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  • Writer's pictureNicole Vorrasi Bates

Allyship - Modern Day "Battle of the Sexes"

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

February 18, 2024. If you didn’t catch the 3-point contest between the WNBA’s Sabrina Ionescu and the NBA’s Steph Curry during last night’s NBA All-Star festivities, the first ever event of its kind, you missed out!  Don’t despair. You can watch both master shooters here, and I urge you to do so and share it widely, particularly with the young athletes in your life.

While Steph narrowly won the contest 29-26, the true winners were Sabrina, women’s and girls’ basketball, and, yes, even gender equity in sports and beyond!

First, a shout out to the participants.  

Sabrina was AMAZING! She opted to shoot from the NBA line (more than a foot farther out), and she knocked down 26. Again, 26. Sabrina tied the top men’s 3-point shooters that night and would have made the finals! She gave the greatest shooter of all time a real run for his money. And to do that on such a major stage, with so much pressure. There are no words. And as you will note, she appeared relaxed and excited - despite recognizing that a poor showing would be a lost opportunity for the women’s game - one she was not going to lose.

As for Steph, huge props to him for doing this and continuing to be a huge supporter of women’s hoops. As Sabrina said “If you can shoot, you can shoot. It doesn’t matter if you are a girl or boy.” And Steph, the greatest shooter of all-time, knows that. And that’s likely why he was admittedly nervous given “the whole world is gonna be watching.”

Even though we don't like it, there was a lot on the line for him. Can you imagine if he lost? And he knew that was a possibility. How do we know that? He showed up at her practice session and tried to get in her head. And he had no trouble owning  “trying to apply some pressure, for sure.” Talk about respect.

There is so much more pointing to just how much was at stake for him. First, listen again to the announcers as Sabrina was shooting. It is infuriating. After nailing the first seven shots and going nine out of 10 to start, they surmise Sabrina is getting tired when she misses the Starry shot, which both players missed.

Then seconds later they go full throttle with the condescension. After she nails 4 out 5 in the next tray, she misses three and you hear “get your legs into it, there you go, there you go, get your legs into it.” What?!!!! She would have qualified for the men’s finals which had just been completed! She does not need their advice.

And then there is all the talk about Sabrina using a women’s basketball, which actually is comical. Anyone who understands the game knows that it is all about what you are accustomed to playing with. Yet I could only find one article confirming that of course Sabrina would naturally use a women’s ball.

Just this week, I witnessed firsthand, on two separate occasions, just how ridiculous the emphasis on the size of Sabrina’s ball is.

At a girls’ AAU practice, a coach watched one of his player’s shoot and immediately called out “Sky, where’s your ball?” One of her teammates had her ball, so she had picked up the closest, a men’s ball that was left behind in the gym. The different ball impacts the shot, whether you are a boy or a girl, and is easily recognizable. Suffice it to say the ball was quickly switched out.

And the boys don’t want to use a women’s ball. Following a training session at a local recreation center, there was a boys versus girls pick-up game, and the boys refused to play with a women’s ball (which is smaller and lighter). It is all about what the shooter is used to using. These boys clearly knew that and didn’t want to be at a disadvantage and increase the risk of losing to the girls.

And that brings us back to Steph. Steph’s greatest achievement was being an amazing ally by accepting Sabrina’s challenge. As one wise reporter noted:

Ask yourself: How many NBA players, let alone superstars, would be willing to risk losing to a WNBA player on this kind of stage? Not many. Kudos to Curry, who knew how big this even was for both All-Star Weekend as a whole and certainly for the WNBA and women's basketball all over the world.

I agree. This was huge for women’s and girls’ basketball. But this was far, far more. It changes the narrative.

This was big for all women’s and girls’ sports. And it was big for gender equity and gender equality. This competition sends a powerful message to young girls and boys (and the adults and commentators/reporters) who watched. “It doesn’t matter if you are a girl or boy. I think it matters the heart that you have and wanting to be the best that you can be.”  

Well said, Sabrina. Thank you for representing so very well! You not only took advantage of the opportunity, you crushed it! And again, thanks to Steph for being a courageous ally. We need more allies, so “Be a Steph.” And Steph, remember shooters shoot. It will make it easier when Sabrina wins next time!  

We definitely need more events like this.

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