Sex sells. That is a universal marketing truth. But what about sex and basketball?
That is the combination being attempted by the upstart Bikini Basketball League, an eight-team league in select U.S. markets slated to tip-off in late May or early June. News of the league’s start hit the Internet in September with questions snowballing in since the announcement. Why bikinis? Is it all a gimmick? Is it really about basketball or is it somewhere in-between?
I went to find out for myself by attending the second tryout for the league’s premier team, the Miami Spice. (I know, what a bum gig) What I saw was more than I expected… sort of.
Tryouts began a little after 10 a.m. this past Saturday morning. After a brief registration process for the 33 ladies who came from all over the Tri-County area of South Florida, the ladies posed for the camera and explained how they heard about the league and why they hoped to make the team.
Some of the ladies were candid with vibrant personalities. Others not so much, just as you would find in any team locker room. Their stories varied from ladies with overseas basketball experience, collegiate experience, every day college students, models and moms.
One participant gave birth three weeks prior to the tryouts. While I don’t know the first thing about giving birth, that seems likes dedication bordering on lunacy, and I admired her hustle and love for the game.
Once face time with the camera was over it was time to get down to business. For some it was a business they were not prepared for, weeding themselves out early as head coach Maurice Mendes and his staff began the tryouts with a series of running and calisthenics. The ladies ran and jumped for about 20 minutes straight before they received a water break or even touched a basketball.
I saw ladies keeled over attempting to catch their breath and heard the familiar moans and groans of players wishing the running would cease. Having the tryout begin that way set the tone and delivered a message to the ladies, especially to any of them that thought this league would be a quick “come up” for fame and success.
Next came a series of layup and jump shooting drills, and I was pleasantly surprised by the fluidity most of the ladies displayed. I would say about 80 percent of them knew what they were doing and had basic fundamentals. There were a few who jumped off the wrong foot for layups or finished with their strong hand despite what side they were on. And no, not all of the jumpers had perfect form like a Diana Taurasi or Tamika Catchings but there was consistency in their shots.
From there the ladies participated in 3-on-2, 2-on-1 fast break drills followed by a very spirited “I love defense” drill that was one of the highlights of the tryouts.
Finally, ten minute scrimmages began. The ladies were split up in teams of five, matched by position. There were scrums for the rock on the floor, screens (both legal and illegal), wicked crossovers, blocked shots, and unselfish passing. Some of those ladies really wanted it. Everybody got at least two games in with a different group so that the coaching staff could assess them fairly.
The camaraderie is what impressed me the most. Ladies had bands knocked off their heads or were slapped silly. They all shook it off as part of the game, which it is, but guys in the same position don’t always take things like that in stride.
I spoke to the co-owner of Miami Spice, A.J. McArthur, and he says the team will host a third and final tryout in the coming weeks, and hope to announce the league’s first official roster before December.
The team is doing all it can to gain credibility from the local and national communities. They have two official sponsors in Powerade and Status Vodka, and more in the works. They have a diverse staff covering the areas of Media Relations, Community Outreach, Marketing, Operations andVideo Editing. They even have a team DJ. They are also attempting to be active in the community with efforts planned for Thanksgiving and a desire to be involved in fundraising activities for Breast Cancer and Lupus.
Even with all these efforts will people be able to see past the title of Bikini Basketball?
In all fairness, they actually wear sports bras and spandex but that just doesn’t have the same ring to it. (Imagine all the Janet Jackson wardrobe malfunctions that would take place if it were actual bikinis)
I admire what the league is trying to accomplish by bringing an alternative brand of women’s basketball on the scene. I just don’t know if it will work. Things like these seem to have a limited shelf life. Much has yet to be decided for the league, like indentifying home courts, the official uniforms, how will the games be broadcasted and how the players will be paid. McArthur told me that compensation may be based on ticket sales each game or on a flat rate for winning and losing teams. But right now, no official decision has been made.
If the old cliché that sex sells is the unspoken and underlying theme here then I implore all those who check out the league to adopt another cliché before assessing it.
Don’t judge a book by its cover.