With the WNBA struggling attendance-wise and fans getting more entertainment options every day, does a new women’s basketball league stand a ghost of a chance? Making such an enterprise work will be a daunting task, but Tamara Moore has faced much tougher challenges. After all, she played for Bill Laimbeer.
Moore (pictured), who played six seasons in the WNBA, is co-founder of the new Beautiful Ballers League, a basketball league for women that “will emphasize the beauty of the athlete along with the athleticism,” according to Moore.
“Playing with intensity and playing with purpose, I learned that from him,” said Moore of Laimbeer, who coached her with the Detroit Shock in 2003. “What was he like? Oh my gosh, he was definitely a bad boy. Intense. At times infuriating. But he definitely knows his x’s and o’s, and he got the best out of his players.”
Moore is trying to channel that attitude as owner and coach of the Minnesota Mist, one of eight teams in the new league, which tips off on June 1. The other franchises are the Atlanta Peaches, Orlando LadyCats, Miami Storm, Los Angeles Dolls, Birmingham Belles, Brooklyn Diamondz and New Orleans Spirit. Moore co-founded the BBL with owners Rodney Daniels (Atlanta) and Mic Madison II (Orlando).
Fun fact: the BBL is actually an offshoot of the Bikini Basketball Association, which begins its inaugural season on June 28. That name is why three of its teams — the Mist, LadyCats and Peaches, split off to help form the BBL.
“We wanted to disassociate ourselves with the bikinis,” Moore told SportsGrid by phone. “We didn’t want that in our name: it had a negative connotation.”
Indeed, some potential playing venues were turning them down when they saw the word ‘bikini.’ Moore’s team was having trouble even holding tryouts, as high school officials didn’t want to have anything to do with what they thought would be a basketball version of the Lingerie Football League.
The irony here is that the Bikini Basketball Association players won’t actually be wearing bikinis. They’ll be using sports bras and spandex shorts (still pretty good), just as the BBL will. But the Lingerie Football League doesn’t play in lingerie anymore, either. They recently changed their name to the Legends Football League, and have moved to a different (still revealing) uniform scheme.
The BBL is following that model. They’re also focusing on athletes who can actually play. Right now the marquee name is Deiondra Sanders (pictured), Deion Sanders’ daughter, who plays for the Peaches. Yep, that was a coup for the new league — pulling her away from the Bikini Basketball Association.
BBL rosters are also sprinkled with former WNBA players. Moore herself played at the University of Wisconsin, where he was small forward. She then played (mostly shooting guard) for seven WNBA teams over six seasons, ending her career with the Houston Comets in 2007. Her season with Laimbeer in Detroit produced a WNBA title.
“Bill was a bad boy,” Moore repeated. “More sarcastic than anything. But he was one of the two most influential coaches in my life (she’s played for 13 head coaches since high school). The other is Joe “Jelly Bean” Bryant.”
Laimbeer is now GM/head coach of the WNBA New York Liberty.
One reason the BBL might make it is their sponsor lineup: Reebok, American Airlines and Premium Energy VIP have already signed on. No TV deal yet, obviously, and for the first season, the league will play mostly in a collection of Recreation League and high school gyms. There will be a 14-game schedule, with playoffs in Sept.
But they’re already generating some buzz. At a recent practice game, Jerome Simpson of the Vikings and Dante Cunningham of the Timberwolves showed up to watch.
“We’re looking for girls who can actually play basketball,” Moore said. “And also be attractive to look at. That’s what’s going to set us apart.”
Peaches practice: Tia Perry w/ball, Danielle Jones on box out, Lauren Allen in orange. Photo: Beautiful Ballers League.