Basketball

It’s Time to Pay Up

This is not going to be a rant about why all athletes should be paid equally. Instead, I only want to offer a comparison and some explanations. Seattle Storm point guard Sue Bird is known as one of the GOATs. Not just in the WNBA, in basketball as a whole. She’s playing in her 18th season and has won four championships. You know else can say that? Lebron James. Both have done great things, but the numbers literally don’t add up. Hear me out.

The Money

Bird’s salary in 2020 was $215,000. Lebron made $37.44 million in the same year. The bonus for Bird for winning the finals in 2020 was $11, 356. Lebron got $370,000. There is a huge discrepancy here. WNBA players often don’t get a full offseason as a result on their income. A lot of players have no choice but to play overseas to make more money to support themselves and their families. Some work with networks in analyst roles such as Chicago Sky forward Candace Parker with TNT. Playing overseas can be taxing and costly. Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart missed the 2019 season due to injuring her achilles while playing in Russia. A super max deal in the WNBA is over $200,000 while the NBA can be $200 million. Even after playing, they still need to work in some way since they don’t make enough to just sit back. It isn’t right.

The WNBA as a whole

While the league has increased in popularity, the same problems still exist even as the 25th WNBA season is in progress. Third year commissioner Cathy Engelbert has done a great job of marketing the league and landing sponsors like Google who believe in women in sports sports. Kobe Bryant was their biggest advocate, those are some big shoes to fill. Former WNBA players have also gotten opportunities with the NBA. The best example of that is Becky Hammon. Hammon has been a hot name on the coaching circuit the last few years and this year is no exception. Hammon played for San Antonio (now Las Vegas) and now is the lead assistant for the Spurs.

She took over during a game as acting head coach when Greg Popovich got ejected. Hammon also lead the Spurs summer league team to a championship as the head coach. She commands respect and rightfully so. Kara Lawson also has some NBA assistant coaching experience with the Celtics, she is coaching team USA’s women’s 3 on 3 team and is the head coach at Duke as well. Both names are circulating to be the next Celtics head coach. The most notable WNBA player in a front office is Swin Cash serving as the VP of basketball ops and player development. Bird has also assisted the Nuggets in the front office.

Sports is all about economics, and sadly you can’t spend money you don’t have. The WNBA and other pro female leagues need to continue to gain popularity in order for the income to eventually increase. Since there are many who still don’t support idea, it just shows that we still have a long way to go.

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