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Opinion by Tim Shirer

From 1997 at its inception to 2003 when the Cleveland Rockers folded, I covered the WNBA. I covered nearly every Rockers home game in the seven seasons. The only game I missed was on July 30, 2001, when the Rockers played Orlando Miracle due to the birth of my son.

One thing that was very clear in those seven seasons was that the WNBA’s powers that be (David Stern and Val Ackerman) wanted nothing more than the New York Liberty to win a championship, this narrative was clear from the start. They stacked their original team with talent. One of the players on the stacked Liberty team was Teresa Witherspoon. Witherspoon was a talented point guard, which cannot be denied. But because she played for New York she was enabled by the league to play a very rough style with ZERO consequences from the league office.

Let’s fast forward 21 years to 2024. Witherspoon is now the coach of the Chicago Sky. The Sky has been the subject of some controversy this week as a couple of their players Chennedy Carter and Angel Reese were pretty classless in their matchup with Caitlin Clark’s Indiana Fever.

I wasn’t even shocked that this kind of behavior came from a team coached by Witherspoon. I was equally not surprised when she 100% refused to answer any questions about the dirty play by Carter and classless behavior by Reese after the game, She went on to refuse any questions about Clark.
Being honest here, I wanted to write an article on this subject 25 years ago about Witherspoon and her type of play when she was enabled to commit any foul she wanted. Of course, she holds the rookie record for steals because she was given the opportunity to do anything she wanted to do to steal the ball, anything because she wore a uniform that had New York on it. I saw it in person. Back in those days the media table at Gund Arena (Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse currently) was right under the basket by the Rockers bench. You could see everything that went on. This is how people play when they know that the talent they are playing is better than they are. We see it in the NBA from players who aren’t as talented, but play rough, such as Mo Wagner of the Orlando Magic currently and Danny Ainge and Bill Laimbeer when they were playing.

So, none of this justification of Reese and Carter by Witherspoon is a surprise. This is how her team will play. But as we have seen already, Reese and Carter have already been fined and Carter’s foul was upgraded. Witherspoon is about to find out she isn’t in Kansas (New York) anymore. The fine will keep coming. She’s going to quickly find out that the WNBA doesn’t care if Chicago wins like they wanted and still want the media darling Liberty to win. The population of New York is 8.3 million, Chicago is a meager 2.6 million.

I also want to point out, while the actions of Carter were completely unjustified Clark should have expected that the play in the WNBA would be more physical. I told many people that it was not going to be as easy for her as some people thought it would be. When you put someone on a pedestal like many have with Clark people will try to knock her off. She has found this out the hard way. Is she going to be a superstar, no doubt she will, but smooth sailing it will not be.
But in the end the WNBA is thriving and 27 years ago when I was covering the first night ever in league history, I never imagined it would get to this level. 
tshirer@lakecountysentinel.com or Follow Tim on Twitter/X @TBBucsTim or LCSentinelcom
​POSTED 06/02/2024 15:45