Representation: the description or portrayal of someone or something in a particular way.
Not all heroes wear capes. Some wear suits. Some wear scrubs. For many young girls around the world, their heroes will wear a jersey. The women in those jerseys are examples of what they aspire to be. They are living and breathing versions of success. In the words of a journalist, Arielle Chambers, “The WNBA is SO important.” Why is the WNBA important? Well, there are many reasons why.
Let’s start by stating the obvious – the league showcases the best of the best in women’s basketball. In addition to the elite level of competition, they also offer opportunities for young girls to see what’s possible. Like many professional sports leagues, there’s the community involvement piece. The WNBA does its’ fair share and then some. With so many initiatives catering to social justice and community outreach, this offers a new dimension to the fan experience and being “up close and personal.”
Ever attended a concert, race or game and prayed that your favorite entertainer or athlete would either throw a towel, headband, hat or SOMETHING out in the crowd for you to catch? Well, let’s just take that a step further.
In recent weeks, several WNBA players have gone the extra step to make that fan experience a memorable one. By now, you’ve probably seen the viral video of 9-year-old Mya Nelson with tears of joy after being gifted a pair of game-worn Retro 11s, by Atlanta Dream star, Brittney Sykes. “She was just talking about how much she loved the Dream, how much she loved Tiffany, and how much she loved supporting us whether we win or lose – and it was so pure,” stated Sykes in a postgame interview on June 9th. Realizing that she would be soon changing shoes, she figured that she’d give that particular pair away. What she didn’t expect, however, was the tear-jerking moment that was to come. Sykes further added, “You could just hear the excitement in her voice,” before closing with, “so why not give back?”
On June 13th, Kaela Davis of the Dallas Wings performed a similar act of generosity by autographing and gifting some of her kicks (various Nike KD 10s), despite it being after a 76-72 loss to the Indiana Fever. While speaking to one special fan, in a video by W-insidr’s Drew Ivery, Davis said, “I gotta concentrate on the game and stuff while playing, right? But I watch up there sometimes, and I see you dancing. I have two pair of shoes tonight, and you pick whatever pair you want and take them.” After a brief period to think, the lucky fan made her decision. Noticing the other fans around, Kaela ended up also gifting them with their own shoes, and even eventually the pair she was wearing (KD 12s 90’s Kid).
Once again, why is the WNBA so important? Let’s take another look. It all goes back to my opening with the definition of representation. I wanted to find a simple way to break down the importance of representation. Luckily in my reading, I found on where Parris Page, for Odyssey, had already done just that. She gave five concise reasons why representation matters. The list is:
1) Everyone should have characters or images they can relate to;
2) It helps us to embrace our culture;
3) These are stories that are missing;
4) It’s realistic;
5) Because everyone deserves to see themselves in heroes.
The aforementioned is what makes the WNBA special, valuable, and important. It’s for the young girls that will get the opportunity to see their role models in action and embrace their true selves. It’s for the players that build a sisterhood, and have a platform to showcase their skills. It’s for using that same platform to champion causes for others and to be a voice and agent of change. It’s for the current stars to build upon the foundation that was laid by the legends before them. The list of legitimate reasons is never-ending.
The next time you see a young child overcome with emotion while meeting their favorite player, now you know as to why. The next time you may question why a fan traveled dozens of hours to catch a game, now you know why. As the league continues to grow and reach new fans across the globe, these are moments that warm the heart. Having adequate representation is a great way for any venture to thrive.
Plain and simple, the WNBA represents possibility – diversity – change – and strength!