Ok, hear me out...

Ben Ezugha

Hi, my name is Ben. I am new to liquidfish, and this is my first blog post. I am a former athlete, a current designer, and I have something I want to confess:

..I think I am a WNBA convert. This was my first season giving it a legitimate shot and I’m sold.

In fact, I can argue that it is a better product than men’s NCAA basketball. I think men’s college ball is boring. The shot clock is too long. There are too many time outs. The coaches have too much control over the tempo as they stifle the individual expression that makes the game fun. Not to mention the players aren’t good enough to hold my attention.

The WNBA is none of these things.

I came to this conclusion during the 2018 Women’s NCAA tournament. For the second year in a row, I watched nail-biters in the Elite Eight, Final Four and Championship rounds. Two straight years where the excitement, parody and randomness of the women’s game trumped the men’s. There was nothing on the men’s side that came close to the clutch shooting of Arike Oqunbowale and the performance of Notre Dame. The footage of the announcers calling the final moments went viral. Even Kobe Bryant was live tweeting the game. I am also a sucker for watching juggernauts nose-dive on national TV with all the marbles on the line, and Geno Auriemma’s UCONN Huskies were barely scraping to keep their unbeaten record alive against the onslaught of the Fighting Irish. I knew I was watching a moment.

So when it finished, I thought to myself; “these players gotta be going somewhere.. The WNBA should be full of Arike’s, right?” And instead of dreading a long offseason between the end of the NBA FINALS and the NFL preseason, I came to the conclusion that I would fill that gap by actively watching the WNBA.

Taking a newfound interest in the League has its pros and cons, but before I go there, I must touch on something that helped me to watch “women’s basketball”. I had to strip away any and all expectations of what I thought professional basketball should look like. A lot of people are spoiled by the NBA, and I had to wrap my brain around the idea of a man standing 6’8”/6’10” and covering ground like a gazelle being extremely bizarre and rare. When I put that aside, I was able to see the WNBA for what it is.. GOOD basketball. If you watch enough WNBA, you can begin to see NBA doppelgängers in it’s individual players. You can also appreciate the ferocity some women have on the glass. You start to notice the speed they have in the open court, or with their first step from a triple threat position. If you catch enough games, you’ll know that they the average WNBA player probably shoots as well —if not better— than their male counterparts. Cons? You can’t find it on TV anywhere. Chances are, cornhole or spikeball gets more airtime on ESPN on a Saturday afternoon than a marque WNBA matchup on NBA TV (requires a paid subscription I don’t have) or on Lifetime (who watches Lifetime?).

As I write this, I am thinking about the two game 5’s (game 7 equivalent in the NBA) that I watched last night to decide the teams who will play in the WNBA FINALS. One of which had their star player return from a hyperextended knee in a game 2 loss return to carry her team to a first ever FINALS birth in franchise history in a slugfest, and the other who had the oldest player in the league (37) summon a rain dance to bury their opponent in a barrage of threes in the 4th quarter. All after breaking her nose in game 4. If this were men’s basketball, it would have been front and center of Sportscenter for a 48-hour news period.

The cool thing about all this is that I have very talented co-workers who have been working on a newly completed website for A’ja Wilson, the first overall pick and WNBA Rookie Of The Year for the Las Vegas Aces. I remember A’ja from the first of the two aforementioned NCAA tournaments I watched. She ran through the competition on the way to the ‘ship, and here I was on day one of the job, watching my colleagues working on one of the most dope websites I’ve probably ever seen on her behalf (seriously, go check it out ajawilson22.com). Ironically, as I’m finding the league on a personal level, Liquidfish brought me even closer to it on a professional one as well.

I haven’t been shy about my newfound interests in the circles that I run in. My friends attribute my new fascination to me being a new father of 15-month-old identical twin daughters. To that I say that they are both right and wrong. I did want to take up something new to occupy the layover in sports over the summer.  But, I also wanted to be entrenched into something my babies can one day look up to. I figure that if I start now, then by the time they can understand and participate in sports, they can see people like them participating in something of value, because daddy values it too.

Hopefully by then, more people will catch the bug. And the WNBA would be worth more as a league, and to society. I want to see these women excel and I want them to get paid handsomely for it. I want their exposure to be far and wide because it is important for young girls to see themselves on TV and to associate that imagery with excellence. I aim to convert more believers. And if you like good hoops, then you’ll come to realize what’s been hiding in plain sight all this time. Basketball is basketball!