WNBA A to Z:
S is for Smith, Katie: Reunited this year at Seattle with Coach Brian Agler (who has coached Katie in Minnesota and Columbus of the ABL), Katie Smith is one of the best basketball players of all time, male or female. Consider:
You know, good on the WNBA for being the longest running women’s professional sports league, but somedays, I think of the ABL (American Basketball League) and wonder what could have been.
If you’ve never heard of the ABL, it’s a darn shame, because in it’s time it had the best women basketball players in the world and the perennial champions of the league, the Columbus Quest, could have and would have mopped the floor with the Houston Comets or anyone else the WNBA could have thrown at them.
I think, sadly, the downfall of the ABL came because they tried to make it all about the basketball and they were probably about seven-ten years too early for that. Notice that they didn’t include the word “women” anywhere in the league name. Note that they played four 12 minute quarters with a regulation sized basketball (instead of two twenty minute halves and a “women’s” sized basketball). Their uniforms were actual basketball uniforms. They played in the fall and winter when basketball leagues are supposed to be playing. They didn’t have marketing deals for Barbie dolls like the WNBA.
For a women’s pro sports league in 1996/1997, that wasn’t going to work. Even with their more women-centric marketing, the WNBA needed NBA assistance to survive the first couple of years.
But you know, I think a league like the ABL COULD survive today. Look at the popularity of women’s college basketball and the ratings the NCAA Tournament pulls in every year compared to the attention the WNBA gets. I’m convinced it’s because college basketball makes it all about the basketball.
And above? Nikki McCray, one of my earliest basketball crushes, member of the Champion Columbus Quest and later a member of the WNBA for the Washington Mystics.
Oh, and another sad thing? I had a REALLY hard time finding good ABL images on the net, another reason why I wanted to make sure it doesn’t get forgotten!
(For my own selfish self, I have a closet full of ABL jerseys for memorabilia even though I’ll never wear them - being a dude and all - and my wife thinks it’s creepy if I ask her! LOL)