It’s the 2006 women’s NCAA tournament, and Candace Parker is dribbling toward the basket with a head of steam. It ... kind of looks like she’s about to dunk. What if she does?
Well, this is where it’s worth reflecting on some history, both long- and short-term. Broadly speaking, dunking isn’t a big deal. In the past, dunking has been controversial and even forbidden, but these days, it’s a common part of the game. Efficient, exciting, and celebrated.
What about for women? That history is a bit more complex. It starts with gifted female athletes being driven away from the game of basketball, and it continues with complex and sometimes patronizing critiques of women bold enough to dunk.
Parker hopes to make dunking as ordinary for the women’s game as it is for her, but that’s in the future. For now, we have to understand the complex past of this basketball skill.