By Tay Holloway
As a child, I fell in love with the game of basketball. I also admired women during that time frame who played the sport, especially the women on the USA Basketball team. There was one player in particular that caught my attention and that was Sheryl Swoopes. Sheryl Swoopes was born March 25th, 1975 in Texas. She was recruited by the University of Texas Longhorns, but she never played a game for them because she left the school and played two years at South Plains College and then transferred to Texas Tech. She won the NCAA Championship with them in 1993 knocking off Ohio State. In that game she scored 43 points which broke Bill Walton’s long standing record for most points scored by a player in an NCAA Championship game.
In 1993 as well, she won the Naismith College player of the year and WBCA player of the year. Sheryl Swoopes was regarded as the female version of Michael Jordan. She was fast, big, strong, ball handles, great rebounder, dominate defensively and a fierce competitor. She was everything that I wanted to be so I made sure that I would watch her every move. Her basketball IQ seemed to be way above a lot of the players on the team and that made me watch more film to be just like her. This is in a time period where there were not many females that young women could look up to because it was not televised like the NBA. In 1996, Swoopes was on the Olympic team along with Lisa Leslie and Dawn Staley for the Atlanta games. The team won all of their pool games and was still the underdog to Cuba. When they played Cuba, they were down for the most part of the game, but managed to comeback to win the game. They ended the Olympic games by winning the Gold medal and not losing any games.
In 1997, Swoopes was recruited by the Houston Comets for the first ever season for the WNBA. She had just given birth to her son, Jordan a few weeks’ prior and was still recovering. She signed with the team on the last leg of the season and helped the team win the first ever WNBA Championship. As a member of the Comets for 11 seasons, Swoopes scored over 2,000 points, 500 rebounds and over 200 steals. Her played made her the first and only three time WNBA MVP in 2000, 2002 and 2005. She is also the first and only three time WNBA Defensive player of the year in 200,2002 and 2003. In the same year, Nike shoe company, signed Swoopes to a shoe deal, which made her the first female athlete ever to have their own signature shoe. They named the shoe “Air Swoopes” which are still in circulation today. I myself played in her shoes in games because I wanted to be just like her during my time playing basketball.
In 2005, Swoopes announced she was a lesbian. She was one of the first professional athletes to make that announcement. She became an advocate for LGBT rights and made a lot of headlines just because this was a shock because she was married to a male before but they had divorced. She made several television appearances and magazine covers. Her partner, Alias Scott raised Swoopes son, Jordan but in 2011 they called the relationship off. Currently Swoopes is engaged to a longtime friend who is a male.
In 2013, Swoopes was hired as the head coach for Loyola Ramblers. The team didn’t have much success, but in 2015 A lot of her players complained that Swoopes was hard on them during games and practice. In 2016, 10 of her players asked the school to release them from their scholarships. An investigation was launched and found out that Swoopes did show them tough love as a coach and was trying to push them to be better as players and as women. The school still fired her and currently she has no other coaching offers. Later this year, Swoopes will be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, which is a well-deserved achievement.
Her overall legacy as a player has been debated between her and Cynthia Cooper as the greatest women’s basketball player ever. I might be a little bias, but I think Sheryl Swoopes is the GOAT and there will never be a better all-around dominate player like her again. Players like her only come one a lifetime and she sure was very special not only to the WNBA, but little girls coming up as a leader and a role model.
Check out our Facebook page here.