Congrats to Allen Iverson on Hall of Fame induction

Allen Iverson is one of the 10 selected to the 2016 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Allen Iverson is one of the 10 selected to the 2016 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

Allen Iverson (A.I.) was one of 10 people selected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame today. Other notables include Yao Ming, Sheryl Swoopes,Tom Izzo, Jerry Reinsdorf and Shaquille O’neal. All are very deserving but none captured the hearts of the masses like Iverson.

LeBron James was asked about the basketball phenomenon ahead of Iverson’s retirement ceremony in Philadelphia in 2013 and had this to say:

AI“They say he was 6 feet, but A.I. was like 5-10½. Do we even want to say 160? 170 [pounds]? Do we even want to give him that much weight? And he played like a 6-8 2-guard. He was one of the greatest finishers we’ve ever seen. You could never question his heart. Ever. He gave it his all. A.I. was like my second-favorite player growing up, after [Michael Jordan] MJ.”

It is clear that Iverson is revered by fans and former colleagues. Comments from some of today’s best players confirm the respect he has earned. Dwyane Wade added these comments recently:

Iverson has received a great deal of praise from many who appreciated the way he played the game.

Iverson has received a great deal of praise from many who appreciated the way he played the game.

“My favorite moment is getting a chance to play against him for the first time in preseason, it was in Puerto Rico. I got a chance to be around him the night before and it was a cool experience for me. I got a chance to play with him in the Olympics after my rookie year. I got to be around him as well. He’s just a real cool guy, someone who came in and just loved the game of basketball, gave everything he had to it.”

Iverson was a personal favorite going back to his days as a member of the Georgetown Hoyas and has been as influential off the court as he was on the court. Iverson’s Reebok sneaker line has been one of the most successful of all time. Congratulations to all of the Hall of Fame inductees, especially Allen Iverson.–OnPointPress.net–

Women’s team sports still face popularity and financial challenges in the U.S.

The 2013 Women's UConn Huskies got a chance to meet President Obama after winning the NCAA championship last year.

The 2013 Women’s UConn Huskies got a chance to meet President Obama after winning the NCAA championship last year.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

On Monday, March 31, 2014, the women’s University of Connecticut Huskies and Notre Dame Fighting Irish will continue their individual pursuit for perfection this basketball season. With the women’s NCAA tournament underway, both UConn and Notre Dame need two more victories to setup an unprecedented showdown between two unbeaten teams for the national championship. UConn is hoping to repeat as national champions while Notre Dame is hoping to finally reach the zenith in their sport. As phenomenal an event this would be to watch, this potential outcome has generated very little buzz.

Lusia Harris was a groundbreaker in women's sports as college basketball player, Olympian, and NBA draft pick..

Lusia Harris was a groundbreaker in women’s sports as college basketball player, Olympian, and NBA draft pick..

Women’s collegiate sports has seen tremendous advances since the passing of Title IX in 1972 – the federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education programs or activities that receive federal assistance. In the wake of the recent ruling that allows for Northwestern football players to unionize, it is helpful to remember the struggles that female college athletes have faced when trying to earn fair opportunities.

In women’s team sports, there have been fewer stars with sustaining power when compared to male team sports. There was momentum building in the mid 1970’s with interest in women’s basketball due to Lusia Harris from Delta State University in Mississippi. She helped bring the sport to the forefront with a silver medal finish in the first ever women’s basketball tournament in the Olympics in 1976. The president at Delta State would later decree a Lusia Harris Day by describing Harris as a “basketball star, world traveler, Olympic medalist, and All-American.” Harris would continue to make history as being the first and only woman officially selected in the National Basketball Association (NBA) Draft by the New Orleans Jazz in 1977. She never played in the NBA but her Olympic exploits helped propel women’s basketball into the next decade.

Nancy Lieberman had exceptional success as a college player, a professional player in multiple leagues, and as a coach.

Nancy Lieberman had exceptional success as a college player, a professional player in multiple leagues, and as a coach.

In the years following Harris there were two women’s college basketball players who gained major interest and excitement, Nancy Lieberman and Cheryl Miller. Lieberman earned the nickname “Lady Magic” as a reference to playing like Earvin “Magic” Johnson. She led her Old Dominion Monarchs to the national championship in 1979 and 1980. Miller, older sister of NBA Hall of Famer Reggie Miller, was the first to make the family name famous while dominating at the University of Southern California.

Hall of Fame player Cheryl Miller was a transcendent player in the 1980's.

Hall of Famer Cheryl Miller was a transcendent basketball player in the 1980’s, who is described in admiring tones by current players.

“That’s something you’d remember forever,” remarked her high school basketball coach, Floyd Evans, as he reflected on the night she scored 105 points in a single game in her senior year.

The NCAA decided to sponsor the women’s basketball tournament in 1982. Miller led the Trojans to the NCAA championship in 1983 and 1984 while being named tournament MVP in both years. Miller also led the U.S. women’s team to the gold medal in the 1984 Olympics. Miller was so dominant in her run at USC that the school retired her #31 jersey in 1986, becoming the first basketball player, male or female, to receive such an honor from USC at that time.

Sheryl Swoopes (l), Lisa Leslie (c), and Rebecca Lobo (r) were part of the inaugural class of the WNBA.

Sheryl Swoopes (l), Lisa Leslie (c), and Rebecca Lobo (r) were part of the inaugural class of the WNBA.

The struggle women’s team sports has had in sustaining popularity for their players who became popular in college is that there were few professional women’s league that had long time sustainability. Things changed in 1996 when the NBA financially supported the Women’s National Basketball League (WNBA). Since its inception, the WNBA has had several women transition from college basketball recognition to WNBA stardom. Lisa Leslie, Candace Parker, Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes, Diana Taurasi, and Skylar Diggins represent some of the biggest names to enter the WNBA since 1996.

Julie Foudy (l), Mia Hamm (c), and Kristine Lilly (r) were part of a dominant stretch in women's soccer that included 2 World Cup titles and multiple Olympic gold medals.

Julie Foudy (l), Mia Hamm (c), and Kristine Lilly (r) were part of a dominant stretch in women’s soccer that included 2 World Cup titles and multiple Olympic gold medals.

While women’s basketball continues to have a professional league, it is not the only team sport women have excelled in. The U.S. women’s soccer team has been a powerful force in team sports, gaining immense success since the early 1990’s. They won the inaugural FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1991 and won again in 1999. Also, they won the Olympic gold medal at all but one of the summer games since 1996. Those teams were led by Julie Foudy, Kristine Lilly, and Mia Hamm. Hamm would become one of the biggest soccer stars in the sport. Donna de Varona, chair of the 1999 Women’s World Cup Organization Committee described the period:

“You saw 90,000 people packed in the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California…fathers, daughters, families…cheering on these great players.”

Hope Solo's status as one of the most popular soccer players earns her a higher salary than her average contemporaries.

Hope Solo’s status as one of the most popular soccer players earns her a higher salary than her average contemporaries.

While the achievement gap between men and women has closed when it comes to performance in team sports, the gap between financial reward remains far apart. Women’s team sports still struggles to attract the fan base that can bring advertising dollars to their sports. It is clear that the distinction between individual and team sports for women changes the earning potential. For example, the average salary for the U.S. National Women’s Team (Soccer) is $25,000 a year whereas MLS salaries start at $32,000 per year for the men and often rises to the millions.

2013 WNBA MVP Candace Parker is one of the highest earning players in her sport, but her salary pales in comparison to her male counterparts.

2013 WNBA MVP Candace Parker is one of the highest earning players in her sport, but her salary pales in comparison to her male counterparts.

A more extreme example comes in recognizing that the maximum paid salary in the WNBA is $107,000 per year compared to the $30 million Kobe Bryant earned this season in the NBA. There is no doubt that these women are as exceptional in their profession as their male counterparts are in theirs. Hopefully, in the near future, women’s team sports will receive the proper recognition and see their revenue grow to a level that allows for most female athletes to live comfortably in team sports.–OnPointPress.net–

Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com.

WNBA struggles for ratings, fans, attention and clout

The 2013 WNBA Finals features two of the best players in the league in the Dream's Angel McCoughtry (l) and the Lynx's Seimone Augustus (r).

The 2013 WNBA Finals features two of the best players in the league: The Dream’s Angel McCoughtry (l) and the Lynx’s Seimone Augustus (r).

By Charles Glover, Jr.

The finals for the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) began Sunday night and continues tonight on ESPN2 for a best of five series. This year’s WNBA Finals features two teams that have gone the distance multiple times over the past few seasons in exciting games. The familiarity of the Minnesota Lynx and Atlanta Dream among WNBA fans, barring any distraction, should generate more interest than previous playoff games. This rematch of the 2011 WNBA Finals has the intrigue of two teams with something to prove because the Lynx lost year’s championship and the Dream lost in 2011.

The inaugural WNBA season featured Sheryl Swoopes (l), Rebecca Lobo (c), and Lisa Leslie (r) who emerged as stars after the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

The inaugural WNBA season featured Sheryl Swoopes (l), Rebecca Lobo (c), and Lisa Leslie (r) who emerged as stars after the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta.

But good ratings, fan interest and clout are not guaranteed for the WNBA Finals. The WNBA has struggled to grow beyond a niche sport in America despite the international appeal of women’s basketball. America’s female Team USA basketball exploded on the national landscape with a dominating performance in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. The excellence that team displayed, along with the charisma of such stars as Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes, Rebecca Lobo and countless others helped create the momentum to start the American Basketball League (ABL) in 1996 and the WNBA in 1997. By 2000, the ABL folded and of the combination of the two leagues’ best players helped the WNBA continue to grow. The WNBA was considered unique because it was the only women’s basketball league to have the backing of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Early WNBA franchises had an NBA team equivalent. However, the WNBA has since grown to have several individually-owned teams.

The WNBA hopes the sport can continue to grow with the influx of notable college stars like this past season's rookie class featuring Brittany Griner (l), Skylar Diggins (c), and 2013 Rookie of the Year Elena Della Donne (r).

The WNBA hopes the sport can continue to grow with the influx of notable college stars like this past season’s rookie class featuring Brittany Griner (l), Skylar Diggins (c), and 2013 Rookie of the Year Elena Della Donne (r).

The WNBA has players that have continued to grow their popularity that began in college. But the league faces numerous challenges, starting with the low salaries paid to the players. WNBA salaries range from $37,950 per year for players in their first three years, to the maximum amount of $107,000 per year for players with more than six years’ experience. The brevity of the WNBA season, roughly 5 months, gives players opportunities to improve their game and grow their brand by playing in international leagues. Of the many players who take advantage of this opportunity, the most well-known is 2013 WNBA MVP Candace Parker who has played since 2009 for a professional team in Russia. These extra chances to earn are sometimes necessary since most WNBA players do not have large endorsement deals or alternative revenue streams from cross-branding  ventures.

Women’s basketball has been dominant in the World Games and Olympics since the 1990’s and women’s college basketball has continuously generated stars that eventually graduate to the WNBA. However, these developments have not translated into continuous popularity growth for the WNBA. This year’s finals features a Minnesota Lynx team that has made the finals in three consecutive years. Their opponents, the Atlanta Dream, have made it to the finals for the third time in the past four years, which is significant for a franchise that began in 2008.

Angel McCoughtry (l) and Maya Moore (r) were summertime teammates for the 2012 Olympics, now they're adversaries in the 2013 WNBA Finals

Angel McCoughtry (l) and Maya Moore (r) were summertime teammates for the 2012 Olympics, now they’re adversaries in the 2013 WNBA Finals

The highlights of this 2011 Finals rematch are expected to be given by the stars of both teams that recently led Team USA to another gold medal in the Olympics. Lynx teammates Seimone Augustus and Maya Moore are both former Women’s College Basketball Players of the Year. Augustus, Moore, and the Dream’s star Angel McCoughtry have won the WNBA Rookie of the Year award (in 06’, ’11, and 09’, respectively) and Augustus was 2011 WNBA MVP. It will be interesting to see if the Dream can reverse their fortunes from 2011 and capture the franchise’s first title or if the Lynx will rebound from last year’s Finals loss and regain status as the WNBA’s best team.

Serena and Venus Williams are two of the most accomplished female athletes of all time and most marketable as well.

Serena and Venus Williams are two of the most accomplished female athletes of all time and most marketable as well.

Like most women’s sports, the WNBA is aiming for excellence among the players to translate into increased interest in the game. Most women’s sports realize that it takes more than outstanding play to spark the kind of interest that generates large monetary rewards such as more advertisements, endorsements and branding opportunities that will increase revenues for the players and the franchises. Few female athletes have become as marketable or successful as the Williams sisters, who have been able to translate their on-court success to arenas outside of their sport.

The WNBA would be wise to implement many of the cross-branding measures that the Williams sisters continue to use. This would require a change in mindset, approach and an overhaul of the WNBA’s business model. The early era of the WNBA benefited from the players having cameo appearances in movies and television. TV Sitcom Martin and sports movie “Love And Basketball” were great chances for women’s basketball to be portrayed favorably in mainstream media. If aggressive actions are not taken to address the way the WNBA product is delivered, the game could continue to struggle for ratings, fans, attention and clout, despite the excellence of the product itself..-OnPointPress.net

Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and management training consultant.