WNBA May Be Upon Biggest Season Yet
ALLISON KEYES, host:
I'm Allison Keyes. This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Michel Martin is away.
Coming up, Lena Horne is laid to rest today. Few people know the accomplished singer and actress was also a civil rights activist and a member of the African-American service sorority Delta Sigma Theta. We'll talk with an NPR correspondent who met Horne during the '60s.
But first, you'd think the NBA playoffs is the only interesting sports story this week, but you'd be wrong. The women of the WNBA are dusting their hi-tops and tipping off their season on Saturday. We've asked Dave Zirin to weigh in. He writes about sports for The Nation and at EdgeofSports.com. He joins us from Washington. Hi, Dave, welcome back.
Mr. DAVE ZIRIN (Sports Writer, The Nation, EdgeofSports.com): Hey, great to be here.
KEYES: So, who should we be watching in the WNBA when they hit the court tomorrow? Who do you like?
Mr. ZIRIN: There are two remarkably interesting stories as we kick off the season. The first is the team out of Phoenix led by their star player Diana Taurasi. Phoenix is the defending champions. Diana Taurasi is 28 years old and she's literally looking at an opportunity in her career to go down as, and I'm saying this without hesitation, the greatest women's basketball player to ever live.
Mr. ZIRIN: And it's going to really be decided in the next five years of her career. And so what the Phoenix Mercury do this year is really going to depend on what Diana Taurasi does and whether or not she rises to literally a Jordan-esque level of play. She's that good.
KEYES: What about this Tina Charles I'm hearing so much about?
Mr. ZIRIN: I'm so excited. I'm glad you mentioned that. That was next on my list. Coming out of the East, the Connecticut Sun, and they actually already have a loaded team. But because of some very smart trades, they have the number one player from Yukon. And a lot of people joke that the Yukon women's basketball team, the Huskies, they'd probably beat most of the WNBA teams. I mean, they are that loaded.
And their best player, Tina Charles, is going to be on the Connecticut Sun, the number one pick in the draft. And so everybody who's got their head on straight about this season is saying that we are looking at a collision between former Yukon all-time great Diana Taurasi in Phoenix against former Yukon great Tina Charles in the Connecticut Sun. Clash of the titans, release the cracking, it's going to be awesome.
(Soundbite of laughter)
KEYES: And apparently there might be a cracking in Tulsa, too, because the Shocks opening game is sold out.
Mr. ZIRIN: Yes.
KEYES: Is this about Marion Jones, the disgraced former Olympian or is it because Tulsa's a big sports town?
Mr. ZIRIN: Actually it's also because of their new coach in Tulsa. I'm so excited about this. Nolan Richardson, the controversial former college coach from the University of Arkansas, a person who walked out of the University of Arkansas because of anger about what he perceived to be institutional racism in the school. He's a brilliant guy. He's coached the Mexican national team. He's bilingual. My man from El Paso, the border country is coaching in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Marion Jones might be there too. It's amazing. I'm so excited to watch Tulsa this year.
KEYES: Really, really, really briefly, can she play?
Mr. ZIRIN: Marion Jones?
Mr. ZIRIN: Absolutely. She was a starting point guard for UNC. And she's also one of the finest women athletes of her generation. Just because everybody abandoned her in the last scandal doesn't change the pertinent fact that she is a once-in-a-century athlete. I think it's going to be exciting to see what she can do.
KEYES: All right, Dave Zirin writes for sports for The Nation and at EdgeofSports.com. And he's a frequent guest on this program. He joins us from Washington, not with the cracking, I hope. Thanks, Dave.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. ZIRIN: Ah, thank you.
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