Jia Perkins of the Chicago Sky chats about the WNBA while whooping this writer's butt in a game of hoops
Let’s get this straight. This is no battle of the sexes. No Billie Jean King vs. Bobby Riggs. Jia Perkins ranked fourth in scoring and second in steals for her college team, the Texas Tech Lady Raiders. She was an honorable mention to the AP’s All-American team in 2002–03 and has spent the last two seasons with the Charlotte Sting. The Chicago Sky, our brand-new WNBA team that’s getting ready for its first season, picked up the shooting guard in an expansion draft over the winter.
Her competition in today’s game of HORSE ain’t got game, to put it mildly. One of the last times I played any semblance of organized basketball, I was booted from an intramural high-school game for calling the referee, my English teacher, an “ass face.”
Needless to say, Perkins had the edge going into our game at the Moody Bible Institute’s gym. But I’ve got some trick shots up my sleeve. When I find out she’s money from midrange, I make a mental note to step outside the three-point line if things start to look bad. Let the game begin.
After I miss a couple of my underhand free throws (yeah, I tried the “potty shot”), Perkins arcs a rainbow from out of bounds, behind the backboard, and makes it. Mine rims out, and Perkins takes an early lead.
I ask her what she thinks of the Sky’s chances for the inaugural season. “I think we pulled some pretty good players from the expansion draft,” she says. “I think we can play well as a team. I think on any given night everybody can give you something different. We aren’t just looking for one person to carry us the whole time.”
I bring my shot out to three-point land to get a couple of letters on Perkins. In turn, she trips me up with more behind-the-backboard shots. We both try some half-court shots. We both miss badly.
Since Perkins just arrived in Chicago a few days before our game, she hasn’t had much time to explore the city (and won’t get much time with twice-daily practices coming up in the next week), but she’s digging it so far. “It’s a beautiful city,” she says. “I haven’t been out much, but I think I’m going to like it here.”
The talk then moves to Michael. Though the Sky will play their home games at the UIC Pavilion, Jordan’s shadow still looms large on any Chicago basketball court. “He needs to come to our games and give me his autograph,” Perkins says with a laugh. “I wore 23 and all that stuff. [Growing up], that’s who I wanted to be like.”
And how about the kids today? “I think it’s great for little girls coming up now,” Perkins says. “They can have dreams and look up to a female player. I think it gives them some initiative to want to play and continue after college.”
Perkins starts to get tricky with some behind-the-back, underhand junk that barely makes it to the rim. Still, she has me on the verge of a loss after calling “bank” (that means hitting the backboard first, for all you laymen) on a free throw and makes it. Mine rims out (again!).
All of the fancy-pants shots get us talking about the differences between the WNBA and the NBA. “I like the NBA,” she says. “I like dunks and stuff. It’s a different style. Not everybody in the WNBA can dunk. It’s just more fundamental [in the WNBA], everybody working hard and hustling.”
I can sleep happy tonight. My three-ball got one more letter on Perkins, but her bank off the glass does me in. On our way out, I thank Perkins for being such a good sport. She in turn thanks me for getting her out of the gym in time for General Hospital.
The Chicago Sky’s home opener against the Sacramento Monarchs is Tuesday 23 at the UIC Pavilion.