On Monday (April 14) the WNBA held its annual draft. Thirty six amateur athletes watched all of their work pay off as they were one of the few selected in the three round draft. History was also made as Stanford’s Chiney Ogwumike joined her big sister, Nneka Ogwumike, as one of the few sibling pairs to be taken number one overall of a professional in a sports draft when the Connecticut sun took the forward with the first pick. Nneka, who is also a former Stanford grad and currently plays for the Los Angeles Sparks, was the number one overall pick in 2012.
As the young athletes watched their worlds change when league president Laurel J. Richie called their names, I kept a close lock on social media. But unlike what most would expect; it wasn’t to gauge the ever simplistic views of the detractors of women’s athletics. I wanted to witness the elation of the young athletes who were about to take the next step in their life’s journey and the young athletes who look to them as inspiration. I perused the Twitter and Instagram accounts of the draftees and noticed that nothing mattered to them but the fruition of their dreams happening right in front of them. Those players have played on grander stages and handled more pressure than most of the people who challenge their abilities behind keyboards on a daily basis. These are athletes whose love for the game cannot be mistaken. The average salary in the WNBA as of 2013 is $72,000. Most NBA players make that within the first hour of each game, so money truly isn’t the object of all of their hard work. (Also, for you deflectors, I’m not saying every male athlete’s inspiration is money, either). They grind for greatness. They grind for the love of the game. They grind despite the world telling them it isn’t ‘lady like.’ There’s a certain way that these athletes carry themselves that can be valuable lesson for so many.
I’ve come to notice that the composure they have isn’t reserved solely for games but it seems to be a way of life. It’s refreshing. It’s that composure that has helped the University of Connecticut Huskies complete their fifth, FIFTH, undefeated season and bring home their ninth National Championship in 16 years. It’s the same composure that carried C. Vivian Stringer and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights to the high road when their personal characters were attacked by Don Imus. It’s the same composure that helped Brittney Griner lead Baylor University to a 40-0 season and championship in 2012 while constantly being taunted for her appearance.
With that being said, here’s what’s really good. In its 17 year existence, the WNBA has had some bumps in the road and has had to deal with its share of idiocy. But even with all of the clouds surrounding the league and its participants, the WNBA, and women’s basketball in general, continues to remain unbeaten in their own skins.