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Halftime thoughts: The new power punch in the NBA

Back in the day, it was uncommon to hear of women in sports. Yet today, Diana Taurasi, Serena Williams, Mia Hamm, and Ronda Rousey have become household names in the sporting scene, being some of the most renowned female athletes in the world. This ever-growing dominance of women in the landscape of sports continues to make waves in a patriarchal world. 

In the realm of basketball, spectators and fans alike know that the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) is a world stage for men’s talent. But even that is changing as well. With the recent news of San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon taking over Gregg Popovich after his ejection, the former Women’s NBA (WNBA) star earned the spot as the first woman to act as a head coach during an NBA game. 

Who is to say that basketball, which was once man-dominated sport, will not evolve into a genderless sport? In the words of Hammon, “There is no difference whether a man’s holding it (basketball) or a woman’s holding it.” That spur-of-the-moment lineup change shook the decades-old line of all-male head coaches. 

Overshadowed by the talent on the floor, the real minds who work from the sidelines, holding the board are the coaching staff—walking playbooks acting as floor generals, making the tough decisions and strategizing plays. Women have proven themselves worthy of the top spot (head coach) in the WNBA, so why can it not wave to the NBA?

Women can ball

Though not new to the game, Hammon definitely shone the light on the women of the NBA. For 16 years, the four-time all WNBA, the NCAA’s Western Athletic Conference’s all-time leading scorer, and 11th best player of NCAA, and though she retired from playing professionally in 2014, to her, it was not the time to store the ball just yet.

Following her and the still-expanding list of women NBA coaches is Jenny Boucek, who played for the WNBA’s Seattle Storm before her back injury ended what could have been a stellar career. She found herself in the NBA as an assistant coach for player development for the Sacramento Kings in 2017 and later went on board the Dallas Mavericks in 2018.

Likewise, Natalie Nakase, LA Clippers’ assistant coach, is also a certified baller. She went pro in the National Women’s Basketball League, playing for the San Jose Spiders in 2005 and the San Diego Siege in 2006, being the first Asian-American to enter the league. She then took her talents to Herner in Germany from 2007 to 2008.

Meanwhile, playing and coaching on the side is a new gig for the Los Angeles Sparks guard Kristi Toliver, who was hired as the new assistant coach for player development of the Washington Wizards in 2018. The two-time WNBA Champion and three-time All-Star was just as good on the floor. The craftswoman on the ball showed true skill in ball handling and playmaking, making her the perfect addition to the Wizards’ franchise. She set her own historic record as the first active WNBA player to hold a coaching position in the NBA.

The decision

The NBA has had a string of women coaches since the early 2010s, but it took one ejection to finally notice these behind-the-bench talents, the real forces to be reckoned with. I did not look into it until recently even though I always knew that the WNBA itself had male head coaches.

Wrapping the whole concept of women in the NBA was definitely a change of pace—but a good one. But what is next for these stars in the NBA? Such uncertainty points at whether the league is in fact ready for this change. They have the talent, and they certainly have the passion, but are those enough? 

Personally, I would love to see women finally step into the spotlight as head coaches. It will always be interesting to see what they cook on the floor and how it will affect the overall punch of the team. Fans have always loved to see new coaches taking over their favorite team, so why should this be so different?

Whether in the next season or the ones after, I cannot wait to see how the canvas of the league will be colored by the presence of these rising stars. It would be an opportunity to inspire more rising stars to enter the league. Even if they would not be running on the floor, they will definitely be running the game.

By Joaquim Antonio Arquelada

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