A New Face in the NBA

NATASHA GEIGER

 

Women playing and coaching in sports has never been a popular concept. Sure tennis is a fairly “womanly” sport but women who play more contact sports like basketball are seen awfully different in many different ways.

There has always been a stigma about women in sports, whether they play or coach. They aren’t womanly enough or they aren’t tough enough, but what would happen if a woman became part of the men’s side of a sport? That question was finally tested when the San Antonio Spurs announced the hiring of 16 year WNBA player Becky Hammon as assistant coach.

Hammon is no stranger to basketball; she’s a three time All-American from Colorado State, signing with the New York Liberty in 1999 and played eight seasons there until she joined the San Antonio Stars in 2007. Hammon also has an Olympic experience under her belt playing with the Russian women’s team in the 2008 Summer Olympics. During her career, she has also racked up multiple honors including being named one of the WNBA Top 15 Players of All-Time in July 2011 and ranking seventh in WNBA history for all time points (5,809). With this hire, Hammon has announced that after 16 years in the WNBA, she is retiring.

The Spurs decision to bring her on comes after she spent part of the 2013-2014 season consulting Spurs practices and home games. It was then that Hammon made the realization that she wanted to coach for the rest of her life. The Spurs were happy to give her a start.

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is very much excited to have Hammon as an assistant coach. “I’m confident her basketball IQ, work ethic and interpersonal skills will be a great benefit to the Spurs,” Popovich said.

With Hammon as assistant coach, she will be writing a new chapter in the basketball history books. With this monumental moment, it is important to look back and toward the future of women in basketball, both as coaches and players. One of my all-time favorite women in sports is Pat Summitt, the former head women’s basketball coach of the Tennessee Lady Volunteers. After 41 years at Tennessee she gave a whole new meaning to women in the sport of basketball and how it should be played and coached. Summitt’s overall record was 1098-208. The numbers say it all and she’s an absolute legend. Sadly, in 2012, she stepped down from coaching due to her ongoing and difficult battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

And today, I know some may cringe, but Brittney Griner formerly of Baylor and now of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury has knocked down cement barriers between women in sports as a strong independent woman who gives it her all on and off the court. At 6’8’’ she is a force down low, ranking second in the league with blocks.

Through Hammon, Griner and Summit, their past, present and futures, we see a whole different side to women in sports and what they can all accomplish. They have shown their unwavering dedication through trials and tribulations both physically and socially. The popular stigma “it’s a man’s sport” will soon be trumped by the lady athletes out there and it will be a darn good show.

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