The WNBA finals are set. The good news is the Western Conference Champion Phoenix Mercury will play the Eastern Conference Champion Indiana Fever starting Tuesday. Good news, that is if you live in or are fans of Phoenix and/or Indiana. The bad news is, for us Lisa Leslie fans anyway, is that Phoenix defeated the LA sparks and Lisa Leslie is now officially retired from the WNBA. I know the LA Sparks really wanted to send her out with a win and a championship. The great Mechelle Voepel writes a great article on her final game and sums her career.
We were watching the press conference after the game and Lisa Leslie was blasting people for not coming out and supporting the WNBA more. Our memories can be faulty, but we think we remember her saying she was mad not many fans came out to the deciding game three of the semi-final conference game in Phoenix. We can’t seem to find a video clip of it, though, but will keep scouring that there Internet.Well, Phoenix could do what Indiana did. Did you see Larry Bird bought 9,000 seats to the Indiana Fever’s game three of the semi finals? It seems this Larry Bird guy, who used to play pro basketball for the men’s Indiana team, is now the president of Pacers Sports and Entertainment, which includes the Fever. He is proud the Fever are in the semi finals and is aware they have never made it to the finals. So he made the decision to put up $90,000 of his own money to by $9,000 ten-dollar seats. Players have always maintained that sometimes crowds can be the intangible difference, and he wanted to insure a big crowd.
According the “The Indy Channel,” some of the people who lined up for tickets Saturday said they probably wouldn't have come to the game, but the free tickets made it an easy choice.
"I personally have never been a big woman's basketball fan, but I wanted to come out and show my support," said Christa Eldrige.
Oh, the Fever ended up beating the Detroit Shock to advance to the WNBA finals.
We salute Larry Bird for fronting the money for the seats, but asking one person to put up the cost for the seats is not a reasonable long term solution to the problem of low attendance. (Okay, let’s acknowledge there is low attendance at WNBA games in general and not debate why. Let’s save that for another day.) What if the arena itself were to proclaim, “We have so much faith in our team and that you will love them once you come to see them that we will put up the seat expense ourselves.” Meaning they give away the cheap seats to entice more people to come to games and can gain some money from parking and concessions and hopefully make more fans for life. If the cheap seats are going to go unused anyway, I don’t see what the arenas have to lose.
Oh, in happier news, C and R got to spend the day looking at Lisa Leslie clips, not a bad way to spend a day. The WNBA site had highlights of Lisa Leslie. It was cool to see clips from early on in her career, the first season in particular where she was so happy, a big smile on early play, playing to the fans. She showed lots of emotion on every drive to the basket, would make a block and then a give a fist pump. They showed “The Dunk”, and how she immediately hugged her teammates rather than just beat her chest, to share the moment with them. We thought, wow, the WNBA did a good job picking clips where after the play Lisa is smiling and high-fiving teammates and really into the game with emotion. Then we realized as the clips kept going on, no that’s how she played, so happy, the joy showing and the emotion spreading around her and radiating like sun rays warming my cats.
Mechelle Voepel reports that Lisa wants to run a basketball academy for girls and work in broadcasting, and might like to coach someday. She also wants to remain a strong advocate for women’s sports and help WNBA rookies to be role models and be aware how they represent the game.
She didn’t go out with a win or the championship, but she went out a class act.