UNITED STATES - MARCH 29: Coll, Basketball: NCAA finals, UConn Sue Bird (R) in action vs Tennessee April McDivitt (L), San Antonio, TX 3/29/2002 (Photo by Bill Frakes/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images) (SetNumber: X65478)

By every metric, women’s basketball is growing. Fans are attending and watching college and WNBA games in record numbers, and merchandise is flying off the shelves. However, the history of women’s basketball hasn’t been chronicled as extensively as men’s hoops, and a book looking at the women’s game, on and off the court, was sorely needed.

Seeing this opening, Kate Fagan worked with WNBA legend Seimone Augustus and illustrator Sophia Chang to create “Hoop Muses: An Insider’s Guide to Pop Culture and the Women’s Game,” which is available at bookstores on Tuesday.

Fagan played basketball at Colorado and has covered the sport for ESPN, but she never played for the WNBA or for Team USA. With the book being billed as an insider look at the sport and its culture, she needed an insider. Enter Augustus, a four-time WNBA champion with the Minnesota Lynx and a three-time Olympic gold medalist. Augustus’ perspective and role as curator helped “Hoop Muses” gain the authenticity Fagan sought.

“You kind of see her fingerprints on the book in the smallest details,” Fagan told Bally Sports. “Like the WNBA Jam recreations where we're pairing together dynamic duos and then I'm giving you their power meters on like 2-pointers, 3-pointers. And being able to run those by Seimone, asking, ‘Do you agree because, I've never been guarded by them?’ Super simple stuff like that.

“And then … just running everything by her is really the key, like, did I miss anybody if I'm listing the best international players of all time. I can do my little Google (search) and find other lists that have been neat, but you played against these people.

“I could have done the book and it would be a B-plus. But with Seimone on board … the details just ended up being a little deeper, a little more elevated. And that was really the whole reason of having somebody of her stature on board.”


LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 14: Guard Seimone Augustus #33 of the Minnesota Lynx shoots a jumper against the Los Angeles Sparks in game three of the 2016 WNBA Finals at Galen Center on October 14, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The book traces the biggest moments in women’s basketball, starting with the first collegiate game between Stanford and California in 1896.

“I would love to go back and see what that was like. Just from the simple fact of trying to understand how women played this game in those first early years where the rules were still so malleable, especially for women, but then also just the details around it,” Fagan said. “Pretty big San Francisco papers like the Chronicle sent both a female illustrator and a female writer because it would have been scandalous to have a man watching them play. Men not being allowed to watch but climbing the scaffolding to peek inside.

“I just think that that entire scene in my mind is very rich, and it is absolutely the game I want to see. I'm not sure the game itself would have been riveting, mind you, but everything around it would have just been so incredibly interesting.”

“Hoop Muses” covers pre-Title IX basketball for women in the U.S. and how the sport was transformed by the law’s passage. Important moments in history such as Team USA’s first Olympic gold medal, which was won at the 1984 Olympics, are explored, but so are some moments that might not have seemed as seminal in the moment, such as Tennessee and UConn’s first matchup on ESPN.

Fagan talked to dozens of players, coaches, journalists and administrators around women’s basketball to get a more in-depth understanding of not just historical moments but also ones that could be described as viral.

Augustus’ viewpoint is clear in passages about playing overseas and the launch of the WNBA. She was drafted by Minnesota in 2006, retired in 2021 and started coaching that same year, so she has been a part of the 26-year-old league for most of its existence. The book also includes Augustus’ first-person account of the Lynx protesting police brutality and her recounting of when she and Diana Taurasi were so close to a fight that Taurasi planted a kiss on Augustus’ cheek. (Double technicals were handed out, and the Lynx won the WNBA title that season.)

Fagan goes as far to trace basketball’s lineage from its AAU days, when women could play for teams sponsored by companies like Hanes or schools like the Nashville Business College.

“The player that I wish that I think would have been so interesting for the W is named Nera White, who played in that AAU era, and there's like interesting connections,” Fagan said. “She played for what was called at the time Nashville Business College, but if you run through the lineage, she played with Sue Gunther. And then Gunther coaches LSU for a very long time, even coaching Seimone. And so stuff like that is just really interesting to me.

“We have always historically connected the lineage of men's basketball (to the sport),” she added. “There's the story of (James) Naismith coaches Phogg Allen, who coaches Dean Smith, who coaches Michael Jordan — like that stuff exists in the women's game (too). We just never learned about it.”

Featured Podcast

See all