By Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson
Twenty years ago, the WNBA’s orange and white striped basketballs began bouncing on our television screens from May to September. Lisa Leslie, Sheryl Swoopes, Rebecca Lobo and Teresa Weatherspoon were the faces of the league.
It seems just like yesterday!
Years later, the league is still moving and grooving, the talent has gotten better and heck, Becky Hammon crafted a career after retirement as an assistant coach with the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs and veterans in the league are moving on with the next stage of their lives too; just like the New York Liberty’s Swin Cash, a 15 year WNBA veteran, who on Tuesday announced her retirement at season’s end via The Players Tribune.
“Basketball gave me the vehicle to inspire and empower,” said Cash. “That was my purpose. I have 27 regular season games left. I’ll be taking in every moment as I look to the future, whatever it may hold. I understand there’s a new life waiting for me after that last whistle.”
The early years of the WNBA are fascinating to reexamine. Remember those never-ending duels between the New York Liberty and the Houston Comets? One of the league’s original teams, the Liberty were competitive in the 90s during the Teresa Weatherspoon/Rebecca Lobo-era. They never sealed the deal in winning a championship trophy. Nonetheless, the fans came ready to see the Lady Liberty play.
“We had some great squads but we never got over the hump,” Teresa Weatherspoon told me.
Kym Hampton remembers those years vividly. In fact, she remembers the beginning. Drafted fourth in the 1997 WNBA Elite draft by the New York Liberty, Hampton suited up for three seasons between 1997 and 1999.
“I look at the players now and I think back to what the WNBA has grown into and how it’s evolved,” Hampton told me by phone on Tuesday. “It brings tears to my eyes and I remember us starting it and thinking we arrived. It means the world to see the players get this respect now and I remember that we started it all.”
Check Out Kym Hampton account of the early WNBA years On Monday’s episode of Brown and Scoop.
Hampton also mentioned how much she respects Swin Cash’s career:
“She’s put in a lot of work and a lot of years and won on every level,” said Hampton. “I feel like she is the ultimate competitor. She’s fun to watch because she plays both ends of the court. She’s a special player because she can do it all. What else can she do but retire? She’s a legend.”
Hampton retired from basketball in 2000 following a 12-year professional stint in Europe along with her three years in the WNBA. She averaged 9 points and a shade under 6 rebounds per game and played in the inaugural WNBA All Star Game. These days, she’s modeling and singing. If you didn’t listen to the show podcast above, make sure you check out Hampton’s rendition of the Star Spangled Banner below.
Brandon Robinson is a sports and entertainment writer and TV personality. You can catch him daily on CBS Radio’s Play.it Brown And Scoop Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @SCOOPB and visit http://www.ScoopB.com.