2013 Draft Points to Paradigm Shift

By Ben York, PhoenixMercury.com
Posted: Sep. 27, 2012

Televised on ESPN’s SportsCenter for the first time in league history, the draft lottery was viewed by millions of sports fans around the globe.

It was a momentous milestone, and one we’re sure to look back on at some point over the next decade as being a major turning point in the league’s popularity and reverence.

Much of this is due to the enormous talent of the players coming out of the draft, who many believe will collectively be one of, if not the, most important and deepest drafts ever in the WNBA. Additionally, with the lottery taking place before the start of the collegiate season, it gives fans even more of a reason to follow women’s college basketball as they fastidiously track what player they want their favorite team to pick.

This unprecedented buzz surrounding the 2013 WNBA Draft Lottery is a direct correlation with the future of the WNBA and women’s basketball in general, signifying the start of a new era of the sport.

In women’s basketball, it’s challenging to sustain the buzz the entire league creates throughout the calendar year; there are many peaks and valleys. From April to October, the league works hard to generate tremendous momentum before peaking with the Finals in autumn. Players then have a few days to pack before heading overseas to continue their “off-season.”

The overriding point here is that with players generally absent for half the year in another country, teams have to annually recreate the sense of belonging and togetherness at the start of every WNBA season.

The positive trend over the past few years, however, is that the proverbial “valleys” haven’t lasted as long. Or, at the very least, the amount of time where individuals don’t pay as much attention to the league has lessened considerably.

This is a monumental sign, and we are starting to see the benefits of this personified in the 2013 draft class.

Of course, the players coming out of the 2013 Draft won’t need to “save” the WNBA; quite the contrary. The talent level in the league has been phenomenal for years. What they will do, however, is enhance the already stellar level of play and increase the league’s visibility on a global scale.

That, perhaps more than anything, will be their greatest contribution.

In regards to the Phoenix Mercury, there’s really no way around it; the team was exceedingly lucky to land the first pick in the draft. The player they’ll select will undoubtedly have a prominent impact in the future of the franchise.

Similarly, so will the No. 2 pick for the Chicago Sky, the No. 3 pick for the Tulsa Shock, and so forth.

The scenarios that could play out when the draft finally happens in the spring of 2013 are endless. But that’s what makes it so exhilarating. More importantly, it’s exactly what the WNBA needs. Suddenly, parity in the league will increase along with each team’s fanbase.

Some teams and/or players will become the villain, others the hero.

Some teams and/or players will become the favorites, others the underdog.

These compelling storylines have transpired in other leagues for decades (NBA, NFL, MLB, etc.), the unifying theme in each being the heated debate over how things will play out on the field/court, etc. Rather than focusing on any incorrectly perceived negative aspects of women’s basketball, as has been the case for detractors since 1997, fans (and previous non-fans) will now tune in to see these players and discuss their impact on the actual game instead of any off the court prejudice.

It won’t be completely “fixed” overnight, but I see this upcoming draft as a driving catalyst.

There is enormous potential here, but it couldn’t have happened without the pioneers over the last several decades; let’s be sure to appreciate how far the game has come.

Simply put: we’re on the precipice of ushering in a new era in women’s basketball.

It’s impossible not to be excited.