When you're a fan growing up in the USA, you take for granted the fact that many of the greatest athletes in the world flock to the States for most major sports. Baseball players do it, men's basketball players do it, hockey players do it. It's simply the land of lucrative contracts. But earlier this year we found out that basketball great Diana Taurasi's Russian hoops team (UMMC Ekaterinburg) was actually paying her to sit out the 2015 WNBA season. Taurasi took them up on their offer as she was looking to afford burnout and pile up some cash while her knees still allowed her to do that.
In an article for the New York Times, Taurasi detailed what it's like to be a female baller in a country that actually appreciates it. Taurasi gave some insight on both the highs and lows of playing in Russia.
On the country's brutal winters, Taurasi gave her preferred coping method:
“I’ve probably drunk enough vodka for a village...It just happens. I mean, with the weather being so crappy, nothing to do. Might as well be hung over. And you can’t not drink. You must drink. It’s just part of the world here. Any Russian team: You win, you drink. You lose, you drink.”
Besides getting smashed, what is there to do for fun? In a country with a massive language barrier, Taurasi sticks to hanging out with teammates for sushi, skeet shooting, and watching guys dress in drag as both Lady Gaga and Cher.
She's also playing in an era of increased political upheaval. In a country where 80 percent have a negative view of Americans, Tauasi says she feels the resentment, saying: "they feel like we’re taking their bread."
Still the life of a female basketball player in Russia is a stark contrast to the reality of stateside balling. Taurasi tells tales of chartered jets, catered lunches, translators, a 24/7 driver, and a rent free dwelling with a scenic view.
The Times points out that that's a drastic difference from the WNBA, where you fly coach with connecting flights. There's no catering, no driver, and you're paid roughly eight percent of the salary. If it weren't for all the cultural hurdles you'd have to imagine that most (if not all) of the best female players in the world would bolt for our former rivals (or China like Maya Moore).
One of Taurasi's Russian teammates is former WNBA MVP Candace Parker who matter-of-factly described the WNBA as "the offseason," before stating that Russia is "where [we] take care of [our] family."
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[via New York Times]
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