“Unfinished Business”

I am a big fan of the WNBA. I live in Las Vegas after all, home of the current WNBA World Champions (let’s go Aces)! You could say I hover right about the bullseye in the target audience for “Unfinished Business,” director Alison Klayman‘s focused yet comprehensive documentary about the Women’s National Basketball League. Klayman presents a detailed history of the WNBA and its origins, struggles, and triumphs over the 25 years of its existence. The film follows the 2021 season of one of the league’s original teams, the New York Liberty, interviewing players past and present to create a tapestry of what the WNBA has meant (and will mean) generations of female athletes.

When the league was created in 1997, it soared in popularity. Big-name Olympians like Sheryl Swoopes, Rebecca Lobo, and Lisa Leslie were the early faces of the W (as it is affectionately known by players and fans), and they often played to packed houses. The audience did eventually drop off for many different reasons, but America’s renewed interest in women’s basketball means the WNBA is hoping to grow and flourish. There are still, and have always been, many obstacles in the way. The more things change, the more they (sadly) stay the same.

The documentary touches on all the hot topics when it comes to women’s sports. There’s a discussion about how misogynists love to jump on all-female leagues to mock and criticize. (Just take a look at social media search for WNBA and look at the disgusting, sexist remarks). There’s also talk about the stigma of women’s sports and the perception that all female athletes must be gay. Homophobia, sexism, and racism are all major problems that seem to go hand in hand, and it’s infuriating.

The WNBA has been in the spotlight lately for its radical commitment to sports activism, and the league is filled with social justice warriors who threaten close-minded folks even more. These women use their platform to speak up and speak out about injustices everywhere, embracing the Black Lives Matter movement as well as LGBTQ+ issues. It’s a sport that’s become all about acceptance, where players and fans are free to be who they are and are welcomed by all. It’s interesting because the league was very slow to embrace these issues when it first debuted.

Looking ahead, the film mentions the new collective bargaining agreement that’s been reached between management and players, a contract that will help female athletes receive things like fair compensation and help with child care. It’s an agreement that will hopefully mean fewer in the WNBA will feel it necessary to travel overseas to play ball in the off-season (something that has been much discussed since Phoenix Mercury superstar and Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner was detained in Russia). As is the norm, many in the WNBA sacrifice their bodies year-round, which leads to more injuries during the regular season. Better pay should alleviate some of this pressure.

Fans will be thrilled by the interviews of a who’s who roster of New York Liberty players and alums, including Teresa Weatherspoon, Rebecca Lobo, Sue Wicks, Kym Hampton, Crystal Robinson, Betnijah Laney, Sabrina Ionescu, Didi Richards, Sami Whitcomb, Michaela Onyenwere, Jazmine Jones, Swin Cash, and Natasha Howard. The film gives a glimpse inside the locker room and interesting behind-the-scenes coaching strategies. There are interviews with celebrity fans (Joan Jett is a longtime Liberty supporter) and candid discussions of the league’s struggles and individual accomplishments.

The WNBA is filled with strong, talented women who have changed the sports world for the better, have never stopped pushing for equality, and are facing a brighter future. Their athletic ability has been undervalued for so long, it’s about time people are finally starting to take notice and give them the respect they deserve.

There is a lot packed into this documentary, but it works so well because it’s broad yet laser-focused on one team’s legacy. Klayman weaves a more general history of the WNBA into her storyline, including timely topics about equality in women’s sports, social justice, homophobia, and racism.

“Unfinished Business” is a film that honors the early trailblazers in professional women’s basketball who paved the way for opportunities that weren’t afforded to past generations. This is a must-see for WNBA enthusiasts of course, but even if you are unfamiliar with the league, this documentary may just make you a fan.

By: Louisa Moore

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s