32 Saori Miyazaki (JPN), 15 Nako Motohashi (JPN)
Paul Nilsen's Women's Basketball Worldwide
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Even the GOAT says Japan has put the fun back into women's basketball

NEWCASTLE (Paul Nilsen's Women's Basketball Worldwide) - It's around 18 months since I started to hand Japan rave reviews about their capacity to change the way that women's basketball is both viewed and enjoyed.

Combined with an appreciation of Belgium who also play beautiful team basketball (which led 3 years ago to me writing a column entitled 'The day that Belgium saved women's basketball'), the future can clearly be bright for the women's game.

Some of you may have followed me on twitter during Tokyo 2020 and seen me constantly referring to Japan as having issued a blueprint for female ball during the Olympics - something I have actually advocated for quite some time.

It's why I was so relieved when after winning her fifth gold medal, the GOAT Diana Taurasi also took some time to describe how "Japan has put the fun back into women's basketball." Her words actually hit the nail on the head. For example, I immediately thought about how some of my colleagues had been laughing and smiling when watching Japan play and had found an altered level of respect and appreciation for women's ball.

What Japan has done, led brilliantly by head coach Tom Hovasse and his staff, should not be underestimated. Aside from the actual historic achievement of that silver medal, they have reminded everyone about what is important. I really hope that instead of meetng after meeting, summit after summit being hijacked by those constantly comparing women's basketball to men's, we can maybe now turn things around in global thinking. Because, if making women's basketball more like men's is the answer, I really can't figure out what the question is anymore. 

Those with power in the sport must employ a laser beam focus on picking out the reasons why anybody would want to watch women's basketball. Things such as the movement, passing and shooting of Japan can be the driver for everyone to aspire to.

I have campaigned for more than five years for Federations to stem the slow death of the art of shooting. Because, it is the life blood of the women's game. Yet this has continually fallen on so many deaf ears (although the likes of Italy and Australia, to their credit have pushed it right back up the coaching agenda).

We have a glorious opportunity now to capitalize on what Japan has done by putting the fun back into women's basketball as stated by Taurasi. This blueprint is there for everyone to see and to aspire to. 

Of course, I am not naive. Not every nation will be able to play this way for various reasons, while even those that do aspire to a similar style must accept this is a long process that requires years of practice and dedication.Not least because the spacing. shooting and other technical aspects are all underpinned by conditioning. It's something that relies on an individual athlete to commit to. It's also another area where maxiumum respect must go to the work ethic of those in the Japanese team.

I have campaigned against quite a lot in my role as a women's basketball warrior during these past years, from the dying art of shooting which still keeps me awake at night, to many players needlessly being encouraged to 'bulk up' in the gym, rather than focusing on skill development and cardio. Yet it now feels worthwhile to have done so.

Perhaps this all blows open a potential myth as well. The one about the women's game inevitably becoming a 'power game' and athletes moving towards the men's style. It really doesn't have to be this way - does it?

As far as I am concerned, women's basketball can continue to torture itself with an inferiority complex about being a pale imitation of the men. Or, it can harness the tremendous allure of those spacing, passing and shooting elements that will entice people to watch more of it - and, as Taurasi says, make it fun again.

Over to you, because my head really hurts from constantly banging my head against a brick wall over the years.

Paul Nilsen

FIBA's columnists write on a wide range of topics relating to basketball that are of interest to them. The opinions they express are their own and in no way reflect those of FIBA.

FIBA takes no responsibility and gives no guarantees, warranties or representations, implied or otherwise, for the content or accuracy of the content and opinion expressed in the above article.

Paul Nilsen

Paul Nilsen

As a women's basketball specialist for FIBA and FIBA Europe, Paul Nilsen eats, sleeps and breathes women’s hoops and is incredibly passionate about promoting the women’s game - especially at youth level. In Women’s Basketball Worldwide, Paul scours the globe for the very latest from his beloved women’s basketball family.