WNBA: Hierarchy of Needs

27 10 2009

Once again, as Bill Cosby is wont to say, I told you that story to tell you this one.

I made mention of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and how it might apply to the WNBA. The previous article planted the seed. This is the resulting fruit.

As the original Hierarchy is linked above, I am going to re-interpret the progression in WNBA terms. The terms move from lowest (most critical for survival) to highest (WNBA nirvana).

  1. Physiological Needs: Cash (in all its forms), players, teams, owners, venues, referees, officials, league management. Remove these, and the league ultimately fails.
  2. Security Needs: This can be summed up as WNBA teams having high confidence that if a game is scheduled on a certain day and time at a certain place, the game will in fact be played.
  3. Needs of Love, Affection and Belongingness: Fans. Also the “affection and belongingness” can come from within at the team level, as the players gel and develop team chemistry. This is also the level where fans may identify with the team and/or fan club as “family”.

    I suppose it can be argued that if the fans don’t show up, we’re back down a rung to Security Needs, as one wonders if not enough fans will come out, how soon until it’s down to the first rung (and out)? (See Shock, Detroit, 2009.)

  4. Needs for Esteem: Respect. I’m prepared to argue that this is right about where the 2009 WNBA is hovering. Having risen to the third rung, the WNBA as a league, and by extension its supporters, are now looking for respect. Respect from the sports media, respect from other sports leagues, respect from men, respect from the “haters”.

    I don’t know that the WNBA as a league, or its players feel “weak and helpless” because Bill Simmons won’t post Twitter updates about them, but empathetically I would imagine that no WNBA player wants to hear that the championship trophy she fought all season for “doesn’t count”. The WNBA isn’t the only place where “unimportant” champions are crowned; one need only look to Women’s Tennis, any Olympic medal earned by women, the LPGA, NCAAW, the FIFA Women’s World Cup. To name a few.

  5. Needs for Self-Actualization: “Maslow describes self-actualization as a person’s need to be and do that which the person was ‘born to do.'”

    What does a self-actualized WNBA look like?

    Well, I don’t know.

What is the WNBA “born to do”?

Provide the highest caliber of professional women’s basketball? I’d say “check.”

Provide a viable career option for collegiate athletes? I’m going with “check” here too, although “Europe” is arguably more lucrative and one need not play in the WNBA to play overseas.

Provide role models, support, inspiration, and encouragement to young women? I’m going with “check” here as well.

With all of these affirmations, it would seem that the WNBA somehow skipped the “respect” rung and went right up to self-actualization. Not quite. This just demonstrates my ignorance of what a fully self-actualized WNBA looks like.

Oh, I have it!

“A league that is a partner with, but completely financially and organizationally independent of the NBA.”


If that’s the goal, chart the course.




One response

31 10 2009

Of course, when you go and read many of the WNBA mission statements, the word entertainment is often emhasized over “highist caliber of professional women’s basketball play”, which seems to me, as with your article, the priority, with entertainment a side benefit. When I read discussions on ways to expand the appeal of the WNBA, marketing and audience appeal are the usual the points of contention. Hopefully, they are taking the high caliber of play for granted though the slick packaging of players aka the NBA, seems to be the current modus operandi of Donna O. et al. I hope the WNBA stops their current slippery slide into that cliche, and allow that”highest caliber of play” to be their defining signature.

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