Wright.
DaSharpshoota15 also had the fanshot with the official announcement of that, which was among the most recommended and commented upon.
And because everyone loves jam...
Tied with DaSharpshoota's fan post as the most recommended fan post of the year was a contribution from jimhu - who joined the staff of SB Nation's Texas A&M blog Good Bull Hunting this year - which contained very little basketball analysis and a beautiful photo of dessert.
I was going to cram this one into the post even if it wasn't the most commented or recommended simply because it was fun. And as a basketball community, fun should be enjoyed by all and one of the things that I've enjoyed most about Swish Appeal is our relationships with the other bloggers around SB Nation (and beyond) that make following women's basketball that much more enjoyable. There's enough bickering and vitriol in the world; it's nice, every now and then, to see a space where people don't (always) take themselves so seriously and allow themselves to enjoy what we have in common (hopefully): a love of the game.
Ok, that's enough from me. Feel free to leave any other articles in the comments below.