We Need To Talk About The Team USA Women's Basketball Team
No doubt that the U.S. has made a great showing in several Olympic events throughout the 2016 Summer Games. And not just the U.S. in general, but women specifically. Simone Biles secured her spot as the world's greatest gymnast — and possibly the greatest gymnast in history. Katie Ledecky was so dominant that at times it looked like she had the pool to herself. But some of the unsung heroes of these Olympic Games have come out as the indisputable greatest in their field. Yes, y'all: we need to talk about the team USA women's basketball team.
Women's basketball isn't exactly a celebrated sport in the U.S. Going into its 20th year as a league, the WNBA struggled to boost TV ratings and attendance. In 2015, the average attendance for a WNBA team was 7,318 fans per game, a record low in the league's tenure. Armchair fans didn't have a much better showing. The combined viewership of WNBA games in 2015 was an average of 202,000, a 14 percent drop from the last season. Let's compare that to the NBA in the 2014-2015 season, who had an average of 17,826 fans rooting for them in the stadium; and the combined network viewership of games for that season was well over 3 million.
With those numbers in mind, it isn't surprising that U.S. women's basketball wasn't exactly much-watch Olympic material for many Americans. But if there is ever a time to get into women's basketball, it's now. Team USA has been an absolute powerhouse in the 2016 Olympics, where the men's team has left us biting our fingernails.
Let's look at how the two teams have done so far, and this time we'll let the boys go first. Yeah, they're going into the gold medal game against Serbia on Sunday, but it wasn't exactly the easy coast to the finals that everyone expected. In the first two games, they trounced China and Venezuela by over a 40-point margin, and it seemed like the rest of the games would be just as breezy. The third, fourth and fifth games were much more rough for the U.S., however, including real nail-biters in the game against France (100-97) and Serbia (94-91).
So yes, they're heading to the gold medal round, but not quite as easily as they thought.
Meanwhile, the women's team has been an absolute force on the court. The very closest game that they've had so far was the semifinals against France, which they won 86-67. And the easiest win? A 121-56 trouncing of Senegal in the first round. Most of their wins have been over 40 points.
I'll go ahead and nip a common argument in the bud. Yes, it's valid that the U.S. men's team didn't send their best and brightest: LeBron James, Steph Curry and other superstars stayed at home, but they aren't without their own talent. The women, however, have rounded up the WNBA greats in Brittney Griner, Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi. There isn't a B-lister on the team.
But still, why weren't all eyes on this collection of superstars who clearly have the momentum to easily take the gold? Why were we all focusing on the guys?
No matter. The men will hopefully beat Serbia on Sunday (U-S-A!). But if I had to give the platinum medal (not a thing) to one U.S. basketball team, I'll give it to the ladies. Keep dominating as you head toward your sixth Olympic gold. At least some of us are all in for you.