NBA is having a helluva PR summer.
First the court rules Donald Sterling out and mentally incapacitated (a verdict we all reached long ago…). Then the NBA makes 2 significant announcements in back to back weeks, both branding them as a leader in social media and diversity.
Last week, images of the 2014-15 official game ball were released showing the @NBA twitter handle inscribed alongside the league logo. And earlier on Tuesday Aug. 5, the reigning NBA champion San Antonio Spurs announced that Becky Hammon, current guard and 16 year vet of the WNBA San Antonio Stars, will join the Spurs coaching staff as an assistant.
After Hammon retires from play at the end of this WNBA season, she will become the first fulltime and paid female assistant coach in NBA history. While she is not the first female to sit on an NBA bench (Lisa Boyer had a limited role with the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 01-02 season), this news still marks a positive move in the direction of equality and inclusion for women in professional sports.
Entering his 19th year as head coach of the Spurs, Greg Popovich was asked earlier about the inclusion of women in men’s basketball – “I don’t see why not. There shouldn’t be any limitations. It’s about talent and the ability to do things. It’s not about what your sex is or your race or anything else” (ESPN.com).
Making history seems to be the thing to do these days in the NBA. The Hammon announcement comes off the heels of Summer League where Natalie Nakase was appointed by Doc Rivers (Los Angeles Clippers head coach and president of basketball operations) as an assistant coach to Brendan O’Connor – another first in league history.
Hammon is not new to Spurs organization or a novice on the floor herself. An almost certain future inductee to the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, Hammon spent a year unofficially with the Spurs at practices, film sessions, and coaching meetings while recovering from a torn ACL in the 13-14 season.
The Spurs are not just hiring her as a reward for her earlier free support. Popovich believes that she can contribute to team and keep them ahead as a winning, championship caliber organization. “I very much look forward to the addition of Becky Hammon to our staff. Having observed her working with our team this past season, I’m confident her basketball IQ, work ethic and interpersonal skills will be a great benefit to the Spurs.”
It is believed amongst basketball fans and sports media professionals that the Spurs have always been a classy, professional, top shelf organization from top to bottom. They’ve branded themselves that way. Hardly mentioned negatively in the news. Pretty low key, keep your head down and come to work, players. A head coach whose silent glare speaks louder than words. And most notable -17 consecutive playoff appearances and 5 championships. Therefore it only makes sense that they would be the leaders within the league to officially hire the first ever fulltime female assistant coach.
If the Spurs do anything – they set the bar for everyone else.
What’s the limit for women in the NBA? Is there one? Nakase wants to be a head coach. Hammon shares the same dream. This position with the Spurs puts Hammon at least one step closer. But more importantly, maybe this announcement also raises the expectations young girls set for themselves.
Tunisha is a writer and Media Psychology PhD student. Follow her on Twitter @MsSingleton528