The WNBA is taking (selling) the country by storm. I’m courtside with my press pass at the Charlotte Sting and Los Angeles Sparks game. National interviews by coaches and sportscasters (NBC play-by-play announcer, Hannah Storm, is interviewing her fellow sportscaster hall-of-famer, Ann Meyers) press from all over the country are here to report the game.
I’m a basketball fan. A big basketball fan. Grew up watching the NBA in Philadelphia the Warriors and the 76’ers. Paul Arizin, Tom Gola, Guy Rogers, Wilt Chamberlain and Julius Erving. College Basketball the Big Five in their glory days (Temple, St. Joseph’s, LaSalle, Villanova, and the University of Pennsylvania). But over the past few years, I’ve lost some interest due to money and free agency lack of player-team loyalty. Kind of like you.
Today is a new beginning. The WNBA is in it’s first season but their marketing makes you feel like they’ve always been here, and always will be here. I’m pumped for a great game.
The LA Sparks enter the court their star player, Lisa Leslie, is my favorite player in the league, so already I have a loyalty issue since they’re playing my Charlotte team. I make a pregame rooting decision: I hope Lisa has a good game, but I hope Charlotte beats them bad.
Warm ups shooting layups, dribbling drills, passing, all in perfect form, with perfect follow-through. Salespeople could take a great lesson from this, and make more sales than they could imagine if they warmup before the sale by practicing the fundamentals and executing perfectly. What a concept.
The players are all smiling and working hard in their warmups. They seem to love their jobs. What a concept.
Music in the background sets an up-tempo beat for the fans and the players. Music sets a tone.
Now the player introductions – the Sting get darkness, big music and spotlights Big Hoopla, and the crowd of 8.975 goes wild. National Anthem. Play Ball!
LA draws first blood on a layup. Charlotte misses a jumper, gets a loose ball and makes a layup. Then Lisa Leslie makes two reverse layups in a row and Charlotte counters with a three. The jumpers continue to be missed, but the layups continue to fall in. Layups win basketball games, don’t miss them.. What a concept.
The crowd is clearly Charlotte’s. Vicky Bullett of the Sting is playing both ends of the court rebounds and layups. The fans are going crazy. Both teams playing tough defense and making more layups.
Why am I loving this game so much? Why am I so sold?
Excellent team play.
No sports crybabies.
Great player work ethic.
Fundamental basketball play executed to perfection.
Sportsmanship or should I say sportspersonship. No arguing or technical fouls.
Excellent basketball game players playing their hearts out because they love the game, and seem happy just to be playing.
Fun to watch.
How does the WNBA give you a sales lesson you can win with? Warmups, fundamentals, shooting layups, great marketing, lots of fanfare, happy people, great work ethic is this basketball or sales? Both.
Charlotte player misses an open layup. Lisa Leslie answers with a 4-foot jumper, inadvertently bumps a Charlotte player hard and stops to see if she is OK. That’s why I’m sold on this game. More sportsmanship, less egotists. More sport focus less money focus. Another layup. Sparks 31 Sting 29.
Advertising and endorsements are everywhere. The WNBA is selling itself to Corporate America in a big way. Emphasis of the advertising message is to the woman, but no different than the NBA being targeted to the man.
Sting great pass layup. Sparks great pass layup.
Time out. More inside excitement as people cheer the loudest to get Hugo (mascot) to slingshot t-shirts. The place is screaming at the top of their lungs.
Layup. Charlotte Sting takes the lead. Halftime: Sting 36 Sparks 35.
Entertainment at the half: female dribbling and ball handling exhibition. A one-woman show that was nothing short of phenomenal. Then it got better. The dribbler started to speak to the group. She said, “When I was nine I had a dream and a goal and worked hard to get it. I’m here to tell you that any goal can be accomplished if you just believe you can and work hard at it.” What a concept.
Halftime stats are handed to me pretty even. Nationally televised halftime interviews are happening less than two feet from me. It’s amazing how close one can be to fame, yet so far away.
The second half starts with 5 layups and a three pointer. Sparks by 2. Charlotte coach calls a timeout and reams everyone out about something. The players come back and play worse. I wonder what encouragement would have done?
Home stretch of the game. Ten minutes to play. Sparks lead by six. They trade layups. Trade fouls. Trade missed jump shots. Trade errant passes. Two point game Sparks still lead they miss a three Sting layup, Sparks jumper, Sting jumper TIE GAME Sting three-pointer crowd goes bananas.
Four minutes. Trade foul shots. Sting by 3. Play intensifies. So do the timeouts. Music intensifies. Sting ball. Foul. Miss. 3:30. Sparks miss a three. Sting turnover. 2:30. Sparks turnover Sting layup. Sparks miss a three and commit a foul. Sting convert now up by 8. Sparks layup. 1:10. Sparks foul Bullett converts two. Sting by 8. Timeout. Big Music. Crowd on their feet.
Under a minute. Sting layup. Sparks miss a three. Another. Sting make a layup at the buzzer a fitting end. Sting 78 Sparks 66. All the players are shaking hands and congratulating each other old fashioned good sportsmanship. Of course the Sting a bit happier.
Then the Sting team huddles at center court and turns to wave at the crowd who cheer wildly.
Charlotte won the game because they executed fundamentals better, and made more layups. And isn’t that how we all succeed in the world of business? The Los Angeles team threw up wild three pointers at the end of the game going for a win, kind of like salespeople at the end of the month trying to make quota because they missed their layup sales at the beginning of the month.
I’m in the locker room after the game. My first time in a locker room with a press pass. What should I ask the players? I had pre-written a list of pablum questions that I never looked at. Instead I asked the same question of each player I spoke with. Why are you doing this? Same answer from every athlete I spoke with in both locker rooms. “I love the game. I love to play.”
Are you in love with what you do? If you do, it’s a better bet you’ll be a winner. Watching these women will be an inspiration to make sure you do.
Can you get sold on the WNBA? Go to one game. I’m sold. The WNBA. What a concept.