Yo! Pinoe here. Noted girlfriend. Famous hoops expert. I’m in the Wubble, the Storm are in the FINALS. I’m chilling, Sue’s balling. I’ve got some things to say. Let’s do a WNBA Finals Preview.
(1) Remember 2019???
No?? That’s OK, I get it. It was a long time ago.
2019 was the year that happened right before this one. A lot of stuff went down….. it all seemed kind of crazy at the time….. but it turns out it was just, like, pre-crazy???
Anyway: In 2019 we won the World Cup. (I have receipts.) It was the time of my life, not just because of what we accomplished, but because of how we accomplished it. We did it as such a team. We did it against ridiculous competition. We did it with style. But most importantly?? We did it while staying true to ourselves.
That’s the one thing I’ll always cherish about that run, above everything else. We did our thing on the field….. but then off of it, we never shied away from who we were. We also understood that it went beyond simply “not shying away” — that, as athletes with public profiles, we had a responsibility to stand up for what we believed in, and to use our platforms for good. And I’m so proud of how we went about our business. Not only did we kick ass, we kicked ass while putting issues like equal pay front and center. We got people talking about female excellence, and queer excellence. And we brushed the haters off our shoulders because literally who cares what haters think — they’re wack and we won the World Cup!!!
Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty ImagesMy point is, we DID that. And we felt like some damn heroes.
But now it’s a year later — and looking back on that run, from my current perspective….. man, I just have to say: If our USWNT players were heroes for what we accomplished in 2019??
These WNBA players are the f*cking AVENGERS for what they’ve accomplished in 2020.
(2) I’m not going to write an article like this without being real.
And before I go any further here — if I’m being totally real with you, there’s an elephant in the room that I think has to be brought up. It’s something that I think doesn’t get spoken about nearly enough when the topic of the W comes up. People beat around the bush about it, they talk about it in code……. they “say it” without actually saying it.
So let’s say it:
This country has a deep history of racism, and a deep history of homophobia.
And if you look at the players in the W: Most of them are Black, and a lot of them are gay.
I just think that needs to be said, loud and clear, so there’s no mistaking things. Because, again: I’m so proud of the run that we went on last year at the World Cup — and so damn grateful for the support that we got. And in a lot of ways, I’m OVER THE MOON about how it was seen as this “breakthrough” moment. But I think the conversation around what our team represented tended to be somewhat incomplete.
And what I mean by that is: When it comes to U.S. women’s soccer, the general perception is that — let’s face it — we’re the white girls next door. The straight, “cute,” “unthreatening,” “suburban” white girls next door. It’s not actually who we are — the WNT’s racial diversity, though not yet where it needs to be, is improving every year. And, you know, breaking news….. I’m gay. But by and large, that’s the perception. And it’s certainly how we’re marketed to a lot of people.
So when I see millions of viewers for our matches, and I see us on the front page of the Times, and I see the way we’re leading SportsCenter and how it all just feels like a big f*cking deal — trust me, like I said, nothing could make me prouder. Generations of women helped build that, and believe me I know: I’m standing on the shoulders of GIANTS. I don’t take any of that for granted for a single second.
But at the same time….. I think we need to be careful about calling the support that we got a “feminist” breakthrough, when it’s only part of the way there. Because when the support only extends to “white girls next door” sports? That’s not feminism — or at least it’s not the kind of feminism that I’m here for. I don’t have time for any kind of feminism that’s not real and total — from race to class to religion to gender identity to sexual orientation to everything in between.
And I guess I just have to wonder, when I see the millions of viewers we’re getting, and the shine on SportsCenter, and the talk show appearances and the endorsement deals and all of that…..
Where’s that same energy for the best women’s basketball players on the planet?? Where’s that energy for the women’s sports that — instead of scanning cute and white and straight — scan tall and black and queer??
Where’s that conversation?
As far as I’m concerned, there’s no conversation worth having without it.Julio Aguilar/Getty Images(3) I’m seeing a lot of “social media activism” these days.
Seeing a lot of IG pages with the all-black square. Seeing a lot of tweets about supporting Black women. And listen….. that’s great. Good job, good effort. We love to see it.
But I’ve gotta ask, man.
How is it that when the W is on TV….. when this DOPE-ASS league, featuring some of the most talented Black women in the WORLD, has games on TV….. I never hear a word from those same people??
Why is it that the “support Black women” crowd always goes silent……… when there’s an actual opportunity to support Black women???!?!?
That’s not even a rhetorical question — I’m really asking. The games are incredible, people say they want to show support……. I don’t get it.
I’m not even trying to call anyone out here.
I’m just saying you’re missing some quality television.
(4) ANNOUNCING THE 2020 MEGAN RAPINOE WUBBLE ALL-STARS
THESE ARE JUST MY PERSONAL FAVORITE PLAYERS I’VE LOVED TO WATCH
BTW HOPEFULLY THIS IS NOT TAMPERING
*MY PERSONAL CHOICE FOR MVP (AGAIN JUST MY PERSONAL OPINION HAVING TO DO WITH WHO I AM MOST THE FAN OF, AS A BASKETBALL EXPERT)
(5) Here’s one thing I can say for certain about the WNBA: It’s a place where social justice is not a fad.
That’s not a shot at any other athletes, or any other leagues, at all. As gut-wrenching as the news has been lately, I’m so inspired by the ways that the sports world has come together to meet this moment head-on.
But if there’s one thing I’d say to any athlete reading this who wants to be part of the solution — it’s that we’re looking for long-term solutions, not just short-term ones. We need to fight for big, sweeping, institutional change, not just superficial change. And we need athletes sticking their necks out for social justice who are invested in social justice, not just which way the wind might be blowing.
And if there’s another thing I’d say? It’s pay attention to the W.
Pay attention to how WNBA players have honored the life and memory of Breonna Taylor — not just with lip service, but with an active and involved campaign. They haven’t just been there to say her name, they’ve been there to Say Her Name. They’ve been there to find meaning in her name, and to give a voice to that meaning.
Julio Aguilar/Getty Images
Pay attention to how WNBA players didn’t just “clap back” at Kelly Loeffler after she showed her true colors…… they organized. They played the long game. They realized, OK. She WANTS us to kick her out of the league. So instead they pivoted, and leveled up: launching an effort to support her election opponent, Reverend Warnock, a truly progressive and inclusive candidate — someone who will actually have their backs in the Senate.
Pay attention to how the W and its players have made activism more than just a “thing they’re doing.”
They’ve made it a part of who they are.
(6) FIRST ANNUAL MEGAN RAPINOE WUBBLE DRIP AWARDS
Stephen Gosling & Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images
LOOK OF THE YEAR
RUNNER UP: “FUN / COOL”
FIRST TEAM ALL-DRIP
(7) This is the part where I brag about Suzanne Brigit Bird.
I won’t lie….. I might be a little proud of her.
A few reasons why, in no particular order:
- Union Sue. So much cool progress was made in the W’s most recent CBA. This current leadership — with Nneka as President and Sue as VP and so many other genius women involved — has set the players up for a lot of success, I think, both immediately as well as down the road. Average salary is way up. Rookie salaries are way up. The max is way up. They locked in family-planning reimbursements, fully paid maternity leave and a child-care stipend. I know how much all of that means to Sue: not just the particulars of the deal, but the bigger picture. The legacy stuff. Sue’s the kind of vet who looks out for the younger generation — who is trying to leave the league better off than how she found it.
- Comeback Sue. Don’t fact-check this, but I googled “how many days from september 10th 2018 to july 25th 2020” and it spit out “684 days.” That’s the amount of time that passed between Game 3 of the 2018 Finals and Opening Night of the 2020 season, i.e. the amount of time that my girl spent on the proverbial shelf. Wait. What!!!!! That’s so many days. I almost still can’t believe it. And let’s be real: with COVID, it’s not exactly like Sue was able to go through a state-of-the-art rehab process. Actually, THIS is how improvised it was: With social distancing making it impossible to get real runs in, Sue was forced to train by playing 1-on-1 against……. moi. I won’t share the full scouting report on myself (need to keep a secret or two in my bag), but: You know how, in that interview, Tyler Herro said “I’m a bucket”?? Well — I’m a foul. Still not sure how Sue managed to overcome the adversity of being stuck with me.
- Sniper Sue. Fun fact: The Bird is hitting 46.9% from three this year. (Let that sink in.) 46.9%!! That’s her CAREER HIGH. And before you dork off on me about sample size or whatever: This is her second straight season posting a new career high from three. So basically what I’m trying to say is we’re either dealing with a freak of f*cking nature, or one of the best players of all time, or both. I was listening to the J.J. Redick Podcast the other day, and he had Steve Nash on, and Steve was talking about how he sees now that he probably should have shot it more, considering how efficient he was and all of that. But at the same time, he came from this generation where the point guard’s main role was to be a floor general, and a distributor….. and nothing was supposed to get in the way of that. And I think Sue’s sort of built the same way. Like, she’ll go down as one of the best point guards to ever play the game. But I also love how she’s been showing over these last few years that — if she’d ever wanted to — she probably could have been a Steph / Dame type of scoring machine as well.
- “This Is 40” Sue. Alright, here’s the deal I’m willing to make — I’ll make it with anyone who wants it. If you get yourself onto the cover of SLAM, accompanied by the headline “ICON”…….. then you can talk about Sue being 39 as much as you want. But until you do? You can’t say sh*t.
(8) It’s Storm SZN.
What I love about this Storm team is that they’re chill.
It’s actually kind of wild how chill they are. They just go about their business, wipe the floor with fools, WIN, etc. — and yet they do it in this low-key way that almost makes them even scarier.
And they just play the BEST kind of basketball. Sooo unselfish, ball always moving, everyone out there sharing and getting touches. And it fits their personality, right??? Super relaxed, not a lot of whoa. Well……. until you look at the scoreboard. And then it’s: WHOA.
You can tell they’re quietly on a mission this year. They never got to defend their 2018 title at full strength. So I feel like this Finals run kind of is their title defense, in a way.
It’s a statement kind of thing.
And that statement is definitely something like, “Hey. Hi. It’s us, again — the Storm. We are in fact still those motherf*ckers.”
(9) Here’s my Finals take.
Aces: A’ja, MVP. Angel, one of the greats. Kayla, Danielle, Jackie, all dangerous.
Storm: Eraser. Mamba. Stewie. Flash. And the GOAT.
Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images
OFFICIAL PREDICTION: STORM IN 3 (Or 4!! Or 5!! Whatever as long as they win!!)
(10) And then my last thought, really, is just: Sh*t is hard right now.
It’s just….. hard, you know?
That’s not a Wubble observation, I guess, as much as a human one. It’s also a pretty obvious one — but it’s been on my mind, especially lately.
I just keep thinking about how tough it’s been to stay positive this year.
We have this pandemic that’s killing hundreds of thousands of people. We have cops who are killing Black people with impunity. We have a President who can’t denounce white supremacy — and so many elected officials who won’t denounce the President. (VOTE!!!!!!!!) We have an economy that’s broken. We have a planet that’s literally dying.
I can barely wrap my head around it.
And all I’ve gotta do right now is kick back and watch basketball games.
I honestly can’t begin to imagine what it’s like to have to live through this moment as someone who lost their job, or lost their home, or has food insecurity. Or as an immigrant dealing with the threat of I.C.E. Or as an immunocompromised person, high-risk for COVID.
Or as a Black person, high-risk for getting shot and killed by the police.
I can’t imagine what it’s like to live through this moment while being Black in America.
And I think what I’m trying to say is: I’m white. I have financial security. I don’t have to work at the moment. Overall, I’m fairly privileged. And still — every day, without fail, there comes a point where I just want to throw my hands up and scream. There comes a point where I just want to yell back into the void, like….. OK, world!! OK, Demon Year 2020!! You win. I give up. Come collect your prize (my soul or whatever). Every day I feel this paralysis about how hopeless so many things seem.
And then I look at these players in the W.
I look at these AMAZING women.
I look at all the Black women in the league, having to make sense of this world we’re living in — and somehow going to work. I look at all the gay women in the league, having to make sense of this world we’re living in, and somehow going to work. I look at all the moms in the league, having to do REAL LIVE PARENTING in this bubble, and somehow going to work.
And by the way: not just going to work. Not just doing their job. Doing a WORLD-CLASS job. Being held to the standard of being the best in the entire-ass world at their job. And then on top of all that: finding the energy to stand for social justice during this time of crisis. Finding the energy to stand up against all of this bullsh*t, and cruelty, and sadness, and loss.
Julio Aguilar/Getty Images
Not on an NBA salary, by the way!!! And not with the NBA’s infrastructure — not even close.
WNBA players are real people, living real lives.
And I think that’s what’s been on my mind, here, most of all. And that’s what I wanted to talk about in this article.
Like — I’m not with the league. I’m not pushing an agenda.
I’m not promoting anything.
I’m just a girl in a Wubble dating her local team’s point guard.
And I’m asking you all the same: Watch the WNBA Finals, please??
Watch these women work.
Because the universe freaking sucks right now — it just deeply, straight-up does. And I feel like this whole entire year, all we’ve been asking for is, like, one good thing. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to save us. It doesn’t have to make anyone rich, or happy, or whole. It just has to be one damn thing that’s good, you know???
And I guess my point is: I watch the W, and I feel like — Well, OK.
There you go. There it is.
Here’s that thing.
Here are the women who hoop the very f*cking best.