Brittney Griner's dunk last week in the NCAA tournament made a lot of noise--media noise that is--despite the fact that she's 1) done it before in competition, 2) does it all the time in warm-up, and 3) is the second--not the first to dunk in the women's tournament. (Though, as I believe I noted before, Candace Parker's dunks were not all that exciting.)
Some of the press is centered around whether Griner is the gateway dunker. Will more female dunkers follow?
Questions have been raised: is the women's game evolving?
I would ask: evolving into what? Though I believe the implication is that it is evolving into a game/style that more closely resembles what the men play.
Of course, critics of the men's game suggest (often with a healthy amount of racial prejudice) that there is too much showboating and not enough fundamentals on display.
This columnist is one of the "where are the fundamentals" types while also asking why the women aren't leaping around.
Here are my theories:
1) Women are not encouraged to leap. Heck, I was a dancer in the formative years of my life--where leaping is necessary--and you want to know what my vertical leap is now? No, neither do I. Girls and women are not often placed in situations where leaping and jumping is necessary and/or encouraged. So the so-called natural leaping ability that apparently men have, isn't developed in the same way.
2) It isn't required in the women's game. Of course it isn't required in the men's game either. But it isn't as expected. It remains a novelty and, as noted above, dunking in a double-edged sword. Get accused of being a show-off? Of not being a team player? Of not having basketball's fundamentals? Of trying to be like a man? It's fraught.
3) Fright-inducing reports (and re-reports) that comprise a chorus of cautions: women have weak ACLs. The stats thrown at us about how many basketball-playing women have torn their ACLs landing awkwardly from a jump are certainly damaging to endeavors to leap higher. Of course, as the columnist I refer to above notes, women leap and jump all the time in sports like volleyball and gymnastics. Gymnastics has a very high rate of injury. Why is that sport not targeted the way women's basketball is? ACL tears are also quite common in skiing. Also, not a target. Maybe it is not a matter of leaping higher, at all.