Joe “Jellybean” Bryant — a former NBA player and father of Kobe Bryant — has been promoted to head coach of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks.
Jennifer Gillom was let go over the weekend from the head spot. The Sparks have lost their last five games in a row (4-6 overall) and they have lost star Candice Parker to a knee injury. So, just like in the NBA, when a team struggles due to injuries it’s time to fire the coach. The Sparks were 13-21 last year Gillom, when injuries also decimated the roster.
The senior Bryant has been the Sparks coach before, in 2005 and 2006 and they made the playoffs both times and went to the Western Conference Finals in 2006. Then he was canned so Lakers legend Michael Cooper could have the big seat. Bryant was brought back this season as an assistant. He has talked in the past about wanting to make the jump to being an assistant coach in the NBA, a transition some but not all WNBA coaches have made. The most famous being Bill Laimbeer, now an assistant with the Detroit Pistons and is in the running for that head coaching job.
Michael Jordan and the Jordan brand still dominate the basketball shoe market. More than 80 percent of all sales dominate. It’s not even a contest.
So the signing of Maya Moore as the first woman ever as part of the Jordan Brand is huge, something the company announced this week.
Moore is the back-to-back national champion and back-to-back national player of the year from UConn who was the top pick of the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx. She is not only the best player to come out of the college ranks in years, she also is one of the most likeable and marketable.
“As a student of the game, it is a dream come true to align myself with a brand that has a rich history in sports,” said Maya Moore. “Like most kids, I grew up idolizing Michael Jordan and continue to work relentlessly to reach his iconic status on the court. I’m truly motivated to take my career to the next level as a member of Team Jordan.”
The details in terms of product have yet to be determined, but Moore will become the face of the Jordan brand in the WNBA. In the NBA that brand has many faces — Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul — but now expect a ramped up presences in women’s basketball. Expect her to start popping up in Nike commercials and in a variety of other Nike efforts. A signature shoe may even not be out of the question down the line.
The deal is rumored to be for between $3 million and $4 million.
This is a boost to the credibility of the women’s game and the WNBA, an area where the game has made strides but still fights battles. It may have taken Nike a while to get here and a lot of very good and deserving players may have been passed over, but this is still progress. It’s still a step forward.
It’s a good thing. A very good thing.
One of the things we’re sure you’ll be watching a week from Friday — because what could you possibly have that’s better to do on a Friday night? — is the All-Star Shooting Stars contest. You know, where one current NBA player, one WNBA player and one TNT analyst per team shoot standing shots from numbered spots on the floor. Who would want to miss that?
Great news for you then, the teams have been announced. I knew you’d be excited.
Team Los Angeles will include the Lakers’ Pau Gasol, the Los Angeles Sparks’ Tina Thompson, and NBA TV analyst — and Big Bang Theory cameo guy — Rick Fox.
Team Atlanta features the Hawks’ Al Horford, Coco Miller of the Atlanta Dream, and NBA TV analyst Steve Smith.
Team Chicago is comprised of the Chicago Bulls’ Taj Gibson, the Chicago Sky’s Cathrine Kraayveld, and TNT NBA analyst Steve Kerr.
Defending champion Team Texas is represented by the Maverkicks’ Dirk Nowitzki, the San Antonio Silver Stars’ Roneeka Hodges, and TNT analyst Kenny Smith.
If you care (and we’re not really sure you do) the rules are there are six numbered shooting locations of increasing difficulty, with each team attempting to make all shots in numeric order in the fastest time. Each team will select a specific player rotation to follow throughout the competition. Each shot must be made before the next player begins shooting in succession.
The event will be broadcast on ESPN. Set your DVR, then when you get home you have something to help you fall asleep.