For decades women could only imagine the day when they would be able to play basketball on a professional level. In 1996 their dream finally became a reality when the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) was created.
On June 21, 1997 the first WNBA game was played between the New York Liberty and Los Angeles Sparks. This was the beginning of a historic journey that would forever change the way women were respected in the sports world.
Basketball star Sheryl Swoopes, whom some refer to as the female Michael Jordan, became the first player signed by the WNBA. In Swoopes 12 years in the league, she played 11 years with the Houston Comets before going to the Seattle Storm in 2008 for her final season.
Swoopes was officially ballin’ with the big boys when she became the first woman to have a basketball sneaker, the Nike Air Swoopes.
With so many accolades already under her belt, some stemming from her college career, Swoopes was still going hard. The three-time Olympic Gold medalist recorded the WNBA’s first triple-double with 15 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists.
She was the first player to ever be named WNBA Most Valuable Player and voted Defensive Player of the Year three times each.
By the end of her illustrious run, Swoopes was a four-time WNBA champion.
After being released from the Storm in 2009, Swoopes began coaching at Mercer Island High School in Washington State. Earlier this year, Swoopes stepped back on the court joining the Esperides basketball team in Greece.
Swoopes is not currently active in the league, but although she did not officially retire, she is still discussing the possibility of a WNBA comeback.
On a personal level, in 2005 Sheryl Swoopes became the second active WNBA star to openly admit that she’s a lesbian. She was married to Eric Jackson and had a son prior to starting a new relationship with her partner, basketball coach Alisa Scott. Swoopes said that her reason for coming out publicly at age 34 was because she was tired of pretending and hiding feelings about the person she loved.
Soon after revealing her secret, Swoopes became a strong force in the Gay and Lesbian community. She signed on to endorse the lesbian cruise line Olivia, and in 2008 she appeared in Shirts & Skins, a reality series about a gay men’s basketball team that she mentored.
There were so many firsts for Swoopes as she paved the way for other female sports stars. Her strength, ability to lead and undeniable accomplishments earn her the highest respect with fans and peers alike. At just 39-years-old, Sheryl Swoopes has forever changed the game in the WNBA and beyond!