Shoni & Jude Schimmel greeting their American Indian following after Oklahoma Sooners game.
Knowing this Schimmel effect already, the Atlanta Dream organization is already promoting “Showtime Shoni Night”
ATLANTA – It’s been called the “Schimmel Show,” “Rez Rising,” and even the “Showtime Shoni Show” but whatever you want to label it, it is something that is already being felt by the WNBA league since the Atlanta Dream drafted Shoni Schimmel, the former Louisville standout from the Confederate Tribes of the Umatilla Indian reservation.
With Shoni Schimmel’s crowd of followers from the Louisville athletic community and from the hundreds of thousands Native American tribal members, the WNBA is already starting to get “Schimmel’d”, a term used commonly at the Louisville women’s basketball games when Shoni left defenders and head coaches scratching their heads at her moves on the court.
Since the draft, it was published by ESPN that this year’s WNBA draft was most watched women’s draft in ESPN history since they began broadcasting it live for television viewers. Nielsen ratings put the viewership around 413,000 viewers despite not having the same star studded draft as the 2013 WNBA draft which featured Brittney Griner, Elena Delle Donne, and Skylar Diggins, three of the most prominent names in women’s college basketball history over the past five years. To put that in perspective, last year’s Major League Baseball draft only had 277,000 viewers according to Nielsen ratings and that sport is what is commonly known as America’s pastime.
A year ago, Shoni and her sister Jude, became national sensations and role models for Native Americans all across the country when they made an improbable run improbably run into the Final Four and put Native American basketball style of play, commonly known as “rez ball,” on the map. Making it into the Final Four as a number five seed, the Cardinals crashed their way through the Oklahoma City regional with upset wins over number four seed Purdue and the number one overall seed of the tournament, then undefeated Baylor, and then the final upset in the regional was the win over Tennessee.
Since that time, Native American fans had showed up to every away game that Louisville has played and sometimes, like at the game versus the University of Memphis, the members from the Native American community actually outnumbered the local Memphis Tiger fans. The final culmination of fans embracing the “Schimmel Show” this past season was Shoni’s senior night at the KFC Yum Center, a record breaking 22,163 fans broke the women’s single game record for fans in attendance. It was also the second largest crowd to watch a NCAA Division I women’s basketball game this season behind the 23,706 to watch Kentucky host Duke on December 22.
Newest Atlanta Dream Shoni Schimmel – 8th pick in First Round of 2914 WNBA Draft
When Shoni was called as the eighth pick of the WNBA draft last week by the Atlanta Dream, she became highest pick ever for a Native American athlete. The Atlanta Dream already had some of the best fans in the WNBA and were ecstatic when Shoni’s name was called and now if history repeats itself, and we are sure it will, the Atlanta Dream will have a huge contingent of fans at every road game they play this season and will probably outnumber the home team fans when the Dream play near large Native American populations.
One of those large cities near with a large Native American population that Shoni will be playing at will be Seattle which is the home of the Seattle Storm, a team that passed on Shoni in this year’s draft. According to the Seattle Storm ticket sales website, the game versus the Atlanta Dream is the only game listed as “not having many tickets left.” One would think that since it is early in the WNBA season the local fans are just gearing up for the first game of the season, but that is not the case here, this game is scheduled near the end of the season on August 7th and is currently the only game about to sell out.
As for the Atlanta Dream getting “Schimmel’d,” even though the future star in the making has yet to step foot onto the Atlanta Dream training facility or even dawn a practice jersey, Shoni’s Atlanta Dream replica jersey has already sold out on the WNBA online apparel store and the Dream social media accounts have already increased its membership by more than a few thousand in less than a week. Knowing this Schimmel effect already, the Atlanta Dream organization is already promoting “Showtime Shoni Night” for the first home game of the season on May 16th. I am sure there will be more than a few fans on site from the Native American community, Louisville athletics and those curious to see what this girl from the “rez” is all about.
Welcome to the “Show” WNBA your about to get Schimmel’d!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in NDNSports.com on Monday, April 21, 2014. Used with permission.