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The Best of Swish Appeal: The top 10 most popular women's basketball stories of 2014

In Part I of our 2014 year-in-review, I look back at the 10 most popular women's basketball stories of 2014 as determined by cold hard facts: Swish Appeal's traffic and social media data.

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

As I've done for the last few years at this time, I want to close out 2014 with a public shout out to the team of writers that make this site go -- honestly, I don't thank them enough for the time, effort, and gas mileage they put in to making this site what it is so this is a public appreciation for their work in the form of a reflection on the biggest stories of 2014 in their words.

As usual, I polled the staff for their favorite articles of the year and then looked to the numbers to find which stories were most popular. The result is not necessarily an exhaustive list of everything that happened in women's basketball this year, but a good overview of some of the high points through the lens of the high points for our team.

So I've divided this up into two parts this year, beginning with the most popular stories of the year (today) and finishing with a review of the various "seasons" that define the annual women's basketball cycle (tomorrow). The author's name is next to the article title in parentheses.

Most popular story overall: Becky Hammon makes her NBA coaching debut (Albert Lee)

The most popular article of 2014 for us was when retired San Antonio Stars star Becky Hammon made her debut as the first full-time paid female NBA assistant coach. People can do their best to try to use all those caveats to diminish the significance of this event, but in a year that was also dominated by stories reminding us that misogyny is still running wild in both sports and society at-large (yes, even right now as you're reading this!) Hammon's achievement is one more step forward for women in sports and specifically the NBA.

Most popular NCAA story: Daisha Simmons' roommate Brittany Jack sharing her own experience at Alabama (Mike Robinson/Brittany Jack)

By far the most popular ongoing story of the year for us was Mike Robinson's outstanding work covering Daisha Simmons' struggle to transfer from Alabama to Seton Hall - in fact, at its height, it was one of the most popular stories in the entire network.

You can click here to check out our storystream about the Simmons story and review what happened, but I particularly liked a summary from Matt Norlander of CBS Sports, which best highlights why I found this story particularly significant:

There are no doubt small details that Alabama likely considers significant to its side of the story, but when you stand back and look at what's happening, the only thing that should matter is the well-being of a woman who's trying to do good as soon as possible to help her family, which includes a brother on a wait list for a kidney, his life hanging in the balance.

Although the story evaded grand critiques of the NCAA's absurdity because the NCAA actually supported Simmons' effort to transfer, it was yet another sad example in college sports of the interests of adults being privileged over the welfare of the youth playing the sport they love.

Mike's work was praised widely by basketball bloggers and national media alike and more than one observer attributed Alabama's change of heart on the matter to the flood of media attention the situation received, which Mike was often out in front of leading the charge. Although I've often been content to work in obscurity scouring through spreadsheets of statistics, Mike's work on this story put Swish Appeal on the map nationally in a way that no previous story or writer had previously. He dominated the list of our top stories in terms of traffic (4 of the top 10), Facebook likes and tweets this year -- I could make this whole post about that one story, but (again) just read the storystream for all of those.

As for Simmons, Queenie and Ray Floriani have continued to follow her as part of their great regular coverage of the Seton Hall program and, controversy aside, she might just be playing well enough to put herself on the WNBA Draft radar (more on that in 2015).

Most popular WNBA story of the year: The Golden State Warriors' interest in buying the L.A. Sparks (Some Warriors homer named Nate)

Before Mike's outstanding work covering the Daisha Simmons story, Albert Lee and James Bowman's outstanding work watching the L.A. Sparks' ownership situation was by far the biggest ongoing story of the year for us -- I was just glad I could pitch in at some point.

Again, you can click here to check out the entire storystream about the situation, but the biggest story for us -- and perhaps the lasting legacy of the entire ordeal -- was the news of the Golden State Warriors' strong interest in jumping into the ranks of WNBA ownership. As James said in his most recent State of the WNBA article, the silver lining that came from that period of uncertainty -- in addition to getting a high-powered basketball legend like Magic Johnson into the WNBA -- was knowing that the WNBA has an owner "on deck" to take on a team if need be.

Most popular FIBA article: USA Basketball announces women's national team finalists (Albert Lee)

And oh yeah, in between the WNBA and college controversy the U.S. women's national team went out and won themselves another gold medal at the 2014 FIBA World Championships.

Click here for the full storystream of their path to gold, but the biggest lasting bit of news from that was about who did/n't make the team and the implications of those decisions for the future of USA Basketball. And with a number of injuries keeping players out of the 2014 tournament, the competition for 2016 could get even more interesting with young players like Brittney Griner, Odyssey Sims, and Breanna Stewart already getting run with Team USA and others like former Notre Dame teammates Jewell Loyd and 2014 All-WNBA selection Skylar Diggins making their own case.

Most popular FanPost: The impact of Skylar Diggins' Sports Illustrated pictorial (pilight)

With strong connections to the entertainment industry off the court, Skylar Diggins has made herself arguably among the most fascinating figures in women's sports as someone who has superstar potential as someone who has established herself as a rising star on the court with the sex appeal to show up in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. At the time of pilight's FanPost, the debate centered on whether Diggins was too focused on the

Most Facebook likes: The extremes of Shoni Schimmel's spectacularly volatile rookie season (A wordy basketball junkie named Nate)

I don't think you can really talk about women's basketball in 2014 without talking about Shoni Schimmel -- although I think Skylar Diggins has a unique kind of superstar potential that makes her arguably one of the most fascinating figures in women's sports right now, I still find Schimmel to be the most fascinating - by far - from a purely basketball perspective.

I think I managed to say all I wanted to say about it in the 3000 or so words I wrote about it, but to summarize: never in any sport will you find a rookie who went from justifiably riding the bench one game to justifiable All-Star MVP within a week. That combined with her status as a cultural icon for Native American communities around the nation made her story uniquely significant in a year that otherwise saw Diggins and Brittney Griner seeing their star rise on and off the court as well. I'm done trying to predict what Schimmel will do next, but it's bound to be a fun ride.

Most commented FanPost: WNBA Opening Night Roster Predictions (Pat Friday)

Not long before joining our team, Pat was an active community member and this one right at the start of the WNBA season gained the most comments of any community-generated post this year.

The news element of this post was the fact of WNBA rosters going back to 12 players and teams having to decide what to do with that last spot. Looking back at that now, among the biggest surprises of the season had to be Spain's Anna Cruz, who not only ended up making the roster but starting and being among the top newcomers in the league this season.

I will continue to shake my fist at the league for not giving Alexis Gray-Lawson a spot. /Angrily shakes fist at the league

Most recommended FanPost: Sexism has a lot to do with WNBA criticism (MysticsFan1)

Our most highly recommended FanPost was MysticsFan1's about the sexism laced all throughout much of the criticism of the WNBA. I have nothing better to say about it than what BearBint said in the comments on that fourth Thursday in November: "I try not to encourage the oh-it’s-just-chick-ball-they-can’t-even-dunk-they’re-all-really-guys crowd by responding to their idiocy, but I hate it, too. And hating misogyny is not a bad thing."

I couldn't have said it better.

Most popular recruiting/youth basketball post: Where will the nation’s No.1 player, Asia Durr, attend college? (Mike Robinson)

Between me, you, and the Internet, Mike knew where Asia Durr was going to attend college before anyone else and was all over that story when it happened. So, kudos on that.

Most popular rumor that may or may not mean anything: Atlanta Dream Head Coach Michael Cooper buys new home in L.A. (James Bowman)

No matter how much you want to pride yourself on quality of prose or depth of analysis, every blogger worth anything knows this fundamental truth: rumors get ALL THE CLIKZ. That is evidenced perfectly by the fact of a story that has been live for less than 10 days drawing the sixth-most traffic of any single article over the last 12 months.

Whether Cooper actually heads back to L.A. to join former "Showtime" L.A. Lakers teammates Magic Johnson and Byron Scott (currently the L.A. Kobe Bryants Lakers' coach) in the SoCal pro basketball scene remains to be seen, but it certainly makes for an interesting close to the year and instant intrigue for next year: the Magic-led Sparks will be making their first actual coaching hire at some point and if it's a coach from another team, some other fanbase will experience the shock of uncertainty about their future again.

If nothing else, the Sparks' search will give us plenty to discuss about women's basketball next year from January 1.

Feel free to share your thoughts on the top stories of the year by dropping your thoughts in the comments or voting in the poll below. And thanks again for reading this year.