Can A Woman Play In The NBA? (They Can, But)

Why haven’t we seen a woman play in the NBA? Do they not want them for gender reasons?

Technically, there’s no rule that doesn’t allow women to play in the NBA. So, two women were actually drafted into the NBA in 1969 and 1977. But there have yet to be women who played in an NBA game.

But if we women are free to play in the NBA, why can’t they get drafted today? Let’s find out.

Can a Woman Play in the NBA?

There’s no official NBA rule that prohibits women from playing in the NBA. This means that women are allowed to play in the NBA.

But if that’s the case, then why aren’t there any women in the NBA? The reason isn’t because of their gender or any other biases.

It’s simply because there hasn’t been a woman good enough to play in the NBA.

Photo by All-Pro Reels

We must remind ourselves that the NBA is the highest basketball league in the world.

So, it makes sense that their standards are set high. In fact, thousands of male players are trying to get into the NBA each year but fail. Only sixty players are drafted in the NBA each year.

In terms of raw basketball talent and skills, the women are mismatched. The men are faster and more athletic, they can gain more weight easily, and can dunk.

Just imagine a male player backing down a woman in the post. The men will easily dominate if that’s the case.

First Women to be Drafted in the NBA

Although there hasn’t been a woman who played in the NBA, there were actually two who were good enough to be drafted.

Denise Long was the first ever woman drafted in NBA history. The Golden State Warriors selected Denise in the 13th round in the 1969 NBA Draft. But the selection was vetoed by the NBA since they didn’t want women playing against all men.

In her senior year in college, she averaged an absurd 62.8 points per game. What’s surprising was she stood at only 5’11. Although we don’t know how her game would’ve translated in the NBA, she’s still a legend.

The second woman to be drafted into the NBA was Lusia Harris. She was selected as the 137th overall pick by the New Orleans Jazz in the 1977 NBA draft.

Throughout her college career, she averaged 25.9 points and 14.4 rebounds. She also had a lot of accolades, such as:

  • 3x Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women Champion
  • 3X AIAW Tournament MVP
  • Olympic Silver Medalist (1976)
  • 3x All-American
  • Pan American Gold Medalist (1975)

Lusia made history as the first woman drafted by an NBA team, but she never got to play. The reason was that she didn’t express an interest in playing in the NBA.

But it was later discovered that she was pregnant then, so she couldn’t try out for the Jazz.

Can Men Play in the WNBA?

No rule prevents women from playing in the NBA. The same is true in the WNBA – no rule prohibits men from playing.

But why haven’t you seen a man or even a transgender man play in the WNBA?

First, there’s just less motivation to play in the WNBA than in any other male league.

For one, the average salary of WNBA players is $102,751, while the NBA is $7.5 million. The main reason for the big difference is that the WNBA makes significantly less money than the NBA.

Then, the issue of competition is also a key factor. The WNBA is marketed as a women’s league, so it wouldn’t be fair to everyone to have a male player.

Their biological genetics simply allow them to dominate in basketball.

Lastly, a male playing in the WNBA would be controversial. The player and the team would face a lot of backlash from fans.


So now we know that men and women can theoretically play in opposite leagues. But they don’t do it for a variety of reasons.

But that’s precisely why the WNBA was created in 1996. It’s the equivalent of the NBA but for women who are professional basketball players. They’re a part of the NBA as a company.

The WNBA isn’t as popular as the NBA. This is why there are even questions as to whether women can play in the NBA.

Can an NBA team Play Against a WNBA team?

They technically can since the NBA owns the WNBA. But they can’t do it for a lot of reasons.

First is because there’s going to be unfair competition. It’s a fact that male players are more dominant than female players.

Since that’s the case, the game wouldn’t even be competitive since NBA players don’t want to be the subject of backlash among fans.

In the first place, WNBA teams wouldn’t want to play against NBA teams since there are many differences.  

Should Women Play in the NBA?

We would love to see a woman play in the NBA. But this is unlikely to happen for now.

Men are genetically engineered to be stronger, taller, and more dominant. While some women can keep up with men on skills, they can’t overcome their physicality.

Since basketball is a physical sport, there wouldn’t be too much competition.

But we can’t completely close down the window on this. As long as women continue evolving their skills, we might see them in the NBA someday.

Just recently, Caitlyn Clark made headlines as she’s the only woman in NCAA women’s tournament history to score back-to-back 40-point games.

On the way to this historic championship run, she also broke tons of records:

  • First to score 8 threes in an NCAA championship game
  • Garnered 41 points which is the most ever in a national semifinal game
  • Got 60 assists throughout six games in March Madness which is the tournament record
  • Set a single tournament scoring record of 191 points

Caitlyn is eligible for the WNBA draft starting in 2024. Thanks to her insane performance, she would undoubtedly be a top-10 pick.

Final Thoughts

Women basketball players can theoretically play in the NBA, but they must be just as good or even better.

But even if they have great skills, they still can’t compete physically – which is the harsh reality.

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2 thoughts on “Can A Woman Play In The NBA? (They Can, But)”

    • You know what, you’re right. Thanks for pointing this out. Just edited it.

      Ever is indeed a strong word. Especially with how women’s basketball is evolving.


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