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On the NBA Beat Ep. 98: Sue Favor: WNBA Must Increase Its Visibility, Start Growing Again

Ahead of Friday night’s matchup between the top two teams in the WNBA, the Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks, Sue Favor joins the podcast to talk about the league. Sue, a devoted women’s hoops writer at Women’s Hoops World and her “They’re Playing Basketball” blog, handicaps the MVP race, details the Sparks’ winning formula and more broadly discusses the league’s most important storylines, on and off the court. Wonderful WNBA wisdom can be sampled below:

Sue argues Candace Parker is not declining. Far from it:

5:22-6:04: “It seems like the minute a player turns 30 everybody’s asking her when she’s gonna retire, whatever. Even Candace, herself, got that question a few weeks ago, and she was saying, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa. Why are you asking me this right now?’ She’s still one of the best players in the world. She can take over a game, and she’s actually done that several times in the last month especially. She’s at the top of the league in statistics right now, and I don’t see her slowing down at all really. So I guess that’s why I wouldn’t even say that she’s trying to pass the baton to anybody right now. She and Nneka are friends off the court, and they work really well together on the court. They’re interchangeable. If one of them is having a slightly off game, the other one steps up. They both work together in tandem really well.”

Our guest opines on the favorites to take home the championship trophy this season:

10:32-10:44: “I see it as a three-team race right now between the Lynx, the Sparks and the Connecticut Sun, who are absolutely on fire this season and have risen to levels that no one ever anticipated, probably not even the players themselves.”

Despite Minnesota’s dominance thus far at 21-3, a key injury to its starting point guard could signal trouble:

12:22-13:08: “Lindsay Whalen is out for an undetermined period of time with that finger breakage. So without her, they’re a completely different team as we saw on Sunday when the Indiana Fever upset them. The Sparks are healthy right now, but that could change in a minute, because the WNBA roster is only 12 players per team, so when you lose one person it has a huge ripple effect…The Sun also have an injury to contend with: starter Jasmine Thomas is out as well. Right now, of the three top teams in the league, the Sparks are definitely the most healthy, so I guess Sparks fans can just pray that they stay healthy, because injuries really play a major part, especially right now when every single game counts like 10 times over.”

Sue shares her MVP contender list:

16:28-16:43: “Sylvia Fowles, Tina Charles has been having a really stellar season, Breanna Stewart, with her tying the record with 20-plus-point games. Those three probably I would say are the top three conversation pieces, with Candace Parker kind of sneaking up in there.”

The league, according to Sue, is seeing a renaissance in terms of player openness and transparency, and she couldn’t be more pleased: 

22:27-22:59: “I’ve definitely been pleasantly surprised this year at the number of…It’s not that closet doors are opening; basically, it seems like the closets are burning down. And it’s just stars. Elena Delle-Donne I believe was the first [star in a while], and then we had Penny Taylor and Diana Taurasi, Sue Bird. Layshia [Clarendon] was last year, but it just seems that people are not afraid to be and show who they are right now, and that’s pretty cool. People shouldn’t have to hide who they are in any kind of way.”

Finally, what should the league be doing to further develop and grow its brand?

28:14-31:01“We’re kind of at a crucial point right now where attendance has fallen a little bit this year after being good last year, and it just seems like the league is flat-lining and pretty much seeing static growth. People want to expand the teams, expand the rosters, but it’s not really possible unless more money’s coming in…The league needs to do a better job of marketing itself, both in the offseason and during the season. They need to better the relationships between the teams and the league and fans…and just generally try to tighten up their business practices a little and just really try to get the word out there, because increased visibility just isn’t happening right now…Maybe one or two WNBA teams will go and cross over and try to get college fans to WNBA games or they’ll go to college games in the offseason and promote the team or do ticket giveaways. There needs to be more of that. The WNBA could do a lot more to extend itself and increase awareness of the league in the offseason, but typically the confetti settles and is swept up from the final championship game, and then, bam, the league disappears until April.”

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Music: “Who Likes to Party” by Kevin MacLeod