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🏀Guide to Basketball

October 17, 2020
Guide to Basketball


Professional basketball is made up of four quarters lasting 12 minutes each. Five players on each team are on the court at the same time. The point of the game is to shoot a basketball in a hoop to get the most baskets (and the most points). A basket counts as either two or three points, depending on how far the shooter was from the basket they hit the shot. Courtside seats gives fans unprecedented access to the players, so basketball brings out celebrity sightings like no other sport. Just look at Drake getting up close and personal with Toronto Raptors coach Nick Nurse during the 2019 playoffs.  

How is it organized?

The highest level of the sport is the National Basketball Association aka NBA. The league is divided into two conferences (East and West), and each of those conferences are further divided into three divisions. There are 30 teams in the league, and only one team in Canada - our Toronto Raptors! In the 2018-19 season, the Raptors went all the way to the NBA Finals against the thought-to-be-unstoppable Golden State Warriors and WON, bringing the Larry O’Brien trophy (like the Stanley Cup of the NBA) home to Toronto. Unreal.

The best of the best

The reigning NBA champions are the LA Lakers. The Lakers claimed their 17th (!!!) NBA title in franchise history during the NBA’s historic 2020 bubble season played at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

Superstar LeBron James led his Lakers squad, earning NBA Finals MVP honors by averaging nearly 30 points per game throughout the Finals. King James became the first player to ever win the MVP honors with three different franchises. True royalty.

James had some help from teammate Anthony “The Brow” Davis, who averaged 25 points throughout the Finals. Talk about a dynamic duo.

The 2020 bubble season was historic for many reasons, most notably the wildcat strikes for social justice which nearly ended the season midway through the playoffs. With these strikes and calls to action, these players and franchise put social justice at the forefront all season long.

In addition to King James and Davis, the league’s most notable stars also include 2019-20 league MVP Giannis Antetokoumpo (pronounced YAWN-IS ANT-TET-TO-KOOM-PO), who could stir up some drama by joining a new team this offseason, and Houston Rockets guard James “The Beard” Harden.

When does the next NBA season start?

The 2019-20 NBA season ended on October 11th, right around when the new season would typically begin. The start date for the new season is still in the works, as the league contends with uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and the start of the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo. Subscribe to our free twice-weekly newsletter for the latest on the NBA and when the new season will tip off!

Play like a girl (it’s better that way)

The WNBA is one of the best professional sports leagues for women in North America as these basketball bosses actually get airtime on top sports networks. Keep your eye on:

  • WNBA legend and 2020 Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) Candace Parker (Los Angeles Sparks)
  • Kia Nurse (New York Liberty), who in 2019 became just the third Canadian to ever play in the WNBA All-Star game #proud
  • 2018 league MVP and 2020 Finals MVP Breanna Stewart, who led her Seattle Storm to their fourth (!!!) title in franchise history.
  • Reigning WNBA MVP A'ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces. Last season, Wilson lifted the Aces to a WNBA-best 18-4 record.
  • 2020 No. 1 draft pick Sabrina Ionescu of the New York Liberty, who will be returning from a heart-breaking season-ending injury. We can't wait to see her back out on the court!

Wow! Can I get more info on the WNBA?

Absolutely! The WNBA season (typically) runs from May until late September or early October, with each of the 12 teams playing 34 regular season games. The league has actually been around since 1997, though only three teams remain from inception: the New York Liberty, Los Angeles Sparks and Phoenix Mercury. Go deeper on how the league is organized here.

These women still have a long way to go before reaching parity with their professional male counterparts. But thanks to 87 nationally televised regular season games (more of this, please!), the WNBA saw an incredible 68% increase in viewership during the 2020 season. Amazing what happens when you put women's sports on TV!

And prior to the historic wubble season, we finally saw the WNBA bet on itself by signing a groundbreaking new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that will significantly benefit the players. Among other things, players receive an increase in salary that improves the average compensation from $79k to $130k (!!!) with the league’s top players set to earn $500k — more than three times the previous maximum. Cardi B would be so proud. 

There’s obviously still a long way to go before there’s parity with the men’s professional leagues. That being said, this is a BFD — the WNBA listened to its players and took their input into account more than ever before. It’s refreshing to see a league partner with its players and bet on its women to move closer to closing the inequality gaps that still exist in women’s sports. 

One last thing…

The most important (although we are admittedly biased) fact about basketball is that the sport was created in 1891 by Canadian James Naismith! O’ Canada, indeed!

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Podcast Episode 39: Sexism and COVID-19, on the rocks

October 15, 2020
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

 Listen to this episode of The GIST of IT  here.

Ellen: What is up GISTers? Welcome to The GIST of It, I'm Ellen Hyslop.

Steph: And I'm Steph Rotz,

Ellen: And we're just two old pals and we're two gals and we're here to give you the gist of what's going on in the sports world. Let's get to it. Steph, how are you doing today? I'm feeling decently refreshed coming off of a long weekend here in Canada. How are you doing?

Steph: I desperately need to wash my hair and I feel like that sums up that I'm feeling a little tired, you know what I mean? Feeling a little tired, looking a little tired. But I'm happy that you feel rested. So I'm glad that perhaps you got outside.

Ellen: I got outside for a very quick run today. And I must tell you, I have not gone for a run in approximately six months. And for whatever reason today was the time to go out for a run. I've been cycling a lot and I've been playing soccer and been doing other workouts, but I just don't really enjoy running that much. But for whatever reason, today I put on Freakonomics actually, and I went for a run and I am so out of shape Steph. It's actually ridiculous the amount of times that I need to pause and catch a breath. I was like, what's going on with me? But it was actually good because now I feel like I just had to go over the hump and actually get up and run. And then maybe now I'll feel comfortable and doing it more and at least have some sort of time frame or distance in my mind or something like that.

Steph: I totally understand. I went out for a run this weekend too, and I haven't done it in a really long time. So we're synchronized this season, Ellen.

Ellen: It was also super fun to watch the L.A. Lakers beat the Miami Heat in Game six of the NBA Finals to win their seventeenth NBA championship in franchise history is pretty cool.

Steph: I was rooting for the Heat. I'm not going to lie to you, Ellen. So that Game five image of Jimmy Butler leaned over the sidelines, just exhausted. It has been haunting my brain a little bit. I'm obviously happy for the Lakers. LeBron is a legend. Anthony Davis had quite the series, so it was fun basketball. But I am a little sad that it didn't go to the full seven games.

Ellen: Yeah, I wish I went to the full seven. And I also wish, to be honest, that game six wasn't so embarrassing. It got to the point where the point spread was just so much forty points, thirty five points what have you, where when you were watching it, what's the point? Time to turn it off now? Obviously I didn't turn it off, but that was my rationale. Why do I need to watch this? I don't know. So it was too bad when you see a blowout like that, as much as it was in game six, was a good series, but it was too bad to see that blowout.

Steph: I'm sure there are some people who did turn it off, Ellen, if you did not, there are definitely people out there who did.

Ellen: Definitely. And, you know, it was kind of too bad to see Steph? OK, I shouldn't say it was too bad to see. But as I was watching all of these Lakers players celebrate on the court right after they had won, a few hours after they had won, when they were in their press conferences after the game, I kept on thinking that the way that they were celebrating would just not fly if this had been the WNBA and the Seattle storm. I was looking at all those guys just wipe off their shirt, take off their shirt. All of those guys are publicly smoking cigars and publicly indoors smoking cigars, publicly a little bit drunk and just kind of saying whatever they wanted. And to me, there is nothing wrong with that. I'm so glad that they partied. They truly deserve to party. But I just couldn't help but think, what if that was Sue Bird in the Seattle storm doing that? Would people be OK with it?

Steph: When you're attuned to these kinds of things, you can't unsee it, you know what I mean? And I have this same exact thing. There's a video of LeBron smoking a cigar during a press conference. And my mind immediately goes there too, Ellen. Imagine if this was a woman. I wonder what the comments would be saying. And we may not have seen attacks or people coming after the Seattle Storm for the way that they celebrated or anything like that. So not necessarily going too far here in a comparison. But we have seen in past people apply different rules and standards to women who celebrate. One of my ultimate favs and someone who I possibly could not stan more, Megan Rapinoe. To me, she celebrates like a man and I freaking love it. And people are so critical of her for that, too.

Ellen: Yeah. She got a lot of criticism at the FIFA Women's World Cup last summer for the way that she was celebrating, but also the way that the team was celebrating after their massive win against Thailand and also after the World Cup and seeing how they were partying. And I think that's probably part of the reason why we were like, wait a minute, could SUe Bird just be up there and a sports bra could Sue Bird just be up there smoking a cigar could Sue Bird be ok not being her eloquent, super polished self, who says all the right things in front of a bunch of folks in the media. Would that be OK to the rest of society if Sue Bird was like that? I don't know. I just had a lot of questions.

Steph: Oh my God. So, so many questions. And it's all very recent in our memory. Right like this, we're not talking about things that happened like five years ago, 10 years ago, so there's a lot to think about whenever you're comparing in your brain men celebrating and women celebrating. And, you know, Ellen it’s something that we can't escape as well. That's always top of mind for me. Whenever we're thinking about the NBA bubble being over, you know, celebrating a trophy that is just so contextually different for them. The season was definitely bigger than basketball, too, outside of that double standard, too, that they did some really great work on the court, off the court. And we are still in the middle of a pandemic. And since it hit here in North America back in March, the NBA, NHL and WNBA held their seasons or playoffs in these bubbles that we've been talking about, however, the MLB and the NFL decided to go a different route for their seasons. So today, let's take a step back and give a recap of where the MLB and the NFL are when it comes to covid-19.

Ellen: All right, Steph, So, as always, let's start by giving some context to our conversation of everything that we're going to be talking about from the covid-19 perspective with the NFL and the MLB. So let's look at some covid-19 numbers as of today. Globally, there's been 37.8 Million cases with 1.08 Million deaths. And as of October 9th, there were over 350,000 new cases across the world. Now, looking at the U.S., because that's where we're mostly going to be focusing on today with the MLB and NFL games hosted in the states, the US has had 7.83 Million cases and 215,000 deaths. There were over 44,000 new cases on October 11th. So while the U.S. seems to still be riding this very bad first wave, a lot of other countries, including us here in Canada, have really begun their second wave.

Steph: And knee deep here in the second wave in Canada. And on a recent SNL Weekend Update, Ellen, they pleaded with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to slowly expand the NBA bubble to encapsulate the whole country as opposed to stopping it after the end of the playoffs. And while I'm a Torontonian and entering the second wave here and I'm not an American, I truly felt that I was like, oh, can we please?

Ellen: That is actually a really great idea. Can you make that happen?

Steph: Please make it happen.

Ellen: So outside of this really sad second wave, let's switch gears over to providing some context on the baseball and the football side of things. Let's start with MLB first, because they started their season back in July and are almost through all of the playoffs. It's actually crazy to think that they're almost through their entire season. So as we've mentioned before, the MLB 60 game regular season had a regionalized and also limited travel schedule. There was no bubble and they were still traveling. Throughout the season, eighty five players and personnel tested positive for covid-19. It seemed like it was very front end loaded. And then baseball started to figure out things a little bit more in the back end. And now that the MLB is onto the third round of its playoffs, they're in the championship series. And, you know, the championship series is basically the same thing as the conference finals. But because the MLB is split into two leagues, the National League and the American League, it's called the Championship Series. So the NLCS for the National League side of things and then the ALCS for the American League side of things. In the second round of the playoffs, the MLB decided to go to what they call neutral sites or bubbles. So the teams from the division series onwards were played in either California or in Texas. So the NL was in Texas and the AL was in California and the World Series is going to be played in Texas. The good news throughout the playoffs, no players or personnel have tested positive for covid-19, which is just amazing and great to see. But the news that makes me really nervous Steph, is that for every game of the NLCS between the Atlanta Braves and the L.A. Dodgers, which is being hosted at Globe Life Field in Texas, ten thousand and seven hundred fans will be allowed in attendance.

Steph: Oh, yeah, according to ESPN, when the MLB was deciding on where to host these neutral sites, they decided on Texas as one of the sites because they would permit fans in the stadiums.

Ellen: As a great, great thing to have in your decision matrix. That's ridiculous.

Steph: They've had this in the works. They've been scheming. And this makes me super nervous. It's the first time all season that fans aren't just going to be cardboard cutouts of fans. And apparently the MLB is using this NLCS and the World Series as a trial run for the 2021 series and what the attendance policy might look like for the MLB season next year. So, again, they're scheming for sure. And our friends at Axios Sports have reported that there are, fortunately, safety guidelines and guidelines, including social distancing. Tickets are being sold in pods of four and those pods are separated by six feet. So the intention is you're buying it with three other people that you know and everyone over the age of two must wear a mask except when eating or drinking. Sinks are set up throughout the concourse to encourage people to wash their hands constantly and to reduce contact between fans and staff, bags are not allowed and they're going to forgo temperature checks in order to increase distance from staff and from fans.

Ellen: Yeah, I'm not really feeling the best about this. I'm not getting all the good juju from this on. On the one hand, I totally understand how we need to be flexible, how we need to try new things, how we have to think about things in a way that will be good for our economy. And I can also understand that players, after a super long season, are probably looking for some fans in the stands to give them the energy that they need in order to play those nine innings. But at the same time, we're now at the NLCS, we're in the semifinals, and then we have the World Series. And I'm like, what's the point? You've gone this far. You've basically gone the entire season without fans. Why now? Also, to your point, they just chose two specific teams in the NLCS. They didn't even look at the ALCS at all. And so from a fairness perspective, could you look at the Houston Astros or at the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALCS and be like, oh, maybe if fans were there, Tampa Bay would definitely win playing in California because everyone would be booing the Houston Astros for all of their sign stealing scandals. So I just don't get it.

Steph: It definitely doesn't seem fair. There's definitely an experiment that's being played on both the players as well as the fans in the stadiums. And that is probably why I also feel a little bit icky because of that unfair factor in addition to so many other things, at least compared to other leagues, the MLB, I mean other leagues who have fans in their stadiums or fans at their games. The MLB does seem to be trying to regulate distancing, masks and the resale of these pods of four. So they do seem to have quite a few rules in place. But with that said, the sports experience that we're all used to includes shouting, it includes constantly eating, it includes constantly drinking, singing. There's so much about the way that we're used to and want to enjoy a sports game that is going to encourage this virus to spread when you're at the stadium. Also, among all of that hoopla, too, like getting to the game isn't going to change. Like people are going to be traveling, people are going to probably be coming from out of state. As long as tickets are being sold to people, they're 100 percent going to have to resell them or want to resell them or potentially split their four person pod because they don't have two other people to go with or whatever it is. And there's just so many factors in here that could just spread the virus outside of the stadium and outside of the state. And the state of Texas is currently not doing so well, too. So there's a lot of factors here that make my stomach a little bit nervous when we think about this. Yeah, and the players may be getting tested currently and staff, but do fans have the same fair and equitable access to testing? That's something that also sticks into the back of my mind here.

Ellen: Yeah, no, totally. That's a really good thing to bring up. And, obviously, too, it's hard to blame people when they're at a stadium and trying to enjoy themselves and trying to enjoy the game if they don't have their bloody mask on for four hours, that's so hard to do that for the full four hours. So don't push people into a bad environment. But that's exactly what the MLB is doing in this situation.

Steph: They have implemented and ironically, a three strikes and you're out policy with wearing your mask. So if you're caught three times, not wearing your mask, if you're not eating or drinking, you're going to be kicked out of the stadium. And there's a lot of signage that's going to be posted to alert people to this. You've seen photos of people in the stands and they're not wearing their masks properly or they're not wearing them at all, or they're really like nursing whatever they're eating or drinking to avoid putting their mask back on. There's a lot going on with these rules. It seems very, very risky. And from a psychological perspective to Ellen, seeing fans at these games totally sends the wrong message to the rest of the country and the world who's enjoying the MLB. Visually it tells people that the pandemic is over now and it's time to go back to regular scheduled programming. We're putting so much responsibility on individuals and giving people so many opportunities to spread the virus and then in like a pre sanctioned pre-approved space and then wondering why the virus is getting worse.

Ellen: Yeah, it's very short sighted by the MLB. That's all I have to say. OK, so now that we've chatted about the MLB, let's get into the mess that is the NFL. So for some background on the NFL, generally the regular season is 17 weeks and each team plays 16 games within those 17 weeks. Because of the limited amount of games per week, the NFL decided to not have a bubble or neutral sites or regionalized travel schedule and just keep everything as is with respect to the schedule. And while they definitely set up protocols for covid-19 with players and staff and referees, you name it, they also allowed each stadium to figure things out for themselves. So there are some stadiums that will allow fans in attendance and upwards of thirteen thousand fans, while some stadiums just won't.

Steph: Keeping in mind that we're just through week five now in the NFL, the numbers are pretty staggering so far. Ninety nine players and personnel have tested positive for covid-19 with the majority of those cases coming from the Tennessee Titans. The Titans were the first team to experience a covid-19 outbreak and their number of positive tests between players and staff is twenty four. The most notable player to contract covid-19 so far this season was New England Patriots QB Cam Newton. And as a result of all of these tests, players and personnel are immediately isolated and must be quarantined at home. If they are asymptomatic, they are quarantined for 10 days since the initial positive test or quarantined for five days and receive two consecutive negative tests that are twenty four hours apart. From a league perspective, when a player or staff is found to have covid-19 most of the time the games are postponed, rescheduled and then rescheduled again.

Ellen: Yeah, and that's really the issue. It doesn't seem like the NFL has a "OK, this is what happens when a player or staff gets covid and boom. This is exactly how we know to fix it. This is exactly what's going to happen with the game. This is what's going on." They have really just shown no leadership. And in my humble opinion, they are completely mishandling these positive cases, for example, rather than implementing a bubble or a comprehensive response and appropriate isolation period like is five days is ten days still appropriate? Who knows? The NFL instead announced new penalties for all coaches who fail to wear masks when approaching officials. Again, this is great. Coaches should be wearing masks. And Bill Belichick, New England Patriots coach, should be wearing his mask properly. They're also penalizing players and personnel as opposed to looking at the higher level and getting less individualistic and putting the onus back on themselves. They haven't addressed the need for a bubble or for a higher level solution. And, you know, they've just created an environment where community spread is bound to happen.

Steph: You're frustrated and frustrated, and we're obviously not the only ones frustrated about this. Players are also not pleased with how this is being handled. New England Patriot Jason McCourty was critical of NFL leadership, saying, quote, for them, meaning the NFL and the NFLPA or the players association, it's not about our best interests or our health and safety. It's about how we can go out there and play games, end quote.

Ellen: It kind of gets into this question of profit over people or profit over the players. And similar to the MLB, I just think that this is so shortsighted from the NFL. Not only do we not know what's going to happen in 2021 with sports, they could end up in a bubble and having no fans in the stands again for the majority of these leagues. But we also don't know enough about covid-19 from a long term perspective. How could this impact a player, for example, like Cam Newton? Is it just going to be five to 14 days or could it be three months? Four months? We've heard of these horrible cases with healthy people coming down with covid and then not being able to leave their couch. Why are they risking this happening with some of the players that are bringing in all of their money?

Steph: Mm hmm. And with all of these cases, players frustration, schedule reworkings, I truly don't understand why they can't take a step back and self reflect and say, OK, here are two neutral sites. For example, play it similar to the NHL or to the MLB, who, of course, corrected at least and changed their strategy for the playoffs. It's not too late, guys.

Ellen: Yeah, no, I definitely love how you brought on that self reflection there, because it's almost an ego check. Check your ego for a minute. You didn't set this up the right way. Learn from what the MLB has done and take a minute to be like, shit, we messed up here, but we're going to act quickly and we're going to fix it. And I truly do believe not that I'm some operations guru, but I would think that we're heading into week six now. I would think that by week eleven or twelve, they should be able to find even two or three neutral sites.

Steph: Here's hoping that's a good point. There's always, always more than sports, Ellen. Ego check might be a little bit hard with all of these issues. I just hope that the leagues recognize that the help of these players and of the fans and of everyone involved in this league is at risk at this point. And that's on them.

Ellen: To close out our podcast, as always, we're going to feature a WTF moment slash story, submitted by you. And this week's submission comes from Lauren in Seattle. We have another Seattle gal sending us a WTF moment.

Steph: This week's WTF moment from our Seattle gal is going to be a positive exclamation. The abbreviation for her submission could possibly be like a well, that's fantastic. After we go through that positive exclamation, I'm going to bring us back to a true WTF moment from the Hockey Diversity Alliance. But let's first we've had some negative covid-19 talk. So let's first get into the positive one. On Sunday during the Seattle Seahawks postgame conference, quarterback Russell Wilson was asked about his ninety four yard game winning drive. In his response, he said he felt like Sue Bird in the clutch. I love that. And on top of this fabulous quote, he was wearing Sue Bird's Seattle Storm jersey as his pregame and postgame fit. And he also had the jersey on backwards so you could see her name and number, even though he had a jacket on top of the jersey itself. And that's dedication. That's innovation. I love seeing major stars like Russ supporting the WNBA.

Ellen: Yeah, it is so cool to see the WNBA get so much support from pro leagues around the world, from other women's leagues, from other men's leagues. It just seems like people are like hell yeah. And finally getting the recognition that they deserve as GOAT status, regardless of the sport, is just unreal, especially in a city like Seattle where people are like, when are we going to get the Seattle Sonics back? When is the NBA team going to come back? And I think Isaiah Thomas, who is a basketball player who has always, always, always supported the WNBA, brings his young sons to games. He tweeted back, being saying the Seattle Storm is Seattle basketball. You just love to see that.

Steph: It's so important. And Breanna Stewart, I think, also tweeted along the lines of saying Seattle does have a basketball team, look us up. So I love that energy. And speaking of energy.

Ellen: I know that you have some pent up energy that we need to discuss right now about hockey. As you're wearing your change hockey culture sweater. So you mean business whenever you bring this up.

Steph: I am wearing my change hockey sweater, which is from the Hockey Diversity Alliance. So this past week on October 7th, they put out a press release and the press release is entitled HD to operate independent of the NHL, which is huge. So part of that press release says, I just need to take a breath. We have waited for many months for a response to the common sense HDA pledge we propose. And it is clear that the NHL is not prepared to make any measurable commitments to end systemic racism in hockey. And so they're withdrawing their support or their integration with the NHL and they're going fully independent because the NHL is just not willing to step up.

Ellen: I don't even know what to say to that, it's just completely disappointing. I wish that it was more surprising, but at the same time, I am kind of surprised because I thought, OK, finally, I truly thought this is an organization that can help the NHL period. It's just really sad. 

Steph: And the thing with hockey is it's only up from here. Like hockey has so many problems and so rampant with systemic racism. TO start something, you have so much room for improvement, which is kind of a backhanded compliment in this instance. So it's really disappointing to see the inaction. But I think that the HDA (Hockey Diversity Alliance) is doing the right thing here by calling them out and being public about it. And the press release was short. It's three very tiny paragraphs. So I'm excited to see and hear more of what they're going to do with this alliance.

Ellen: Yeah, I hope it wakes the NHL up. It's definitely needed. So those are our two WTF moments of this week. As always, we want to hear your WTF moment again from the pro sports world, it could be from the amateur sports world or even just a moment that you had in your own life. So over the next week, email Steph and I at pod@thegistsports.com with your WTF moment and you may be featured on next week's podcast.

Steph: All right, folks, that was the gist of it from Ellen and I. Thanks for joining us this week. If you want to help us get the word out, rate the pod, leave a review, and tell your sports pals to subscribe to The Gist of It on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play or Stitcher.

Ellen: And once you're done giving us a five star review, you have to sign up for our free twice weekly newsletter where every Monday and Thursday morning we give you the gist of what's going on in the sports world. You could subscribe at thegistsports.com. Otherwise, as we already said. Steph and I want to hear from you. Email us at pod@thegistsports.com or DM us on Instagram @thegistnews.ca Or @thegistusa with any feedback or ideas that you might have. Again, I'm Ellen Hyslop,

Steph: And I'm Steph Rotz,

Ellen: And this has been The Gist of It. Take care of yourselves and wish Steph a happy birthday on October 16th.

🏀LA Lakers Win NBA Bubble Championship

October 12, 2020
Source: Kevin O’Connor/Twitter
Source: Kevin O’Connor/Twitter

The GIST: The bubble champions have been crowned! With a lop-sided 106–93 Game 6 victory, the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Miami Heat to earn their record-tying 17th (!!!) franchise NBA championship.

Wow! Tell me more: LeBron James led all scorers with 28 points in Game 6, earning his fourth career NBA title with his third team. True to his royal title, King James also posted his 11th career NBA finals triple-double. Unreal.

  • Unsurprisingly, LeBron was named Finals MVP, marking the fourth time he’s received the honor. He’s now second all-time on the list of multi-time winners, only behind Michael Jordan’s six.
  • Anthony Davis put the “two” in one-two punch, notching a double-double and pouring in 19 points. Rajon Rondo came off the bench and stepped up for the Lakeshow, adding 19 points of his own.

What did their path to the final look like?: The Lakers defeated the Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets en route to the Finals. Impressive, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the adversity this team overcame off the court.

  • In a season featuring player wildcat strikes in support of social justice, the Lakers voted to end the season following the police shooting of unarmed Black man Jacob Blake. The vote wasn’t binding, but it sent a message to NBA leaders that players wanted more action from ownership.
  • And this title means even more in the wake of Kobe and Gigi Bryant’s passing. The Laker legend was a friend, teammate and inspiration to many on this Lakers squad, making this title all the more special. 

How about the Heat?: The Lakers dominated this series from the beginning, but the underdog Heat put up a better fight than anyone expected. With a young core of stars, including Tyler Herro (the youngest player to start in an NBA Finals), likely to return next season, we’ll definitely be seeing more of the Heat in the future.

When does the next season start?: After almost 100 days in the incredibly successful bubble, all involved deserve a round of applause and a well-earned break. Although the NBA season typically begins in October, commissioner Adam Silver said he expects that next season won’t begin until at least January. After such a thrilling run, we’re already hungry for more!

🏀Seattle Storm Win 2020 WNBA Championship

October 08, 2020

The GIST: The Seattle Storm won the 2020 WNBA Championship...and in a way, we all won.

How so?: By getting to watch the Storm absolutely dominate the Las Vegas Aces, winning Game 3 92–59 and sweeping the series 3-0. By getting to see two-time WNBA Finals MVP Breanna Stewart and 17-year veteran Sue Bird come back with a vengeance after an injury-plagued 2019 season. And by getting to witness the strangest but most successful and inspiring WNBA season in the league's herstory.

Shivers. When does the next season start?: We’re not sure yet. However, given this momentum and the fact that some star-studded players will likely return to the hardwood, whenever it starts, it’s going to be incredible.

And in the NBA?: The LA Lakers are just one win away (or the Miami Heat are three wins away...) from the NBA Championship. After a sleepy Game 3, the Lakers came back to win 102–96 in Tuesday’s Game 4 and have all the history on their side.


Podcast Episode 38: Why aren’t there more Black coaches?

October 08, 2020
AP Photo/Chris O'Meara
AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

Listen to this episode of The GIST of IT here.

Ellen: What is up GISTers? Welcome to The GIST of It, I'm Ellen Hyslop.

Steph: And I'm Steph Rotz.

Ellen: And we're just two old pals and we're two gals and we're here to give you the gist of what's going on in the sports world. Let's get to it.

Steph: Ellen!

Ellen: Steph!

Steph: It's your birthday. Happy birthday, Ellen.

Ellen: Thank you, Steph. Much appreciated.

Steph: Let me know how twenty eight is.

Ellen: Yeah, this will be you in a week and a half.

Steph: So you've got new glasses as well. Ellen's looking great everyone.

Ellen: Yeah. With my age my eyes actually got worse, which meant I needed to get new frames, new lenses. Thanks to everyone who's listening. That's a great birthday present. Really appreciate that. If you could actually do one thing for us for our birthdays in these next couple of weeks, if you want to just share the podcast a little bit more, tell your friends that's all that Stephanie and I ask for our birthdays in the next week or so. But anyway in more important news than my birthday, the Seattle Storm, our WNBA champions.

Steph: Wow. I don't want you to discount the birth of Ellen Hyslop, first off, but I think this is, you know, within the orbit of equally important things. The Seattle Storm is doing a sweep.

Ellen: A sweep over the Las Vegas aces. And we predicted this. And I think that a lot of people predicted this. The Seattle Storm just have the star power in the WNBA, unlike anyone else. And it's just been such a joy and a pleasure and honestly a privilege to be able to watch Breanna Stewart and Sue Bird come back from season ending injuries last season in twenty twenty. I honestly think that they're better this year than even what they were in twenty eighteen when the Seattle Storm won the championship that year too.

Steph: And tonight I learned that Breanna Stewart has a seven foot one wingspan.

Ellen: Honestly, I don't even know because I'm trying to picture what a seven foot one human looks like, let alone a seven foot one wingspan. Sometimes for the Olympics, they'll put the athletes on that pedestal and they'll basically do that cool kind of look around their body and look at their wingspans and look at how fast they can move. I remember them doing this for Michael Phelps with swimming. I would love to see Breanna Stewart on one of those things and them just dissecting how athletic her body is.

Steph: Yes, yes. And Sue Bird, also one of my favs. So I'm happy for the Storm.

Ellen: Yes, very happy for the Storm. And it's actually a WNBA record that Breanna Stewart set by scoring over twenty points in six straight finals appearances. The storm swept in twenty eighteen and they swept in 2020 and she scored over twenty points in each of them and I still think we have to give a shout out to the Aces. I mean, as much as they were swept, the Wubble has been hard. Players have been playing basically every other game and the Aces did look tired. They do have league MVP A'ja Wilson on their team. You couldn't just rely on her to be able to get through every one that is on the Seattle Storm. There's a number of other players in addition to Sue Bird and Breanna Stewart. So we've got to tip our hats off to them, too. And I think just tip our hats off to the W: how successful they have been in hosting this tournament and in the Wubble, bringing awareness to Breonna Taylor being part of those wildcat strikes, bringing awareness to the November 2nd election and getting people to register to vote. I just think everything that the WNBA has done this year deserves a huge applause.

Steph: Yes, every one of those teams had success this year. Obviously, between the WNBA coming to a close this season, the NBA happening, there's a lot going on. But today we were inspired by our go to Lindsay Gibbs, who wrote a piece for her newsletter, Power Plays, all about the lack of black female coaches in the WNBA. And it also got us thinking about the lack of black coaches in all of the leagues that have the majority of black players. So unfortunately, the results are a little shocking or not shocking, depending on who you ask. So let's get into it.

Ellen: All right, Steph So first, as always, we have to set the stage for our conversation today and to set that stage, I'm going to hit you with some numbers. So first, looking at the WNBA, which is arguably the most prominent women's sports league in the world, 88 percent of the WNBA is composed of black women. However, of the 12 teams in the W, four are coached by women, two are coached by black men, and the remaining six are coached by white men. So following this math for the first time in the WNBA twenty four year herstory, there are zero black female coaches in this league. And for the third year in a row, the two finals teams have been coached by white men. So that's looking at the WNBA. Moving on to the NBA. It's important to note that 81 percent of players in this league are black. But of the 30 teams in the NBA, there are only five black head coaches in the league with four current vacancies for hiring. So they could also be filled by black men and women, which would be great. But so far, only five black head coaches in the league. And to no one's surprise here, all head coaches in the NBA are men. There are no female head coaches. However, there are 14 female assistant coaches, which is the most of any major league. So I think that that's huge kudos to the NBA for starting at least on that gender diversity hiring. And finally, looking at the NFL, 70 percent of the players on the gridiron are black, however, worse than the NBA. Of the 32 teams in the NFL, so two more teams in the NFL than the NBA. There are only three black coaches. And I also thought that I was important to point out that there are only 10 black quarterbacks. But as much as I say only, it's actually a record number of black quarterbacks in the league this year. So we're seeing some progress in that quarterback front. As for women, same as the NBA, there are no female head coaches, but there are four women working as assistant coaches and there are 15 women working as coaching interns this season. And there are a lot of coaches on an NFL team. So those coaching interns are also incredibly important positions. So shout out to all of those women who are trailblazing there. And the last thing that I think for us, Steph, is always important to mention. There are no openly gay male coaches in any of these major leagues.

Steph: I think it's really important that we're looking at sports that do have a majority of black players in their league, as most of the time, if you play the sport, you'll be interested in staying in the sport in some capacity and potentially coaching and theoretically have the resume to do so to coach. But in the NBA, out of the nine current coaches who used to play in the league, seven are white and two are black. So we clearly aren't living in a meritocracy. And when thinking about the WNBA stats on white male coaches, it does make me wonder if the trend towards hiring male white coaches in the W aligned with thoughts on needing to quote unquote, bring legitimacy to the league and is now a reflection that the W is a legitimate league x amount of years later. Now that we're seeing so many white male coaches that this is the sentiment, obviously, that I think no one in an organization would go on record to say, and it's obviously not a sentiment that I'm in favor of, but I wanted to point out this line of thinking and to help uncover our unconscious bias and how we've been brainwashed that you have to be accepted by the dominant powers, so in this case, by straight white men in basketball to be successful. And also because we've been led to believe that we do live in a meritocracy, right? And we assume that those who have all the money and those who control these economies and these leagues are the most qualified to do so. And I think of this as a quote unquote dominant supremacist culture. I don't have any sources or theories to throw this back to, but it's definitely something that I've anecdotally seen throughout my entire life in sports. And this needing to affirm your existence through the white dude and your importance for the white dude in sports. To make a non sports comparison, it's kind of how Canadians feel the need to leave Canada and to be celebrated in the states in order to be considered successful back home here in Canada. It's kind of the same thinking.

Ellen: Mm hmm. Yeah, I'm glad you brought that up, Steph. I've never really thought of that dominant supremacist culture beforehand. Maybe because this is a Steph theory and this is the first time that I'm hearing it from you, but I've never really thought of that beforehand, and I also think back and reflect Steph to when you and I would have been playing really high level sports and I'm looking back on when I was playing club sports, I never had a female coach. All of my coaches, both head coaches as well as assistant, outside of figure skating, which is a very female heavy sport. All the coaches were men.

Steph: And I think about how the few female coaches that I did have, how the team treated them differently, listen to them differently.

Ellen: Yeah, no, it's super interesting, you know, and I think to be clear, when we're talking about these things, it's not like you or I are poopooing on these leagues. I think when we look at the NBA as well as the WNBA, they've been at the forefront of diversity and inclusion. And they want to also be having this conversation. They want more diversity within their coaching staff. You know, something else I was thinking about is that we talk so much about representation and that you need to be able to see someone else who looks like you or is in a similar position to you to know that it's something that you can go after in a career and someone that you could be inspired by. And we talk a lot about female athletes and we talk a lot about black athletes and we still need more women's sports on TV. We definitely need to put women's sports on TV, but we are so lacking in that coaching category. And it's almost like that double layer on the athlete category that we haven't touched on yet in this podcast. And these players, these pro players need to see black coaches. They need to see female coaches and they need to see black female coaches in order to see that, hey, this could be a career for me just as much as it is a career to play the sport.

Steph: Especially in the head coaching category too you broke down the difference between assistant coaching and head coaching and the gender gap there. Going off of what you said, Ellen, about representation. It's key not only for people who want to envision themselves in those roles, but it's also key for those doing the hiring, the team owners organization's head coaches, depending on the sport, etc.. There is an existing bias that we've touched upon that white men make good leaders. And that's been a part of our cultural narrative. So representation affects both the hiring process, the hiring of head coaches in all sports, men's sports and women's sports. A basketball writer for The Times spoke a little bit about this. Sopan Deb talked about this double standard, noting that black assistant coaches in the NBA are often categorized as a quote unquote, players coach and then told they're too close to the players when a head coach position opens up. And there's a conflict, so there's so much about perception and internalized racism, internalized sexism involved in how we perceive coaches and how we allow them to move through the pipeline.

Ellen: Totally, how we perceive them, and also the language around that, too, is also super important in the way that we think of language, in the way that we use language towards the non male, nonwhite, non straight coach. It's super interesting. And, you know, Steph in this conversation, I do think it's important to kind of talk about what these leagues are doing in order to encourage diversity among their coaching ranks, no matter what level in coaching. So I want to take a look at the NFL, because they're the ones that are struggling the most out of all the majority black leagues with black players. But the NFL has what's called the Rooney Rule. And this rule requires that at least one woman and one underrepresented minority be considered in the slate of candidates for either every open position or every open senior position. This rule is named after former Pittsburgh Steelers owner Danny Rooney. And Mr. Rooney was a white man, and he was also a part of the Diversity and Inclusion Council for the NFL. And his goal around this rule was that the NFL really needs to increase the opportunities for minorities to hold NFL head coaching positions. Really, that's what it was at senior positions, but it mostly was these head coaching positions. And the rule was implemented in 2003 after a study showed that black coaches, despite winning a higher percentage of games, were less likely to be hired and more likely to be fired than their white counterparts. So talking to basically exactly what you were just talking about, Steph, a study actually proved that. And this is why the NFL had to put this rule into place. So there has been some controversy around the Rooney Rule. And a lot of people have different opinions about whether a quota or something like this is important. So this isn't really a hiring quota, but it is an interviewing quota, meaning in my opinion, when we look at this rule, it's super important to get different people in the room and give them the opportunity to get in the room. I'm sure, Steph, you've had a lot of jobs where it's all about networking and it's all about who you know and a lot of the times who, you know, is also who you look like and that social social circle that you have. And if it's always going to be that white man who is making the final hiring decision, then it's likely that he is going to be hiring a white man who also looks like him. So, you know, here's the issue with the Rooney Rule, and it's really too bad to see. But the NFL only has three black coaches right now, as we mentioned. And that's the same number as 2003 when the Rooney Rule was adopted.

Steph: With this initiative, why not try it? Right. Like, I see that it was a first step, but we clearly can't stop here. It's not working. You just showed that it's not working. To bring in some data here, Arizona State University published a report in 2019 called "A Ten Year Snapshot of NFL Coaching Hires" that proved with data that the Rooney Rule didn't actually improve minority candidates' chances of being hired as a head coach. And a lot of this is because of that pipeline leading to the jobs in that pipeline is still super white. The studies show that since 2009, close to 40 percent of head coaches hired in the NFL were offensive coordinators. And ninety one percent of the coaches hired as offensive coordinators during that time period were white. This is one of many examples when you dig through the data as to why the Rooney Rule isn't specific enough to address the coaching problem that we're talking about. The exclusion of black coaches started long before the interview process or before the interview was scheduled, especially if black candidates or if women aren't already in these networks or already set up to escalate through the ranks in a specific manner. And also, if you're a black woman or a black man and you get hired as a head coach, how long are you given to bring your team success? Right. How long until you get fired? Who gets fired in the NFL? If you look at that data, too, in the past 10 years? And then who is who is the media bolstering as a potential hire too, what's everyone else saying? And how does the media talk about black coaches when they get the position versus a white coach?

Ellen: Yeah, those are all totally, really great questions and things that need to be considered. And I think, again, it is also coming back to the top where you have a league that is majority black and there's no reason why there shouldn't be majority black coaches as well. All of these players are incredibly smart and have the experience and have the know how to be coaches. Maybe some of them don't want to be coaches, and that's totally fair. But I'd have a hard time thinking that none of them or a very, very, very slim amount of them actually want to get into the coaching game. Otherwise, Steph, the W and the NBA don't have a Rooney Rule. I think with them, as we've talked about beforehand, diversity and inclusion is more entwined in their culture. Last month, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said that he doesn't believe the NBA needs to have a Rooney Rule to create more diversity. What he did say is that he talked to all of the teams with coaching vacancies at the time about ensuring that they look at and interview a variety of candidates. The Seventy Sixers have been the only team that have filled their vacancy since Commissioner Silver talked to them. And they did fill it with Doc Rivers, who is a black man.

Steph: I see where the NBA is coming from because the Rooney Rule is essentially a prompt, like it's a place to start and it's something that you can point to as something that you can collect data and reflect on if it's working or not, if leagues do decide to do a Rooney Rule. So outside of the W or the NBA, I think it has to be one of many initiatives and it has to be constantly iterated on. \

Ellen: No, it can't just be like, oh, we made this in 2003. This is going to be the same. I mean, look at the frickin difference between 2003 and 2020. Were there even podcasts in 2003. I don't think so. There's so, so many changes and we have to keep up with the times. And if you notice, like with the NFL, everything moving backwards, you got to change that to wrap things up, this issue about the lack of women, the lack of diversity in the top ranks, the lack of black men, the lack of black women is nothing new in non sports corporations either. What we're talking about right now in sports is definitely reflective of what we're seeing in everyday corporations across society and across the world. However, given the intersection that sports has with culture and with business and the fact that sports are something that are supposed to unite people and that are so idolized by people and that people really look up to sports, it's just so important to me that sports really do lead the way in this conversation.

Steph: Mm hmm. And if there's any league that's going to lead the way in this conversation, my bet has to go to the W and to the NBA.

Ellen: Yeah, for sure. Ok, as always, to close out our podcast, we're going to feature a WTF moment slash story submitted by you, our GISTers. And this week's submission comes from Sarah in Seattle. I just love that alliteration. Go Sarah in Seattle!

Steph: Sleepless in Seattle. So this WTF moment is more of a yes, what the fuck is up moment. So the jerseys of U.S. women's national soccer team stars Christen Press and Tobin Heath, who just transferred to Manchester United from the NWSL, were the best selling Man U jerseys, including those of any male player three days after their signings.

Ellen: Man, that U.S. women's national team is absolute retail gold, first they sold out Nike's U.S. jerseys when they were in the World Cup last summer and now they're Man U jerseys are selling like hotcakes. It's just amazing.

Steph: Also, so many NWSL players are playing over in Europe right now, I guess, with the NWSL series wrapping up shortly. It does make sense, but it's going to be very interesting to see what happens with this all next year.

Ellen: Yes, to be honest, I'm completely confused and have no prediction on what any of the women's leagues are going to look like next year. Who knows if maybe they'll do something like the W players where they play in the W and then they go overseas or go to Australia. Does that still count as overseas? I think. They'll go overseas and they'll go and they'll play basketball. Maybe soccer players will end up doing something like that, too. I'm just not not sure. But anyway, that was a great WTF moment. I love that angle and how it wasn't like WTF. It's like, oh yeah WTF. So we'd love to hear your WTF moment. It can be from the pro sports world, the amateur sports world, or even just a WTF moment that you had in your own life over the next week. Please email Steph and I at pod@thegistsports.com with your WTF moment and you as our GISTers might be featured on next week's podcast.

Steph: All right, sports pals. That was the gist of it from Ellen and I. Thanks so much for tuning in. If you want to help us get the word out, please do leave us a review and hit those five stars. You can also tell your friends to subscribe to The GIST of It on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play or Stitcher.

Ellen: And if you like what you heard today, you have to sign up for our free twice weekly newsletter where we give you the gist of what's going on in the sports world every Monday and Thursday morning. So you can subscribe to that newsletter at thegistsports.com. And we've also linked to that in our show notes. Otherwise, as we've already mentioned, Steph and I would love to hear from you. You can get in touch with us over email at pod@thegistsports.com, or feel free to DM us on Instagram @thegistnews.ca or @thegistusa. Again, I'm Ellen Hyslop.

Steph: And I'm Steph Rotz.

Ellen: And this has been The GIST of It. Take care of yourselves and we'll chat next week.