Imani Boyette Is Here To Tell You About WNBA Life

If we here at The Summitt told you we believed in women’s basketball every bit as much as the men’s game, would you believe us? Would you ask us why?

There is something to be said about people who do things even when others won’t, about early adopters, bridge builders. We believe, and we want you to, too. We want you to meet these women, hear their stories, and watch what they train their bodies to do, day in and day out. I firmly believe that people consume products because of the who and why—not the what. Do you know the who and why of the WNBA? Most likely not.

LONG BEACH, CA – SEPTEMBER 28: Imani Boyette

So, we’ll start with me. My name is Imani Boyette. I play for the Chicago Sky and am entering my second year. I grew up with this league, both figuratively and literally. I was almost three years old when my mother, Pamela McGee, was drafted to the Sacramento Monarchs with the second pick in the inaugural WNBA draft.

My mother is the first basketball player to have a daughter in the WNBA—she also has a son, JaVale McGee, in the NBA.

I grew up in Los Angeles. Lisa Leslie has been my close family friend and mentor much of my life and coincidentally, I was there when she threw down the first dunk of the WNBA. (At the time, eight-year-old me had no clue what was going on or the significance of the moment.)

Like some of you, in high school, I doubted the league would exist once I graduated college, made jokes about the small wage in comparison to the men’s game, and criticized attendance. But something changed for me in college. The closer the real world got, the more I didn’t want this to end.

Mar 7, 2016; Oklahoma City, OK, USA;Texas Longhorns center Imani Boyette (34) fouls Baylor Bears forward Nina Davis (13) on a shot attempt in the fourth quarter during the women’s Big 12 conference tournament at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

As my love for the game grew, so did my love for the WNBA. Basketball not only gave me an education, it gave me a platform to speak about things I deem important, like sexual education and abuse and mental health.

During my first season, I was able to get 50 Cent to come to a game. So did my brother, and Spencer Dinwiddie, my friend who played for the Bulls at the time. But it wasn’t enough.

I didn’t understand why people could name the tenth player off the bench on an NBA team but not the starting five on a WNBA team. I realized it was because you guys don’t know the who and we don’t have enough journalists and media outlets willing to tell you. It doesn’t matter how loud I scream if no one is there to hear me.

And if you don’t know the who, how will you know the what, or care about the why?

LOS ANGELES, CA – DECEMBER 04: Imani Boyette attends ANWOL’s 18th Annual Gala at Omni Los Angeles Hotel on December 4, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Earl Gibson III/WireImage)

Did you know the WNBA has a dress code? There’s an array of rules about what we can and can’t wear. A set of guidelines to make sure we always look presentable and represent the league well.

Yeah, I didn’t know either. During my rookie year, I had no clue about this. And quite frankly, I looked kind of terrible on a normal basis. I didn’t really have a lot of normal, casual clothes. In college, we traveled in matching baggy burnt-orange sweatsuits.  One day, my vet, Cappie Pondexter, pulled me aside and basically told me I need to look better, in the most inoffensive way possible. I appreciated her guidance and it gave me the push I needed to go shopping, being a rookie I was also quite frugal.  The idea behind it all is that we’ll always look great if and when the media snaps a picture.

But, the gag is: there’s rarely any media.

I mean, I often wonder why there aren’t mobs of press when I leave or arrive to my games. Now I don’t play to be famous, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want the attention. But not just for me—for the entire women’s game.

For the over 100 women who come from different backgrounds and lead very different lives, I want you to know them all. I want the world to know them all. I believe the world would fall in love with us as much as I have, if only you knew us. And I know, you’re probably sick of hearing people complain about the lack of media coverage, so here I am. I’m not just complaining. I’m doing something about it.

April is often said to be the month of new beginnings. Flowers begin to bloom, and for many, dreams are realized. For instance, in a little less than two weeks, college seniors (and those eligible to declare) will descend upon the Big Apple in hopes of realizing their dream to become professional women’s basketball players. A week later, they’ll report to their designated cities and begin training camp.

UNCASVILLE, CT – APRIL 14: The number ten overall pick by the Chicago Sky Imani Boyette poses for a portrait during the 2016 WNBA Draft Presented By State Farm on April 14, 2016 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Steven Freeman/NBAE via Getty Images)

This beginning, I too will share. I will enter training camp nervous, just like them, under a new system and new coach. At the end of the month, my husband, Texas linebacker Paul Boyette and his family will huddle around a TV, and wait for his name to be called so he can begin his professional football career in the NFL.

As for me? Today I become a journalist. I am here to introduce you to the who in the WNBA. I will try to help you understand our why. But most importantly, I will try to get you to pay attention. Here’s hoping my first shot in the game of journalism is a good one.

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