Press Box: Star female athlete helps close the gender gap in sports

Illustration by Olivia McCabe.

Bersabeh Kemaw, Staff Writer 

The growth of women’s basketball in this generation is undeniable and Sabrina Ionescu is one of many talented female athletes paving the way.

Ionescu is a 5-foot-11-inch guard who plays for the New York Liberty of the WNBA and is currently averaging 17 points, 5.6 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game this season, according to ESPN.

She made history during the NBA All-Star weekend when she competed against four-time NBA Champion Stephen Curry for the first-ever NBA vs. WNBA three-point shooting challenge. 

After Ionsecu’s incredible performance during the WNBA All-Star weekend where she scored a total of 37 out of 40 possible points and set a record for both the NBA and WNBA, she was challenged by Curry to compete in a three-point shooting contest, according to the NBA. 

You may be thinking, why does she need to shoot from the NBA three-point line? Isn’t it all the same?

No, it’s not because the WNBA three-point shooting line is about two feet closer to the basket than the NBA shooting line, according to Forbes.

Ionescu made it a point to shoot from the NBA line because she wanted to equal the playing field and push boundaries, no matter what challenges that may have posed, according to an interview with Forbes.

She did just that.

She scored a total of 26 points, which was the winning score in the men’s three-point contest, during the All-Star weekend, which featured stars like Karl-Anthony Towns, Damian Lillard, Trae Young and Tyrese Haliburton, according to Forbes.

Curry, being the GOAT three-point shooter, scored 29 points and ultimately won the contest.

Though Ionescu didn’t win, she was able to keep up, not only with Curry, but with the other high-ranked players in the league. 

She showed that WNBA players are just as talented as their male counterparts, and if given the opportunity, they could confidently showcase that. 

Throughout sports history, women’s sports have been seen as lesser than or not as entertaining by the general public but also by the association as well. Generally speaking, male sports have always dominated.

We see this in things such as ticket sales, salary caps, coverage, attendance, viewership and much more. 

For example, in 2023, the revenue for the NBA was a whopping $10 billion, whereas the revenue for the WNBA was $60 million, according to WSN.

The average attendance for the NBA in 2023 was 17,184 in comparison to 5,679 for the WNBA, according to WSN.

This is only scratching the surface at the battle between the sexes.

Significant differences like this have created a gap between men and women in sports because women were not — and still are not — getting the recognition and respect they deserve.

Ionescu is one of many athletes working to reshape the perception of not only the WNBA, but women in sports as a collective.

The crossover that happened between the WNBA and NBA opened a door for future opportunities that will allow for women and men to compete at the same level.

Ultimately, gender does not determine talent and skills. 

After the three-point shooting contest, Ionsecu said, “If you can shoot, you can shoot,” according to Forbes.

She’s not wrong. 

If you work for it and put in the time, hard work, dedication and effort, it’s only a matter of time until you are able to achieve and accomplish what you have set out to do.

Adam Silver, the commissioner for the NBA, acknowledged that there could be more crossover with the NBA and WNBA, according to Forbes.

This possibility will allow viewers to see women highlighted and appreciated in sports the same way we see men.

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