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Women's basketball is well-equipped to shape its own narrative

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If there is any singular number that has defined basketball in2023, it might be 9.9 million — the viewership of Sunday's NCAATournament championship game between LSU and Iowa.

The figure isn't just the largest ever for a women's collegegame; it also flew past other audiences for some of Americansports' marquee events.

The NCAA Women's National Championship's 9.9million viewers are more than:▪️ Any Women's CBB game ever▪️ Any MLS game ever▪️ Any Stanley Cup game since 1973▪️ The 2023 Orange Bowl▪️ The 2023 Sugar Bowl▪️ 2023 Thursday Night Football▪️ The 2021 NBA Finals▪️ The 2020… pic.twitter.com/X6MGXYkflQ

— Front Office Sports (@FOS) April 4, 2023

To say the game has "arrived" is disrespectful to theillustrious history of women in basketball. But Sunday was a stageunlike any other, and those who watched on TV or paid hundreds to attend wereawestruck by the outpouring of deserved fan support.

I’m completely blown away. The direction ourgame is going and the excitement surrounding it- I personally havenever been more proud to be a part of it. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/WjNZii3Vg1

— Rachel Galligan (@RachGall) April 3, 2023

A poorly-officiated contest (Nicole Auerbach of The Athletic hadsome important thoughts on this)and the trash-talking discourse that followed are problematic, butthey won't taper our excitement for the trajectory of women'sbasketball. An influx of new, casual, uninformed fans are swarminginto the sport, and we're ready for them because we've learned twoimportant lessons in the last week.

One: This generation's stars are glimmering in thespotlight.

Two: The sport's core of diligent media members and passionatefans won't take any B.S.

Angel Reese surpassed a million Instagram followers afterwinning the national title, a result of her superstar season andher "Bayou Barbie" persona. But her name also dominated headlinesbecause of her John Cena and ring-me gestures towards Caitlin Clarkin the closing minutes of LSU's win, earning critical labels like"classless" and others that hinted at more serious racistundertones.

Reese didn't hold back in her initial response.

"I don’t fit in the box that y’all want me to be in. I'm toohood, I'm too ghetto, y'all told me that all year. When otherpeople do it, y'all don't say nothing. This was for the people thatlook like me," Reese said.

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