Finally, a Women's Basketball League With Bounce
HARTFORD, CONN. — Let the record show that on the evening of Oct. 18, basketball player Adrienne Goodsen made history by hitting a 10-foot jump shot.
The shot itself was nothing special, but the occasion was, namely the opening moments of the American Basketball League's inaugural game.
Goodsen, a forward for the Richmond (Va.) Rage, is not likely to become one of the big stars of the new women's league. Someday, however, she may tell her grandchildren how her basket against the New England Blizzard started a long-flowing river of ABL scoring. New England eventually prevailed on this night, 100-73.
Four other women's basketball leagues have come and gone in the United States. This one is viewed as having potential staying power. It's far enough along in the evolution of women's sports to catch an ever-stronger current. Millions of viewers saw the US women's team win an Olympic gold medal in Atlanta, and attendance at women's college games has more than tripled over the past 12 years.
A crowd of 8,767 spectators didn't come close to filling the Hartford Civic Center for the ABL opener, but it did fill the place with sound and was a highly encouraging turnout for a league that needs about 3,000 fans a game to break even.
Fans cheered most everything, even corporate sponsors when they were introduced during a pre-game ceremony that featured a short speech by Women's Sports Foundation president Donna Lopiano.
The ABL was co-founded by a handful of business people, including two women, and is based in Palo Alto, Calif. There are no franchises in New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago. Based on research, however, the eight communities selected are in hot markets for women's basketball.
The remaining league-owned teams are the Atlanta Glory, the Columbus (Ohio) Quest, the Colorado Xplosion, the Portland (Ore.) Power, the San Jose (Calif.) Lasers, and the Seattle Reign.
Last November, nine members of the US national team - the "Founding Players" of the ABL - participated in a press conference to announce the league's formation.
On this night, two American Olympians were in uniform, both for Richmond, but only one of them, Dawn Staley, collected a basketball medal in Atlanta. The other Olympian, Jackie Joyner Kersee, is a superlative track and field performer who once played college hoops at UCLA. She was signed to give the league more star power and also because she is such a compelling spokesperson for women's sports.
More than anyone, however, the New England fans had come to watch Blizzard guard Jennifer Rizzotti, a local favorite during her days at the University of Connecticut.
Two years ago Rizzotti and Rebecca Lobo had led UConn) to an undefeated season and national championship. Lobo, an Olympian, could have become an ABL headliner, except that she passed up the ABL presumably to sign with the Women's National Basketball Association, a rival league that begins operation next summer.