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A Long Story Short
February 13, 2009 9:37 AM   Subscribe

Denise Long, the first woman to be drafted by the NBA.

Recently named Iowa's best woman athlete by Sports Illustrated, the 5'11" basketball player averaged 62.8 pts during one season and was drafted by the San Francisco Warriors straight out of high school. She briefly played in team owner Franklin Mieuli's professional women's league, but soon gave up on basketball as a career. The transition from six-on-six basketball to five-on-five must not have gone over too well (she only averaged 35 points).
posted by jwakawaka (26 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
"I've never yet found anything that motivated me or gave me the zest and enthusiasm and love that basketball did," she say, "unless, maybe, it was talking to people about the Bible. I could do that for hours."

I'm going to admire her accomplishments while hoping I never have to sit next to her on a train.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:51 AM on February 13, 2009 [11 favorites]


Huh, she did all this in the early 80s? I wonder where she is now.
posted by mathowie at 9:52 AM on February 13, 2009


Eighth round? How many rounds do they have? Aren't there only twelve players on a team?

If they have eight rounds, I'm frankly surprised that somebody hasn't drafted, say, their grandmother.

I don't mean that as a denigration of this woman's talent, skill, or accomplishments, nor of those of female basketball players in general. I'm just shocked that there are eight rounds, when it seems almost completely useless, and would be furthermore shocked to find out that there have been no "joke" picks or "gift" picks. Again, not implying that this woman's pick was a joke or a gift.
posted by Flunkie at 10:03 AM on February 13, 2009


It's not jokey when a couple of guys go down due to injury, or get suspended, or do something stupid at a nightclub. It's real easy to get hurt in basketball.

That's a hell of an interview. Or a hell of a book really.

She seems awesome. I've been worried about the wnba in the economic situation we're in. I mean a lot of the games were already having problems drawing folks.
posted by cashman at 10:09 AM on February 13, 2009


Unbelievably good player, unbelievably shitty human being.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:11 AM on February 13, 2009


It's not jokey when a couple of guys go down due to injury, or get suspended, or do something stupid at a nightclub.
Are you speaking from knowledge of the transaction and roster rules of NBA teams and their typical behavior with respect to them, or are you assuming?

Because it's been quite a while since I've really paid attention to basketball, but I seem to remember that whenever a player goes down, teams just sign a replacement off of the plentiful scrap heap. They don't keep backup players signed and frozen in cryogenic suspension, let alone half a team's worth or more of backup players.
posted by Flunkie at 10:16 AM on February 13, 2009


Huh, there isn't a wiki article about her yet.

In any case, flunkie, I got the impression from "Denise, of course, never got a chance to play with the Warriors.." and the references to Mielui toying with the idea of a pro women's league, that they never intended to have her play. So why waste a higher round pick on someone you won't even use? The article just doesn't really explain this very well.
posted by artifarce at 10:16 AM on February 13, 2009


Evolution of the Draft and Lottery says that the draft in 1960 was 21 rounds and since 1989 it has been just two rounds. With 21 rounds, imagine how many men she must have been selected ahead of.
posted by geekyguy at 10:17 AM on February 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


What, Optimus?
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:24 AM on February 13, 2009


Unbelievably good player, unbelievably shitty human being.

I assume you made that bilious comment that because of this statement from the interview?

"It was a culture shock," is the way she describes the experience. "I never knew what gay people were then and I was repulsed by homosexual marches, women burning bras and things like that. At school, my humor didn't relate to theirs, but I learned a lot."

She did say she "learned a lot", and she was describing a 30-years-ago version of herself.
posted by Roach at 10:26 AM on February 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Basketball teams (like most professional sports teams) have a set roster size before the season starts and then they have to narrow that down to 15 for the regular season. Most teams carry 12-13 for the regular season, but have other players on contract that are either unable to play or play in the NBDL (speaking of the NBA). This is why teams will draft players, keep them on the roster for a couple of months and then either drop them entirely or miraculously pick them up a couple of months later from the NBDL.
posted by subaruwrx at 10:27 AM on February 13, 2009


I guess I'm speaking from however many rounds they have now, they need it. But there are guys who are all-stars coming off the bench. You need a good bench, but it looks like you're right - 8 rounds is way more than they have now. What they need to start doing is providing some of the tallest humans in the world something besides tiny folding chairs.
posted by cashman at 10:28 AM on February 13, 2009


I assume you made that bilious comment that because of this statement from the interview

Note that she never said she changed her mind about any of that. Also note that despite her holier-than-thou bullshit, she got a divorce. Let's just say I am "repulsed" by her. I hope you find that tit-for-tat fair.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:33 AM on February 13, 2009


Thanks for clarifying, Roach and Optimus Chyme, I thought I missed a paragraph about her biting off kittens' heads or something. Ho hum, moving right along...
posted by fiercecupcake at 10:39 AM on February 13, 2009


Note that the article is from 1982.

There is an lot of overt Christianity in women's basketball. By "overt," I mean teams that pray before games, coaches that pressure student-athletes to attend weekend prayer retreats, and at least one college media guide which featured a "favorite Bible verse" by each player's bio. And in some cases, women coaches and players talk of loving Jesus, in part so that no one will wonder about their sexuality.
posted by Carol Anne at 10:41 AM on February 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


The article never makes it clear whether they worked her out against NBA players, or if there was any evidence she could compete at that level. I'm sorry if that sounds harsh, but we are talking about some of the premier athletes in the world. If there was one instance where she played in a game with top male players and held her own, I would think they would have mentioned it.

I'm sure scouting in those days was not what it is now, and I'm guessing they picked her on some kind of whim or as a publicity stunt of some sort. Anyway, the fact that she didn't even find the game interesting and this from the last link:

Denise Long Rife: I never was interested in defense.


indicates she would never have made it in the WNBA, had it existed, let alone the NBA.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:41 AM on February 13, 2009


I'm still a little confused, Optimus, where is the repulsion coming from? Because she reads the bible? Because she was naive when she went to San Francisco? Because she grew apart from her first husband? Because she, in 1982 (only three years after Title IX started really being applied to athletics), didn't think women's basketball had a big future? Am I missing something?

Yeah, I could get how those things could lead to a repulsive person, but they don't have to, we shouldn't prejudge her based on some crappy 30 year old article.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:05 PM on February 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I never knew what gay people were then and I was repulsed by homosexual marches, women burning bras and things like that.

From the last link:

I also remember when I watched her, most the time when I watched her what was in my thoughts was boy, doesn't she look beautiful. The way she shoots. The way she goes up for her jump shots. The way her skirt falls down -- she wore skirts back then, and she was just so picturesque. And so lithe and mobile.

File under "things that make you go 'hmm'".
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:16 PM on February 13, 2009


I would have waited and drafted Cheryl Miller.
posted by Cranberry at 1:12 PM on February 13, 2009


as soon as she got out of USC that is.
posted by Cranberry at 1:12 PM on February 13, 2009


Optimus, where is the repulsion coming from?

For once, I don't want to make this about me. I'll let it go.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:16 PM on February 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Interesting article, but I'll admit I had hopes, reading the title, that I would read about a contemporary woman who was a good enough player to make it into the men's team.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 6:09 PM on February 13, 2009


Aeschenkarnos, same here.

Still an interesting article though.
posted by starscream at 6:58 PM on February 13, 2009


You can't really tell what wasn't said by reading an interview. The reporter generally doesn't quote everything but edits it down to what is interesting. s/he may even selectively quote to make you look bad.

nba.com says Lusia Harris was the first and only woman drafted by an NBA team.
posted by Manjusri at 9:37 PM on February 13, 2009


Ann Meyers (UCLA) signed a contract with the Indiana Pacers in 1979 and participated in three-day tryouts, but did not make the team. All these women were being used as publicity gimmicks.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:49 AM on February 14, 2009


Interesting Manjusri. A Wikipedia article says the same, but this site says Denise was the first and lists Lusia Harris' accomplishments afterwards. There may have been more than one NBA?
posted by jwakawaka at 2:15 PM on February 17, 2009


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