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Why we should care about the WNBA Finals

Back in April, if you had asked me which would be the next Atlanta team to bring home a professional title, I would not have had a strong answer. The Hawks are clearly a playoff roster, and should remain so for years, but even before getting pummeled by Orlando this year it was obvious that they’re a big step down from a championship. I’d have thought really long and hard about the young collection of talent the Braves have, and I knew that plenty of preseason projections favored them to win the NL East, but I also would have reluctant to declare them title-worthy. The Thrashes have some obvious issues to overcome. After some reluctance, I’d probably have said the Falcons, but even their best opportunity is probably still a year or two away, after seeing them go heavy on defense in the draft.

I’d never have considered the Atlanta Dream.

That’s what we’re looking at, though. The Dream are looking at a best of five against the Seattle Storm in the WNBA finals starting September 12th. After taking down the favored Mystics in three games, they swept the New York Liberty in two quick games. I’m reminded of the idea that combining any two WNBA team names will sound like a band name or song title from the seventies. Plenty of us don’t really take women’s basketball seriously. We might watch our college girls every now and then, when they have a good team, and we’ll ignore the existence of the WNBA.

But this is Atlanta. This is the city that has had three major sports franchises since the late 60s with only a single title to show for it, despite having been very competitive in each over the last two decades. There’s a lot of empty space in the Georgia Dome and Phillip’s Arena to hang up championship banners. We simply can’t dismiss these ladies who are doing their best to get us a long-awaited second title. They’ve gone from complete misery in their first season to the cusp of a championship just two years later.

And really, it’s an interesting team. They’re high scoring, they get up and down, and they rebound the ball really well. They do a lot of what I wish the Hawks would do more often, with their talent. Angel McCoughtry was the league’s third leading scorer, at 21.1 per game-that’s basically what Joe Johnson did last year. They’ve got two interchangeable centers who both were among the league’s rebounding leaders. In the playoffs, they’ve been efficient and fast-paced, making it very tough for the competition to keep up with their scoring-which is especially tough to do when McCoughtry can easily drop 40 points on you.

Much more on the WNBA finals, but for now, try watching this video.

Photographs by coka_koehler used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.