MANILA—Score another point for team Kate Fagan/Diana Taurasi.
Former WNBA player Taj McWilliams-Franklin did not hold back when asked about her take on reigning WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne’s suggestion of lowering the rims for women’s basketball during a media session in Manila for the Jr. NBA/Jr. WNBA Philippines on Wednesday.
McWilliams-Franklin, who last played for the Minnesota Lynx in the WNBA five years ago, called the suggestion “ridiculous” and “fanciful” and added it would affect the future of women’s hoops adversely.
“I think that is ridiculous,” McWilliams-Franklin said. “I don’t want to lower the rims. Even when I was younger, and my daughters, they had to figure out how to get the ball to the rim with the regular-sized ball and regular rim,” McWilliams-Franklin said. “I think that (suggestion) diminishes some of the importance of the game. I don’t think John Wooden or James Naismith thought, oh, let’s lower the rim for the women. I just think it is fanciful, something you right in a book and not in real life.”
Delle Donne sparked a debate last month after telling USA Today’s Charles Curtis about her suggestion. The Chicago Sky forward also made it clear that her suggestion was not merely for more above-the-rim action but that she also took into consideration the future of the sport.
“I think it would bring a whole different aspect to the game and bring viewership as well and show the athleticism of our women,” Delle Donne said. “We do every single thing on that court that the men do, other than the dunking. And, obviously, there is a handful of athletes who can dunk.
“But when look at other sports like volleyball, their net’s lower … Golf, their tees are closer. It goes on and on. Tennis, they play [fewer] sets. Why not lower our rim and let every single player in the league play above the rim like the NBA can?
“I might even get pushback from fellow WNBA players … but I stand by it. It would bring a whole different viewership to the game and it’d be fun. It’d be so exciting,” Delle Donne told Curtis.
EspnW columnist Kate Fagan responded to the suggestion by writing a piece earlier this month. In her article, Fagan wrote Delle Donne’s suggestion assumes that dunking, or above-the-rim action in general, is what makes basketball exciting.
“(Elena) Delle Donne and (Monique) Currie’s arguments are decent ones,” Fagan wrote. “But this is an important decision. Lowering the rims would fundamentally change the game. So we should take a few minutes to think about what the repercussions might be. We should consider whether acrobatic dunks are actually what drives fan interest in men’s basketball, and whether the lack of such dunking is actually what keeps more fans from watching women’s basketball. In other words, lowering the rims won’t reverse years of social conditioning that leaves most sports fans believing that women’s sports and female athletes are inferior… Plus, lowering the rims is predicated on the idea that high-flying dunks are a top reason fans love the NBA.”
The debate isn’t new; in 2012, University of Connecticut head coach Geno Auriemma also suggested that rims should be lowered. Fagan also wrote an article during the thick of that opinion from Auriemma.
McWilliams-Franklin believes that lowering the rims would create a divide between men’s and women’s basketball instead of advancing the latter.
“I think it will (hurt the future) because it diminishes,” she said. “Now you are not at the same level (with the men’s). There is already an aspect where women can do what men do. You lower the rims, now you’re saying they really can’t. You have to lower the rims to make it more exciting. But basketball is exciting in itself,” she said.
Now a head coach for Post University, the 45-year-old McWilliams-Franklin said the WNBA is headed in the proper direction, especially with the influx of talent that had already joined or that will join the league in the future. She added 2016 WNBA first overall pick Breanna Stewart of University of Connecticut has a chance to impact the game.
“I think the sport is going well,” McWilliams-Franklin said. “I’ve watched the next generation, Maya Moore, Brittney Griner, all the kids that are coming out now this year, I think the sport is growing the way it is supposed to be, and I think it is a great improvement,” McWilliams-Franklin said.
“I know from the years that I played, from now, and the past 20 years, how much the level has improved. I mean Candace Parker, from Lisa Leslie to Candace Parker, it’s a jump. Then from Parker to Maya Moore, it’s a huge jump. It just goes on and on and I think right now, the game is growing the way it should.”
McWilliams-Franklin added regarding Stewart: “Is there any person who is a 6-5 guard and not unique, whether men or women? I mean Magic Johnson is a 6-9 point guard. Nobody thought a 6-9 player can be a point guard. Now we have Breanna Stewart who is legitimate 6-5 and the star of the draft and can play the guard spot, and Elena Delle Donne who is definitely a three player. The game is definitely moving in the way it should.”
McWilliams-Franklin herself found other ways to impact the game. She retired as the all-time offensive rebounds leader in the WNBA, saying it was one of her ways of leaving an imprint to the game.
“I just watched Moses Malone, I watched Dennis Rodman, and it’s 80 percent just heart and going after it and 20 percent technique. That’s just what I wanted to do. What do you want to be known for when you’re done? For me, rebounding was always a way I can impact the game without having to score. You can have a terrible scoring game and still have 20 rebounds. That was important to me to impact the game in small ways and help the team.”