Kelsey Plum Is a Lot Like James Harden. But Is It a Left-Handed Compliment?

Last year’s No. 1 pick, Breanna Stewart of Connecticut, had one of college basketball’s most storied careers. As a star who could play any position on the floor and seemingly take over at a moment’s notice, Stewart was often discussed as the female equivalent of Kevin Durant, a member of the Golden State Warriors who was the N.B.A. most valuable player in 2014 for Oklahoma City.


Sergio Estrada/USA Today Sports, via Reuters

Stewart said that she was flattered but that she preferred to be discussed in relation to the titans of women’s basketball.

“What we do is different,” she told The Times last year. “How we play is different. So, you know, I think we need to start making more comparisons to women who are equally successful as K. D., but in our sport. Taurasi. Maya. Tamika Catchings. Delle Donne. Candace Parker. They deserve to be rewarded for that.”

Andrei Markovits, a professor of political science at the University of Michigan who has written books on women in sports, said female basketball players are often compared to N.B.A. players as a point of reference for a broader audience.

But Richard Lapchick, the director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida, said such analogies had become tiresome.

“Kelsey is slotted to be the No. 1 pick in the W.N.B.A. draft because she is such a great player,” Lapchick said on Wednesday. “If we need to compare her to another player, don’t slight her amazing achievements by comparing her to a male player, no matter how good he may be.”

Former players and analysts of women’s basketball said that they understood how comparisons across gender lines could be seen as a slight but that they also thought of those analogies as signs of growth for the sport.

The ESPN analyst Rebecca Lobo, a former UConn player who will be inducted into…

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