Women’s basketball has come a long way, baby

In my prime back in the last century, I played a lot of basketball. I was quick, had a good first move to the basket, could shoot OK, and played pretty good defense. At 6’1”, on a good day I could dunk the ball.

But I had little understanding of the game, and was not a good passer. To me, a “play” was a simple screen. Even a basic pick and roll where the screening player rolls off his screen toward the basket to receive a pass from the player he picked for while the two defenders are tangled up in the screen, was beyond my ken. In truth, I wasn’t a good ball player, even at the pick-up game level.

But I knew I could beat the women. In fact, I knew I was as good as the women college players.

Women in those days shot only set shots, something like the shot that men used back when the game was invented in Springfield, Massachusetts and the basket did not even have a hole in the bottom. The ball starts at the chest or shoulder and is pushed toward the basket, much the way a child shoots a basketball because he simply lacks the muscle strength to do it any other way. He has to throw his whole body into it. Because a set shot like that starts so low, it’s easy to block. Also, it’s not as accurate because as the ball ascends toward the release point it often passes through the shooter’s field of vision for an instant.

In contrast, a jump shot originates above the shooter’s head, well above his eyes. The jump itself is the foundation of the energy propelling it toward the basket, and most of the remaining energy comes from a man’s arms, shoulders, and hands.   

Apart from their child-like shooting style, women were painfully slow – particularly in terms of quickness – and seemed incapable of jumping for rebounds or anything else. A good boy’s high school team could easily beat a good women’s college team.

The first dunk in a women’s NCAA tournament was not until 2006, by a 6’4” player. In men’s basketball, players under 6’ routinely dunk the ball. A 5’7” professional named Spud Webb could dunk the ball, and won the NBA Slam Dunk Competition one year. If you’re not suitably in awe of that, go to the gym, stand under the rim, look up, imagine you’re 5’7”, and dream about jumping so high that your entire hand is above the rim 10′ off the floor.

Then I got word of an extraordinary woman on the Iowa women’s team named Caitlin Clark Kent. OK, I added the Kent.

In the NCAA quarter finals, she finished with 41 points. I saw a woman playing like I’ve never seen before. She’s 6’ tall – pretty tall for a woman – but the striking thing was that she shoots a true jump shot. She shoots just like a man.

Except better than most. Her range is exceptional, often shooting from six feet beyond the three-point arc. Her release involves no hesitation, setting, or licking her finger to judge the wind direction. It’s stop, jump, shoot, all in one fluid motion. I’ve played enough b-ball to know that such skills don’t just come naturally. She’s probably shot something like a quarter million jump shots in practice, in her driveway, and in pickup games over the years.

She presents the classic dilemma to defenses. If they go out past the three-point arc to guard her, she has the savvy, quickness and ball-handling to blow right by them to the basket where she’ll score an easy layup or, if she gets picked up by another defender, she has the vision and skill to pass the ball to the open teammate.

Like many athletes, she also has a little bit of an attitude. It often goes with the territory. That wasn’t my personal style on the court (though maybe now it is in my column) but I’m OK with it, so long as it isn’t obscene or racist. One of the biggest trash talkers in the history of the game was Larry Bird.

Alas, in the finals last night Clark’s opponents had the better team. LSU played its predictably physical game in the paint, but, unpredictably and uncharacteristically, also shot the lights out from outside.

In LSU’s players, too, I saw women playing with a style and athleticism I’d never seen. They were fun to watch. It was exciting.

So are women now as good at basketball as men?

No, but what a stupid question. It’s like asking, is an elk as good as a dolphin? They’re different, OK? They’re both good, in their respective, different environments. They’re both fun to watch. They both have my respect.

Watch for my book this month, titled “High Attitude — How Woke Liberals Ruined Aspen”

8 thoughts on “Women’s basketball has come a long way, baby

  1. I played basketball in Iowa all four years of high school. When I played, it was a long time ago (!) and you were only allowed two dribbles and couldn’t go over the centerline. Three guards and three forwards on each end. My nieces all played basketball and by then it was full court just like men’s basketball. Nevertheless, I loved it. Was the best part of my high school days. Hope you are doing well.

    ~ Becky

  2. You are on point, Glenn, and,yes, women on women, it’s a good game that takes great skill and endurance! But please, you should have pointed out one key diiference from the men’s: their ball is smaller, yet with the same diameter hoop as men’s! Thus women have higher shooting percentages!
    And that’s fine, but that alone should be a reason to never to allow “trans” people to play women’s basketball!🏀

    • I know, I know. But the basketball size seemed like a quibble to me.
      As for transexuals in the women’s game, that would last about one game. That doesn’t take anything away from the women. Men are far bigger and stronger and quicker, but women’s hearts and minds are just as good and the game they play is fast becoming just as interesting.

  3. I’ve seen only a 30-second clip of this gal — draining three-pointers with the smoothest, all-in-one-motion jump shot I’ve ever seen. Yes, your prose is almost as good, with commensurate attitude, so carry on. Ain’t no tranny gonna take you on!
    Looking forward to the book.

  4. I’ve never had any interest at all in basketball.

    So … women’s basketball isn’t anything different.

    But, put those women basketball players in lingerie or bikinis as uniforms, and I could definitely dunk on that.

    A male chauvinist pig would say!


  5. I want to see trannies invade women’s basketball if only to bring all this stupid *men competing as women* kerfuffle to a head. I think the backlash would be fierce. Maybe I’m overly optimistic on that point, but this ridiculous charade has to come to an end.

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