When I think of San Antonio and of San Antonio sports legends, one word comes to mind: humility. Thinking of greats such as, David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Vickie Johnson, Sophia Young-Malcolm, and so many others, it goes without saying that these names deserve much more attention than they’ll ever receive.
Another name to add to the list above will be honored this weekend as her jersey is retired before thousands of fans. Becky Hammon, a pioneer for women in professional sports, will retire her number 25 jersey into the rafters of the AT&T center this Saturday night.
Hammon, the undrafted WNBA point guard who started her career just three short years after the founding of the WNBA, has now become one of the NBA’s elite after making headlines as the first full-time female assistant coach in league history with the San Antonio Spurs. Hammon was also recognized this week as she was picked as one of the the top 20 WNBA players of all time by a 15-member committee of influential players and current and former coaches. Becky is named among WNBA legends Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoops.
Becky accomplished much in her playing career and is only at the beginning of her coaching career. She was a player who tested the waters of the WNBA, growing up at a time when the terms “women” and “professional basketball” were never used in the same sentence.
In a CNN interview from February, Hammon recounted her childhood dream of playing professional basketball. You can view the entire interview below:
Hammon’s childhood dream of playing professional basketball resonates with me. I was 4-years-old when the WNBA was founded. Growing up in San Antonio, I loved the game of basketball. Six years later, my knowledge and love of the game grew stronger, I fantasized of becoming a Spurs coach. I’d watch the games habitually and strategize my own game plans. I imagined what I’d say to the team at halftime, or what I’d make sure they paid attention to while watching film the following day. At that time, I had every reason to believe I could become an NBA coach.
When I’d share my aspirations with people around me, I would often hear giggles and feel patronized. I sensed the thoughts of, “Oh, how sweet! She thinks she can be a coach.” I hold nothing against those people’s remarks. They were saying only what they knew to be true.
As time went on, my interests changed. I looked toward more conventional roles for women in sports as aspirations for my future. In August 2014, news broke that Hammon had made history as the first women to become a paid full-time assistant coach in the NBA. I couldn’t believe the news and I realized then what an impact Hammon would have on the future for women in male-dominated sports and girls who dream of stepping into the unknown. I knew women could coach. I knew my dream wasn’t as far-fetched as some would have liked me to believe. Here, in my very own city, working for my favorite professional sports franchise, a woman would make history in the NBA.
Of course, Hammon’s current occupation is only one aspect of the accomplished person that she embodies. She entered the WNBA undrafted, but is now named as one of the top 20 players to ever play in the league. Out of her sheer love of the game, she played for Russia in the 2008 Olympic Games because the U.S. didn’t call her to play for her own national team. However, she now sits on the coaching staff of one of the most successful U.S. sports franchises of all time.
Time and again, the odds were stacked against her. In each of those instances, Becky didn’t see obstacles to be avoided. She saw opportunities to be taken and has given hope to girls and women who dream big dreams.
Becky Hammon is proof that dreams can come true for those who work for them.