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The Seattle Storm's Tina Thompson applauds the KeyArena fans. (WNBA.com photo)

The Seattle Storm Charms A Couple of NBA Snobs at the Home Opener

The Puget Sound is home to a lot of disappointed basketball fans, crestfallen that Seattle isn't going to have an NBA team anytime soon.

But Sunday's sold out Seattle Storm home opener is a reminder that the city does have a professional basketball team. Still, not everyone is interested.

My boyfriend Jake is a huge basketball fan:

"I started playing basketball probably about fifth grade. I played it in high school. I started on the varsity team. I watch the NCAA tournament, I follow the NBA sort of religiously. I love everything about basketball."

My coworker Nick has a similar history.

"I have been playing basketball since I was a kid."

And both are feminists. Jake is a poet and a musician who buys flowers to decorate his home. So I was shocked when both Jake and Nick screwed up their faces at the suggestion of the WNBA.

"Don't really like other kinds of basketball except for NBA," said Nick. "The best guys in the world are out there and that's what I want to see."

"I respect women's basketball, but it seems like an inferior product," Jake said. "So much about professional basketball is the athleticism and the people dunking and playing above the rim and the strength of the competitors. I just have a preconceived notion that it's not going to be as good. Less exciting."

I have never seen a Storm game either, so I rustled up three tickets and off we went to KeyArena. The first thing we noticed was the loud, dedicated fans. The second thing was Brittany Griner, the 6-foot-8 rookie player with the Phoenix Mercury.

"She can dunk, she's exciting in that way," says Jake. "And she participates in what I'm interested in seeing in professional basketball. But most of the women I've seen in highlights or in passing don't really have that."

Brittney Griner is bringing a lot of attention to the WNBA.

"She's six-foot-eight with a seven-foot-four wingspan. She has bigger hands than LeBron James. She's an incredible athlete. I mean, she's a game changing athlete," says Dawn Trudeau, one of the owners of The Storm.

She says women's sports are often considered inferior to men's, but she thinks the WNBA definitely has it's merits.

"It's actually more of a team basketball game than the men's game. The men's game is really, like, about the individuals. They're incredible athletes. I mean, LeBron James, you can't talk about what kind of an athlete he is. But it's kind of a one guy game. With women, it's really a team sport. Women still have a ways to go in society of getting equal recognition and equal support and equal validation. We're in our own niche of the world trying to accomplish the same thing."

Tanisha Wright, who scored 20 points Sunday night, making her the game's top scorer, says it's not the same as the NBA and she thinks that's a good thing.

"Makes it more interesting because then you can see the athleticism, what we can do. The skill which is different than a guy's. They play above the rim, we play below the rim, kinda sorta. Well, with Griner. She can play above the rim. So we have to do a lot of different things in order to be successful."

Despite what they said before the game, both Jake and Nick seemed to get into the game almost immediately.

"It's already way better than I thought!" said Jake. "It's very fast paced, they've made a lot of baskets already, some at the buzzer. I think seeing it in person, you can see that it's a lot faster. It's good in person."

"One thing I am struck by so far is the athleticism," said Nick. "They're really good athletes."

Tina Thompson was the first draft pick in WNBA history, she has two Olympic gold medals and is the WNBA's all time leading scorer.

"I think that they have to come out to the WNBA and just experience it. Just the energy in every WNBA arena is amazing and one thing they can get is effort. From start to finish we work really hard. You don't have to wait til the 4th quarter, like an NBA game, to get a good game."

By the end of the game I would say Jake was a changed man.

"It was great! I would come back for sure. It'd be fun to see how the season progresses. I'm interested."

Although, he was still annoyed that the women use a smaller ball than the standard sized NBA ball. I asked Tina Thompson why.

"I'm not sure. Probably because in college basketball that's the ball that they play with, like, that size. But I think that most of the women would probably prefer a men's ball. I know I do. That's what I grew up playing with."

Nick also enjoyed the game, but it did bring up other feelings.

"I really want to go watch an NBA game live now!"

Even me, someone not interested in sports, got really involved in the game. It probably didn't hurt that the Storm won.

Rachel Belle, Ron and Don Show Reporter
Rachel Belle is a feature contributor and personality on The Ron & Don Show on KIRO Radio (weekdays 3-7pm), and host of Ring My Belle Weekends (Sundays at 3pm).
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