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A salute to basketball and the women who paved the way for me

Adrienne “Goody” Goodson plays for the Houston Comets in the 2005 WNBA season. (Jesse Garrabant/NBAE via Getty Images)

In a world where the way we look is often considered more important than how we play our sport, Black women continually break through glass ceilings to earn respect. The long history of Black women participating in basketball will not go unrecognized, no matter how many false impressions are given. Still, the importance of women’s sports to young girls across the globe is immeasurable, and it sees no color.

For centuries, Black athletes have excelled nationally and internationally, but for Black women, competing often came at a cost. Instead of being recognized or respected for their athleticism, they were regularly taunted and demoralized. But many of them forged on, because they had a higher calling to help future basketball players excel and flourish in ways they never imagined.

Two of the earliest all-Black women basketball teams were the Philadelphia Tribune Girls, led by center Ora Mae Washington, and the Chicago Romas. The Romas, playing against both men’s and women’s teams, didn’t lose a single game in six years following World War II, from 1939-45. That was in large part thanks to their best players, namely Corrine Robinson, Mignon Burns, Lillian Ross, Virginia Willis, Lola Porter and Isadora Channels. The Romas were unable to capitalize on the many opportunities basketball had afforded men, but they continued to play ball, setting the stage for a future they wouldn’t live to see.

In the last 30 years, women’s basketball has gained more recognition and support. The teams of the 1930s and 1940s passed the torch to players such as Lusia Harris, Althea Gwynn, Elizabeth Galloway McQuitter, Janice Lawrence, Lynette Woodard, Medina Dixon and Cheryl Miller. Those icons then passed the torch to us, who have since passed it on to the current generation.

As public interest in women’s basketball grew, so did the development of professional women’s basketball leagues like the WBL in the 1970s, the ABL in the 1990s and the WNBA in 1997. By 2000, top women’s basketball players from the college ranks and overseas were seen as viable investments for shoe deals and endorsements, just like their male counterparts.

Dawn Staley and Saudia Roundtree became household names thanks to their signature shoe deals with Nike and Reebok. But there were others, like Elizabeth Galloway McQuitter of the now-defunct WBL, who also opened the door for young girls with dreams of playing basketball but have not been as widely celebrated. The WBL was the first professional league in America, and what we did paved the way for others. We need to put every era on the basketball timeline, so the legacies of players like McQuitter are remembered.

Decades later, WNBA players in 2020 have indisputably transformed ignorance into awareness for social, racial and criminal justice, led by Maya Moore, Candace Parker, Tina Charles and Layshia Clarendon, just to name a few. It takes more than Black History Month to recognize all of the players involved in building this empire.

I often wonder how to thank all those who came before me, so I decide to use Kobe Bryant’s “Dear Basketball” as a tribute to Black History Month and the game that changed our lives forever.

Basketball has been a vehicle through which Black women can earn a scholarship, an education and a chance to make a career out of what they love. Truly, basketball has provided me with more than I could have ever imagined. All I had to do was practice.

I pay homage to the sport that saved my life and put my feet on solid ground. You helped me earn a scholarship to play in college, which in turn led me to a career overseas in Brazil, Spain and China. You then opened doors for me in two professional leagues, the ABL and WNBA. I’ve met countless people and traveled the world, all for the sake of growing the game. You helped me build lifelong relationships with phenomenal women from all walks of life. We created bonds that can never be broken — a sisterhood through all generations.

I salute you for being a part of my soul’s journey and for helping me become a towering example for many young girls who have a dream.

Adrienne Goodson (“Goody”) is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports. She played 14 years of professional basketball, including seven in the WNBA. A three-time All-Star in the pros and an NCAA champion, she was inducted into the Old Dominion Hall of Fame in 1999. She is the host of the podcast “A WNBA State of Mind with Adrienne Goodson.” Follow her on Twitter @agoody15_wnba.

Rose Lavelle hoping to return to play ‘in the next couple of weeks’

uswnt midfielder rose lavalle trains on a soccer field in florida
When healthy, Rose Lavelle is a trusted asset in the USWNT's midfield. (Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

Rose Lavelle is hoping to return to the field soon. 

The 28-year-old midfielder has been sidelined with a lower leg injury since the Gold Cup in early march. Since then, she has yet to play for new club Gotham FC in the NWSL. She also missed a potential USWNT appearance at the SheBelieves Cup in April, where senior team newcomer Jaedyn Shaw saw success assuming Lavelle's role in the attacking midfield. 

At the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee media showcase on Monday, Lavelle told reporters that she’s doing well and hopes to be back soon.

"I’m doing good — I’m hoping I’ll be back in the next couple weeks," Lavelle said. "It’s frustrating to start the year off with an injury, just because I feel like you come off preseason and you’re revving to go, so it’s so annoying."

Lavelle is still looking to compete for one of just 18 Olympic roster spots. When healthy, she ranks as one of the national team’s most trusted assets, but considering this most recent injury, her health is an obvious concern. Faced with an onslaught of experienced competitors and young talent, incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes will have some big decisions to make when selecting the Paris-bound squad — a reality Lavelle seems to be taking in stride as she works to regain full fitness.

"We have so many special players, we have so much depth, and so many different weapons to utilize on and off the bench," Lavelle said. "Unfortunately that means really good players are going to get left off, too. And I think for all of us, it’s just about being ready for whatever role is given to us, embracing that, and looking to put it into a collective picture so that we can go into the Olympics ready to go."

Kate Paye tapped to take VanDerveer’s place at Stanford

new stanford head coach kate paye spins a basketball on the court
Stanford associate head coach Kate Paye has officially been promoted to head women's basketball coach. (Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports)

Stanford has found its replacement for legendary head women's basketball coach Tara VanDerveer in associate head coach Kate Paye.

The Cardinal confirmed the hiring on Tuesday via a press release. Paye was largely expected to replace the longtime head coach, as the college mentioned they were still negotiating Paye's contract when they announced VanDerveer's retirement.

In Tuesday's statement, Paye reported that she was "humbled" to have been tapped to lead the women’s program.

"Stanford University has been a central part of my life for as long as I can remember and I am humbled to have the opportunity to lead its women’s basketball program," Paye said. "I’d first like to thank Tara, who has played such a pivotal role in my career for her friendship and guidance. It’s not what she’s done, but how she’s done it, that has had such a profound impact upon me."

A Woodside, California native, Paye played under VanDerveer from 1992 to 1995, taking home a national title her freshman year. After graduation, Paye briefly joined San Diego State as an assistant coach before making her professional debut with the ABL's Seattle Reign in 1996. After finishing her playing career with the WNBA's Seattle Storm, she joined the team’s coaching staff in 2007 and has been with the organization ever since, picking up another national title win — this time as associate head coach — in 2021. Paye's brother John played quarterback for Stanford from 1983 to 1986, while also serving as a point guard on the basketball team.

In her own response, VanDerveer said that she was "grateful" that Stanford picked Paye to follow in her stead. Last week, the decorated coach stated that this year would be her last after 38 seasons at the helm and three national titles under her belt.

"She has long been ready for this opportunity and is the perfect leader for Stanford at this time of immense change in college athletics," VanDerveer noted. "Kate was the choice for this job and I am confident she will achieve great success as head coach."

After a record-breaking Draft Night, WNBA roster cuts loom

2023 WNBA no. 1 draft pick Aliyah Boston playing for the indiana fever
Despite going No. 1 overall in the 2023 WNBA Draft, Aliyah Boston had to fight hard to make it onto Indiana's roster. (Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

The 2024 WNBA Draft has officially concluded, leaving the newly minted rookie class facing a tough road ahead.

Only 144 roster slots are available throughout the league’s 12 teams, the reason why the players are sometimes referred to as the “144.” And Monday’s draft picks are set to join a large group of established players competing for those same roster spots, from seasoned veterans to young athletes determined to prove their value on the court.

Last year, just 15 of the league’s 36 draftees made it onto their drafting team's opening-day squad.

In reality, there are oftentimes fewer than 144 spots available, as not every team maxes out their roster. Per the league's CBA, each team roster must maintain a minimum standard of 11 players, but those lists can include players out with injuries or on other forms of leave. Players can also be assigned to short-term hardship contracts, something waived players must be prepared for at any point during the season.

Earlier this week, Laeticia Amihere — a 2022 national champion with South Carolina who currently plays for the Atlanta Dream — took to TikTok to provide some insight into the WNBA training camp process. 

"You can either get drafted on Draft Night, or you can get signed by a team," she said. "Once that happens, you go to training camp literally like two weeks later... Basically everybody's got to try out. There's 12 roster spots, and there's like 18 people at the at the trial."

@laeticiaamihere Replying to @dantavius.washington #wnba #draft ♬ original sound - Laeticia Amihere

Amihere also had an important point to make: Getting cut does not signify a player’s abilities. 

"If you get cut after training camp, that does not mean you're not good," she said. "That does not mean that player sucks, don't stop supporting that player. Literally, there's so many reasons somebody can get cut."

"If you guys look at the best players in the league, most of them have bounced around teams," she added. "And I promise you it is not a bad thing, it's just how the league is."

Things, however gradually, are changing. With Golden State's WNBA team scheduled to launch in time for the 2025 season, league expansion is just around the corner. On Monday, Commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced that the league is aiming to grow to 16 teams by 2028. But by then, it might be too little too late for the generation of talent emerging from an increasingly competitive NCAA system.

WNBA draft shatters records with 2.45 million viewers

wide shot of BAM during the 2024 WNBA Draft
It wasn't just attendees that were glued to the on-stage action at the 2024 WNBA Draft. (Photo by Melanie Fidler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Monday night’s WNBA draft added to the nationwide uptick in record-breaking women's sports viewership, pulling in 2.45 million viewers throughout the nearly two-hour broadcast and peaking at 3.09 million, according to an ESPN release. 

That number shatters the previous draft viewership record — 601,000 in 2004 — which was fueled primarily by then-No. 1 pick Diana Taurasi entering the league after UConn's historic three-peat March Madness performance.  

The 2023 WNBA draft drew 572,000 viewers, the most for any televised WNBA event since 2.74 million tuned in to NBC for a Memorial Day matchup between the New York Liberty and Houston Comets back in 2000.

While many came to watch Caitlin Clark get drafted No. 1 overall, it’s important to note that viewership didn’t take a massive dip after the superstar shooter left the stage. The numbers show that a bulk of the audience stuck around to watch the remainder of the show, making 2024's event not just the most-viewed WNBA draft in history, but also the most-viewed WNBA program to ever air on ESPN platforms.

Draft Day's popularity is yet another sign indicating an expected rise in WNBA regular season viewership. Clark and Iowa's NCAA tournament showdown with the Chicago Sky-bound Kamilla Cardoso's South Carolina side drew a record 18.7 million to ABC's Sunday afternoon broadcast. Banking on this trend, 36 of Indiana's upcoming 40 games are set to be shown on national television. In-person ticket sales are also soaring, leading the defending WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces to re-home their matchup with the Fever to a venue that can accommodate some 6,000 more fans.

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