Sideline Scholars: WNBA has got game

Newsflash to basketball fans in the D.C. area: The best player in the league still resides in the District, still shoots jumpers on the MCI Center floor, and still leads the hometown team to the playoffs year in and year out. It's not Michael Jordan, but Miss Jordan, as Washington Mystics superstar Chamique Holdsclaw is frequently called. Her Airness, if you will, is the most dominating force in an improving WNBA, which includes stars such as Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes and Sue Bird. Since joining the Mystics in 1999, Holdsclaw has turned the team into perennial Eastern Conference contenders. While Miss Jordan is leading the Mystics to the promised land, fans still flock to see D.C.'s best version of chickens with their heads cut off, the Wizards. I know Michael Jordan is the main reason why the Wizards sold out every home game this past season. I was one of the spectators who frequented the MCI Center to see the greatest player on earth in his final go around, but quite frankly, the basketball played there was less than impressive. While the Mystics boast the league-lead in attendance (no big feat considering the WNBA's pathetic attendance) at just over 16,000 per game, they don't even come close to the Wiz, who sell out nightly. Abe Pollin's boys have an inexperienced coach, no superstar (unless Jerry Stackhouse returns) and are stuck with over-the-hill veterans (Bryon Russell, Tyronn Lue) and underachieving youngsters (Kwame Brown, Jared Jeffries). But in the summer, the disheveled mess that is the Wizards turns into a fine-tuned basketball machine. Unfortunately, fans will never sell out MCI because we'd rather watch crybabies with gold handkerchiefs than pony-tailed women playing for a fraction of what the men earn. Holdsclaw is the biggest star this city will see for the next decade, strutting her 20-point, 12-rebound stuff around the country's capital city. Unfortunately, though, too many people miss her magic. Combined with Stacey Dales-Schuman and Coco Miller, the Mystics have a solid core that will contend for a WNBA title in the next couple years. Compared to their co-tenants, the Mystics have a lot more promise than Pollin's band of dysfunctional kids. Even more disturbing than the Mystics not selling out is that they lead the league in attendance. The WNBA is floundering, having resorted to moving a team to a casino (The Connecticut Sun playing at Mohegan Sun casino) in an effort to increase fan interest. While the New York Liberty advance to the league finals every year, the NBA's New York Knicks are the laughingstock of the men's game. However, their arena is rarely full for the WNBA, but a constant sellout for the biggest joke on earth. The Los Angeles Sparks have won two WNBA titles in a row behind a run-and-gun, fun fast-break offense featuring Lisa Leslie and Tamecka Dixon, but fans would still rather watch the incompetent Clippers at the Staples Center. The WNBA has even resorted to old-NBA bad boy Bill Laimbeer to coach its Detroit Shock. While he does draw some fans, attendance can't even compare to the boring, defensive game that the Pistons play. I appreciate what WNBA President Val Ackerman has done. She has put the best quality of basketball on the floor, but it just doesn't work. Fans prefer the boys (no matter how bad they are) over the girls. And I am just as guilty as anyone else. I said I frequented the MCI Center this year for MJ's farewell. What I omitted is the fact that I didn't go to watch the Jordan that still runs this city-Miss Jordan, a fact I will be sure to change when I get back in the District. Fans in the D.C. area, myself included, need to look at what Holdsclaw is doing. She is turning a local team into a championship caliber squad, something Michael Jordan, Jaromir Jagr of the Capitals and Steve Spurrier of the Redskins have not been able to do. And, if she does in fact lead the Mystics to a title, it will be D.C.'s first since the Redskins of the early-90's. Oh wait, didn't MLS's D.C. United win a couple titles? Who are the United? Yeah, that's what I thought. It's another successful D.C. team that's under-appreciated and ignored.

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