Seattle basketball has been a lost entity since the Seattle SuperSonics left to become the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2008. The SuperSonics were very successful during their time in Seattle, producing Hall of Fame players including Gary Payton, Ray Allen and Spencer Haywood. Shawn Kemp, one of the most exciting players of all time, was also a SuperSonic during his career.
The culture of Seattle basketball is still present in the NBA despite the city lacking a team. Jamal Crawford, Isaiah Thomas, Jason Terry, Marvin Williams, Avery Bradley and Dejounte Murray are all current players who call Seattle home.
Since it doesn’t appear that a NBA team will relocate anytime soon, Seattle should be on the short list of cities if the NBA decides to expand again. The city of Seattle has a dedicated fan base that is desperate to have a NBA team back.
But the Seattle Storm is keeping Seattle basketball alive and well. Led by future Hall of Famer Sue Bird and former No. 1 overall pick Breanna Stewart, the Storm won the WNBA title in 2018. Averaging 25 points per game during the WNBA Finals, Stewart went on to win Finals MVP. The Storm’s run to a championship brought much-needed attention to the WNBA and Seattle basketball.
Current and former NBA players such as LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Isaiah Thomas all showed love to Bird and the Storm.
“[Sue Bird], you’re a MONSTER!!!” James tweeted.
Thomas, a Seattle native, has been pushing for recognition of the Storm, Seattle basketball and women’s basketball throughout the WNBA playoffs. He even went to the extent of writing an article for The Players’ Tribune about the Storm and women’s basketball.
In a powerful moment from Thomas’ piece, he wrote, “To put it really simple: If you don’t respect women’s basketball, you’re a joke.”
The WNBA playoffs were exciting, with buzzer beaters and great performances from the likes of Bird and Diana Taurasi highlighting the action. But there is one prevailing issue that has yet to be addressed surrounding the WNBA: women who play in the WNBA have been speaking out about the clear disparity in pay compared to that of the NBA.
In the WNBA, the highest salary a player can make in one season is $110,000. Compared to the NBA, where Stephen Curry — the league’s highest paid player — earned nearly $35 million during the 2017-18 season.
Many WNBA players have to play overseas if they ever want to make more than six figures playing basketball. Fixing this issue won’t be easy — the WNBA must find a way to generate more revenue into the league so they can pay their players more. They don’t have to draw in the $7 billion the NBA does, but it must be higher than the roughly $52 million they generate now. Grabbing fans’ attention is the best way to create revenue — but a lack of interest in women’s sports makes this a challenge.
WNBA all-star Skylar Diggins-Smith went as far as calling out players and networks for the lack of attention the league receives.
“ESPN will go into everything that LeBron ate before they show a highlight of a WNBA game,” Diggins-Smith said.