The New York Times’ Richard Sandomir examines the NBA’s efforts to market towards women, though if someone from the Associate had asked my opinion, I’d have made a very simple suggestion : tell Isiah to stop using that line about “Love & Basketball” or they’ll never come back to the arena.

The National Basketball Association, long a male-driven business, wants more female fans. It wants more women, especially those 18 to 34, to watch its games, talk about its players and wear the jersey dresses, leather jackets, pink caps and tank tops with Swarovski crystals.

To reinforce the strategy during the playoffs, which culminate with last night’s start of the finals between the Dallas Mavericks and the Miami Heat, the league is advertising in several magazines ” People, US, In Touch Weekly and Entertainment Weekly ” to stoke viewership among women.

The campaign, which posits that “the game is only part of the fun,” plays off the league’s belief that women prefer stories about the players to their scoring averages. So the campaign’s “conversation pieces” that promote the finals offer anecdotes about five stars, including one about the smiling, law- enforcement-minded, 7-foot-1-inch center for the Heat: “Getting pulled over by the police has never been so surprising in South Beach now that Shaquille O’Neal has been added to the Miami Beach reserve police force.”

Only Mr. O’Neal, among the ad’s quintet, made it to the finals.

The N.B.A. commissioner, David Stern, said: “Men are more advanced in the water cooler conversation category. This was a way to say that women want to understand the entertainment aspect of the game.”

(Jason, DeSegana and Dirk, chastened by their earlier experience with the Gary Glitter CD, are anxious to make a better showing for any ladies watching)

I realize this is all about selling grot and painting with broad strokes, but a) water cooler conversations are just a pretext towards illict trysts in stairwells, toilets and broom closets. (that’s why I’ve petitioned James Dolan to have all the water coolers at MSG removed), b) I strongly suspect 90% of the women in America — including those who have never seen a basketball game before — would have greater insights into Dallas’ 90-80 victory over Miami tonight than B.J. Armstrong. And certainly a better grasp of the comparitive strengths of these two clubs than whatever mental defect opined the Finals would come down to the Shaq/Erick Dampier mismatch.