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Gender Bender
Alexander Wolff
December 29, 1997
They were women, and we heard them roar. But like the arms of a ref signaling a successful Cynthia Cooper three-pointer, the stems of the ol' Y chromosome cast their shadow over the premiere seasons of two women's pro basketball leagues, for good and for ill.
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December 29, 1997

Gender Bender

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They were women, and we heard them roar. But like the arms of a ref signaling a successful Cynthia Cooper three-pointer, the stems of the ol' Y chromosome cast their shadow over the premiere seasons of two women's pro basketball leagues, for good and for ill.

First, the good. The winners of the inaugural championships of the ABL and the WNBA were coached by the only men to work the entire first season of their respective leagues—Brian Agler of the ABL Columbus Quest and Van Chancellor of the WNBA Houston Comets. It might be ungallant to point this out, but we'll point it out anyway. You go, guys.

As for the ill, it took only a couple of male boors to dim the afterglow of the Comets' WNBA title and the MVP play of Cooper (right). Eric Jackson, Mr. Sheryl Swoopes, griped publicly because the wife didn't get enough PT in the championship game. Inside the locker room after that game, owner Les Alexander—the Comets' very own Halley, given the rarity of his appearances at their regular-season games—mistook one of his players, guard Tiffany Woosley-Adcock, for a ball girl.

Even when it was the women behaving badly, you could tell where they got their inspiration. By ditching the Quest for the WNBA, ABL Most Valuable Player Nikki McCray recalled that mother of all league jumpers, Rick Barry. Clarissa Davis-Wrightsil of the New England Blizzard chose the climactic moments of the ABLs first All-Star Game to do her Kermit Washington impression, landing a sucker punch to the face of Cindy Brown of the Seattle Reign. When Nancy Lieberman-Cline of the Phoenix Mercury put a Hall of Fame choke hold on the Los Angeles Sparks' Jamila Wideman, two things ensued: speculation by a courtside wag that the WNBA's slogan would now become We got necks, and comparisons with Dennis Rodman.

Well, O.K., the genders might have to share responsibility for that last one.

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