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NCAA Oregon St Baylor Basketball (copy) (copy)

Oregon State's Kat Tudor (22) pulls in a rebound near teammate Mikayla Pivec and Baylor's Didi Richards during a game against Baylor in the 2018 NCAA tournament. 

Having played college basketball back when I was “tall” (6 feet, 4 inches), I have followed the game all my life.

During the past several months, I have spent many enjoyable hours watching various women’s basketball teams from the NCAA to Team USA compete at the highest level. One of the most wondrous things I have observed is how Team USA demonstrates and celebrates America’s cultural diversity. Literally a fast-moving rainbow of deadly shooters and assassin-level defenders, there is no other team in the world, male or female, with such a diversity of players. And they win and win! The only other international teams that even challenge them have WNBA players on them.

Yet, the lowest-paid player in the NBA makes 20 times the annual salary as the current MVP in the WNBA, Breanna Stewart ($46,000). The highest-paid NBA player makes 5,000 times the annual salary of a rookie in the WNBA. As a result, almost all the other members of the WNBA supplement their income by playing overseas during the offseason, where they can earn up to 10 times what they get paid by the WNBA, and where many of them are rock stars.

A solution often cited to raise more interest in the WNBA so as to pay the players more is to lower the hoop so there can be more dunks, to which Breanna Stewart responded in a recent interview: “Is basketball all about dunking?” Apparently so, with various male athletes and commentators channeling their best “Henry Higgins” from "My Fair Lady."

My suggestion would be to pay any WNBA player $1000 for every dunk, with $500 going to her and the rest going to the other four players who were on the court at the time. There are many WNBA players who could dunk the ball in the current league.

Still, the NBA, which owns 70 percent of the WNBA, whines that the WNBA loses money every year, and it refuses to promote WNBA stars, choosing instead to start another league, the G league, where high school grads are paid six figures to be “seasoned” into the pros.

The disparity between the ratios of men to women in the audience for sports events is a topic for a longer discussion. However, two of the most successful programs at OSU have been women's teams, gymnastics and basketball. The baseball team has also achieved far more success than either of the “marquee” programs, football and basketball.

The purpose of my essay is to encourage people to attend the home games of the OSU women’s basketball team, which has made it to the Sweet Sixteen, Elite Eight, and Final Four over the past few years. The current team is ranked in the top 10 in the nation, and the team has dominated its opponents so far this year. The games are exciting and well-played.

If you attend, take time to look up and see the banners of previous coaches and ponder the one with Ralph Miller. Only one of his teams made it even as far as the Elite Eight. He retired from coaching before the shot clock of 35 seconds was implemented in 1993. For me, watching Miller’s teams play for the “perfect shot” was less exciting than watching paint dry.

On the other hand, the women’s teams play so well that I have personal nicknames for many of the players, including Pickpocket, Flash, Gunslinger, NATO, Hermione, and Deadeye.

I urge people to support the OSU women’s basketball team, which plays "we, not me" basketball, and is currently ranked eighth in the nation.

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Michael Coolen lives in Corvallis. 

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