I’m a power forward for the Sparks, but I’m also the vice president of the WNBA players association. We spent months in mid-2020 making sure we had a setting conducive for players to play during the COVID-19 pandemic—taking into account health and safety, but also providing social justice platforms for players to push messaging about what mattered to them.
So by the time we finalized the season, I had just two weeks to leave my home in Houston where I was quarantining, meet up with my home team in L.A., and get myself sorted before going into the WNBA bubble. I was like, Oh, snap. Now I need to think about myself!
To back up, I’ve had two major injuries in the recent past—a microfracture on my right knee and a torn left Achilles—so I’ve missed two seasons because of that. And in this case, having only two weeks to prepare for a high number of games in a short amount of time did not seem safe. I had to put my body first, and that meant sitting out the season. It was heartbreaking because I wanted to win the championship with the Sparks and my sister (and teammate!) Nneka.
After opting out, though, I didn’t stay idle. I’m a broadcaster for ESPN, and I have a platform that I knew I could leverage to help amplify the voices of the players. It seemed like getting a camera inside the bubble to show athletes in their authenticity—with all 144 of them in one location—would be such an incredible opportunity. So I also became an executive producer on the documentary about that season called 144.
I kept up my conditioning too. Every day I’d work out for about four hours—a mix of strength training and court work with my basketball coach. I focused a lot on shooting because I know that’s a part of my game that needs to grow.
When I finally reunited with my teammates for training camp in the spring of 2021, it was amazing. Of course, it took some adjusting. Rhythm is a big thing, and I was out of sync because I hadn’t played with my team in about two years. That’s why it was important that I’d done the work on my own, so I’d have the confidence to know that mistakes happen, and that we’re trending in the direction of figuring it out with chemistry and cohesion.
We lost our first game. But there’s so much growth happening. For me, it was about surrendering myself to the process and knowing that I’ve worked my tail off to be there and to be strong and ready this time. That was a win in my book. —As told to Amy Wilkinson
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