When Bad Becomes Good!

By Yolande Lezine
Updated: July 29, 2008

HOUSTON – Some 12 years ago back in 1996, the WNBA was formed with showcase players such as Sheryl Swoopes (Houston Comets), Lisa Leslie (L.A. Sparks), and Rebecca Lobo (New York Liberty).

The Houston Comets ruled the league during it’s first four years, winning four consecutive WNBA championships. Even in the midst of advertisy with the passing of guard Kim Perrot, who succumbed to brain cancer, Houston continued to shine.

As years went by rivalries were formed, players such as Teresa Weatherspoon (New York Liberty), Ruthie Bolton-Holfield (Sacramento Monarchs), Chamique Holdsclaw (Washington Mystics), Cynthia Cooper (Houston Comets), Lynette Woodard (Cleveland Rockers) and others continued to take the league by storm.

Now we have a new crop of faces that make the WNBA shine in Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks), Candice Wiggins (Minnesota Lynx), Sylvia Fowles (Chicago Sky), Seimone Augustus (Minnesota Lynx), Lauren Jackson (Seattle Storm), Becky Hammon (San Antonio Silver Stars) and others let us know that the future of women’s basketball in the United States is bright!

However, on one night in a matter of a few seconds something bad happened. The Detroit Shock and the Los Angeles Sparks cast an ugly shadow that the league didn’t need as a close game got out of hand and a bench-clearing melee occurred.

Those few moments made the national headlines not only in the United States, but across the world. From barber shops, to grocery lines, to AAU, everyone wanted to talk about the big fight between the aforementioned Parker and Plenette Pierson (Detroit Shock), that led to both team’s benches coming out on the floor.

Why did it take something bad to happen before theleague got so much national attention? Why hasn’t the national media showed the positive side of the WNBA?

These ladies, just like the NBA players go out and compete every night. They do various things in the community, that never get mentioned. They to are human beings out doing their jobs.

Young little girls who aspire to follow in their footsteps are excited to meet them and they have dreams of being in the league some 10 to 15 years down the road.

Forget about the previous champions, the community outreach, the countless hours and things of that nature. And making it closer to home, forget about the fact that Comets owner Hilton Koch purchased the team for the fans to keep them in the city of Houston.

However, you can count the small number of media members in attendance that cover such a storied program. Consider the fact that the Comets moved from Toyota Center and had to find a new home in Reliant Arena.

A home that has been good to a team that many people gave up on when they started the 2008 season at 1-7. Rumors continue to surface about the future of the league.

People wonder just how much longer the league will be around? Will today’s young superstars who participate in AAU basketball leagues and teams around the country have the same opportunity as the players today?

All of the bad, became good last week in Houston, when the Comets played host to the Detroit Shock. Yes, it was sad that Houston native Plenette Pierson wasn’t going to be able to play in front of the hometown crowd.

However, in such a classy move, Shock head coach Bill Laimbeer took the negative attention off of the league by signing ESPN broadcaster and women’s basketball legend Nancy Lieberman to a seven-day contract.

Lieberman, who was drafted by the Phoenix Mercury in 1997, in the WNBA’s inaugural draft, became the oldest player to suit up for a WNBA game. At age 50, she took center stage and even received a standing ovation for what she has done in the history of the game in front of the Reliant Arena crowd.

The focus was moved from the bad incident that happened a few days prior to that game and went on Lieberman. It was truly a media circus when news spread that she was going to be suited up for the game, which was already scheduled to be televised on ESPN2.

Houston set a record for the number of media in attendance at the game with over 25 journalists. It would be great if the WNBA could draw that attention on a regular basis from the media.

Lieberman, who also played briefly with the Harlem Globetrotters and the ABA, helped once again to turn a bad situation into a good situation by taking the focus off the brawl.

This was a day that will go down in the history of the WNBA.

For without a dream, there would be no goal!