Former Utah Starzz Great Natalie Williams Hopes ‘Times Change’ With Inequality Between WNBA, NBA

Jun 2, 2020, 5:01 PM | Updated: 5:02 pm
Natalie Williams - Utah Starzz...
Natalie Williams #24 of the Utah Starzz passes the ball during the game against the Los Angeles Sparks at the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. The Sparks defeated the Starzz 84-71. (Photo Credit: Jeff Gross / Allsport / Getty Images)
(Photo Credit: Jeff Gross / Allsport / Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Former Utah Starzz legend Natalie Williams said that she hopes “that times change” in regards to inequality between the Women’s National Basketball Association and the National Basketball Association.

Williams discussed the differences in compensation between the female and male basketball leagues during a recent episode of the Thurl Talk Podcast with Thurl Bailey.

The former WNBA star was one of the best player’s in women’s basketball during his career which spanned from 1996-2005.

“It is unfortunate. I just hope that times change,” Willaims said. “I know that it has this year with the collective bargaining agreement that the WNBA kind of put together, I know they’re getting paid more which is great but it’s still nowhere close. Not even anywhere close to what NBA players get. It doesn’t have to be up to their level.”

As of October 2019, the average NBA player had an annual salary of $7.7 million, according to CNBC.

By comparison, the WNBA’s new collective bargaining agreement rose the average player’s salary to $130,000, according to the league. “Under the new CBA, the league’s top players will be able to earn cash compensation in excess of $500,000,” the league said in a statement in January 2020.

“I was lucky in the fact that being one of the top players in the WNBA at the time, I had one of the higher salaries,” Williams said. “In regards to equality, [WNBA salary] was about the average NBA player’s game fee for one month. So that’s super hard to deal with.”

Unlike the NBA, the WNBA didn’t provide the benefit of a pension to Williams after her playing career ended 15 years ago.

“The WNBA players don’t have anything,” the former Starzz player said. “That would be amazing if we had a pension for 20 years. That would be very helpful.”

Williams said that some of the goals for increasing compensation among female basketball players include:

  • Being able to make a living
  • Not having to play overseas
  • Being able to save money for the future

“You can only play at that high of a level for so many years and so then what do you fall back on?” Willaims said.

Natalie Williams’ Playing Career

Prior to her time in the WNBA, Williams was an excellent volleyball player. She helped lead the UCLA Bruins to two national championships during his career as a dual-sport athlete in Southern California. She was recognized as the top collegiate volleyball player in 1992 and 1993.

After barely missing the cut for the 1996 women’s volleyball for Team USA, Williams turned her full attention to basketball.

From 1996-98, Williams played in the ABL as a member of the Portland Power.

In 1999, she was selected by the Utah Starzz with the third overall pick in the WNBA Draft.

Willaims played for the Starzz until 2002. From 2002-05, she played for the Indiana Fever.

During his career, the forward achieved the following:

  • Four-time WNBA All-Star (1999-2001, 2003)
  • Three-time All-WNBA First Team (1999-2001)
  • Two-time All-ABL First Team (1997, 1998)
  • ABL MVP (1998)
  • 1996 Jones Cup Gold Medalist
  • 1998 World Cup Gold Medalist
  • 2000 Summer Olympic Games Gold Medalist
  • 2002 World Cup Gold Medalist

Williams attended high school in Taylorsville, Utah.

Former Utah Jazz and NBA player Thurl Bailey is the host of the Thurl Talk Podcast. After more than a decade playing in the NBA as Big T for the Utah Jazz and Minnesota Timberwolves, Thurl has seen a thing or two. And he still has things he wants to learn. He’s a musician, father, husband, and friend and he’s interested in talking with people. That’s what he’ll do each week on Thurl Talk: share his own life experiences and learn from the stories of others. Whether it’s about his life on the court, behind a mic or sitting at the kitchen counter, count on getting to know the real Thurl Bailey and maybe learn a little something from his friends.

Subscribe to the Thurl Talk Podcast here

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