Season 1 of 'Basketball Wives'
Courtesy of MTV/VH1

When Shaunie O’Neal, the ex-wife of NBA great Shaquille O’Neal, created the VH1 series Basketball Wives in 2010, she didn’t just raise the profiles of the cast, which included Evelyn Lozada, Gloria Govan, and Jackie Christie—she also legitimized the power and reach of WAGs, or, in layman’s terms, the “wives and girlfriends” of professional athletes. While the influence of these women had existed for as long as the athletes they were (or still are) attached to have been revered, the show elevated and humanized them in a new way. The series has continued, with the 10th season airing this year, and it spawned the spin-off Basketball Wives LA. But its first season arguably had the greatest impact. Though it wasn’t above the familiar tropes and cheap thrills of reality TV, including petty catfights, it also took seriously the interiority of its subjects’ lives—their loves and losses, their triumphs, and their struggles. Basketball Wives season 1 made the case that life off the court could be as exciting and as full as the action on it. —Cady Lang

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