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Hoops Happening: Today in women’s basketball (and beyond) — Friday June 1, 2018

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Mark Jackson fell down on the job when discussing the WNBA during Game 1 of the NBA Finals last night. His lack of insight is no surprise but it is, however, inexcusable. So, here’s a REAL list of players with MVP possibilities for this 2018 WNBA season.

Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Clippers - Game Five
Mark Jackson
Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Last night during Game 1 of the NBA Finals, when asked to identify a player in the WNBA who is having an MVP-caliber season so far, Mark Jackson named Cheryl Miller as his favorite player, while a cohort mentioned Diana Taurasi.

Imani McGee-Stafford of the Atlanta Dream tweeted feeling insulted by these comments, and who could blame her? Jackson & Co. showed very clearly that they are clueless about the happenings in the WNBA. They put on full, worldwide display mainstream sports media’s refusal to cover women’s team sports with any seriousness and their staunch commitment to covering literally anything else — including geese, mascots and children (see below).

This is bias. This is discrimination. This is sexism. This is misogyny.

THIS IS NOT OKAY.

A real list of current MVP candidates

For those who are not in the know, Cheryl Miller never played in the WNBA. She was a dominant collegiate player and won a gold medal with the 1984 Olympic team. But she was never a professional basketball player. Diana Taurasi, for all of her greatness, had one amazing, history-making game this season but has struggled ever since.

So, no — Cheryl Miller (who has not played in ages) is not a player in contention for an MVP award for the 2018 WNBA season and neither is Taurasi (who is struggling, while other players are showing out with Big Girl Baller performances night in and night out).

Although it is too early in the season to talk seriously about MVP awards, the following players are balling out of their minds. If they continue their dominant performances, they should be in contention for any number of accolades, including Defensive Player of the Year or Most Improved Player of the Year — not just MVP.

8 WHO ARE PLAYING GREAT

For perspective, the most any team has played so far this season is five (of 34) games. But the following players are going fire ball nearly every night (or they have recently come into form with dominant performances):

  • Tina Charles, New York Liberty: dropped 34 points in comeback win against the Wings this week
  • Liz Cambage, Dallas Wings: averaging a double-double on points and rebounds
  • Skylar Diggins-Smith, Dallas Wings: high scorer for her team and killing it from deep
  • Chelsea Gray, LA Sparks: game-winning shots, crushing defensive efforts, current Player of the Week (West)
  • Jewell Loyd, Seattle Storm: killing it in every aspect of the game, in every game, with the team at 5-1
  • Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm: same as above
  • Alyssa Thomas, Connecticut Sun: double-digit scoring every night, strong defensive hustle, undefeated team, current Player of the Week (East)
  • Kristi Toliver, Washington Mystics: has carried team to 5-1 record, with key players out due to injuries or illness — and most wins have been on the road

Full erasure by mainstream sports media

If Jackson and his crew only follow mainstream media for their information about the WNBA, it makes sense that they would know nary a thing about the happenings in the W because mainstream sports media do not cover women’s team sports.

This story was already in progress so, for days, I’ve been collecting screenshots from various sports media sources — from ESPN to USA Today’s For The Win and othersto illustrate the point.

In the screenshot below, ESPN does not mention any women’s sports in its top headlines. Although the feel-good story about the Arizona Cardinals player helping a traveler is timely, it does not pertain to a player in an active season in his sport.

And, yes, folks — there we have it: wild geese > WNBA.

Since you would’ve missed it by looking at this “news,” here’s what really happened in actual sporting news on Wednesday:

The Atlanta Dream defeated the Minnesota Lynx, the reigning MVP champs, on a buzzer-beating shot from Angel McCoughtry.

That’s 0-for-0, ESPN.

In this one, we have four men’s team sports featured on the front page and the lone woman is an athlete in an individual sport: Serena Williams.

Ah, but they included the greatest tennis player of all time who happens to be both female and African-American; that should count for something, some might say.

Wrong!

Yes, Williams should be front-page news all the damn time. But why are women’s team sports not front page news also? This is an extra wrinkle in the time-old tradition of demonizing or ostracizing women in groups. Women in groups were once called witches and their groups were once called covens.

These women were killed.

The world knows Williams, and her sister Venus, and Danica Patrick, and Simone Biles, and Gabby Douglas, and Mary Lou Retton, and Michelle Kwan. The world does not know — but should — every WNBA player listed in this piece, plus many more.

ICYMI (and we know you did!): Also on Wednesday, Dallas Wings center Liz Cambage had a monster 28-point, 16-rebound double-double ... which was not enough to get the win over the New York Liberty, thanks to Tina Charles’ 34 points and 10 rebounds!

Finally, this one is interesting. We have lead stories about the NBA and MLB. GOAT Serena Williams is crammed towards the bottom, and the only other female on the page is a child pinned to a story about a spelling bee game.

This is not a diss against spelling, spelling bees or spelling bee games. It is, however, a commentary on how mainstream sports media will go out of their way to cover literally anything over women’s team sports.

I mean, a mascot getting pelted in the nuts with a wayward baseball is news?

But not the fact that 18 of Tina Charles’ 34 points were scored in the fourth quarter?!

Or, that the Seattle Storm handed the surging Washington Mystics their first loss of the season that same night?!?!

#GTFO.

A brazen disrespect

McGee-Stafford and all players, coaches and fans of the WNBA should feel insulted by what these broadcasters put on display last night. Jackson’s identification of Cheryl Miller as his favorite WNBA player exposed the media’s neglect of women’s basketball. It’s not that he can’t have Miller as a favorite, but that he appears to have blurted out the first name of the a female basketball player that came to mind, demonstrating a lack of knowledge of what’s happening in the league today.

While some camps have pointed fingers and claimed that the league just sucks — and that the low arena numbers are because no one likes the WNBA — Jackson & Friends confirmed what the rest of us have known all along:

People do not like the WNBA because people do not know the WNBA, and people do not know the WNBA because mainstream sports media do not cover the WNBA. Considering that half the people in this country are female, this is a problem that cannot be allowed to continue — because it is a culturally-pervasive issue that is not just confined to sports.

In conclusion, McGee-Stafford had a great point in noting that the least Jackson could do was be honest, yet play it off, e.g. Ah, I’ve been so mired in NBA coverage I haven’t even had a chance to watch yet. But for me, this does not go far enough. Even if he hadn’t seen a single game, an intern couldn’t do some basic internet research to give him some talking points about which players and teams are doing well so far?

The bottom line is that the WNBA tends to be an afterthought, a league that never enters people’s minds long enough for them to explore ways to enhance coverage. Obviously, they see no problem with things as they are. But if asked who they feel should win MVP honors for the 2017-18 NBA season, NBA Twitter and the entire sports world would dissolve into the core of the earth if the answers were Magic Johnson and Dirk Nowitzki.

Mark Jackson & Friends: You have at least three more NBA Finals games to get this right.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed the naming of Cheryl Miller as a favorite WNBA player to Hall of Famer and TNT broadcaster Reggie Miller, rather than to Mark Jackson. This has been corrected, with sincere apologies to Reggie Miller and Turner Sports.


Game recap

Seattle Storm (101) vs. Las Vegas Aces (74)

Against the Storm in Seattle, the Aces stuck to what is becoming a pattern: falling behind early, but then rising up for a strong fourth quarter. The Aces were down by 24 points after the first quarter. They lost the second and third quarters, too, although not by as wide a margin as the first. And Las Vegas won the fourth quarter 19-10 ... when it was much too late.

The Storm got it done with the usual suspects, Jewell Loyd and Breanna Stewart, who combined for 41 points, with Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis chipping in 13. Sue Bird was close to double-double territory with 11 points and 9 assists.

With this win, the Storm move to a 5-1 record for the season (tied with the Washington Mystics at second in the standings, with the Connecticut Sun at first with an undefeated 3-0 record so far). But it didn’t stop there!

Seattle is known for its precipitation and the Storm players made it rain, dropping in a whopping 17 three-pointers to clench the WNBA record for most threes in a game. Watch the beautiful showers!


Today’s tripleheader

The 0-4 Aces head back to Vegas for a tilt against the 5-1 Mystics in a late-night matchup. At 8 p.m. EST on ESPN2, the 2-3 Minnesota Lynx take on the 2-3 Phoenix Mercury. The 3-0 Connecticut Sun go against the 2-2 Chicago Sky at 9 p.m. EST.

Previews are forthcoming.


Play of the night

The Storm’s Mercedes Russell is having none. of. it. from Nia Coffey of the Aces.


Links Appeal


How to #WatchThemWork all season


Shine brighter. C’mon! You can do it. * flicker flicker *