Sheryl Swoops is a sports legend. Born on March 25, 1971, in Brownfield, Texas, Sheryl Denise Swoopes is considered one of the best female basketball players of all time. Swoopes began dominating the court as a student at South Plains Junior College, excelling on the college's basketball team and earning the "Junior College Player of the Year" title in 1991.
Transferring to Texas Tech University, Swoopes quickly gained more national recognition. She scored 1,000 points in 46 games—a shorter period than anyone else in school history. During her time at Texas Tech, Swoopes set more than 10 school records, including for most points per game and best free-throw percentage. In 1993, she proved to be a key player in her university's bid for the NCAA Championships, scoring 47 points in the final game to help clinch Texas Tech's victory over The Ohio State University. Swoopes was subsequently named Most Valuable Player of the NCAA Final Four Championships.
Swoops Wows WNBA
After graduating from Texas Tech in 1994, Sheryl Swoopes continued to play for the USA Basketball Women's National Team, helping the team earn a bronze medal at the 1994 World Championships and contributing to their undefeated record in the 1995-96 season. After a failed attempt in 1992, Swoopes finally made the U.S. Olympic team in 1996. She helped the team win the gold medal in Atlanta, Georgia.
Swoopes became the first player to be signed to the WNBA in 1997, and was assigned to play for the Houston Comets. During her time with the Comets, the gifted forward helped lead the team to four back-to-back WNBA championships from 1997 to 2000. For her performance at the 2000 championships, Swoopes was named the WNBA's Most Valuable Player. That same year, she once again thrived in Olympic competition, bringing home gold as part of the U.S. women's basketball team at the Sydney Games.
Inarguably a leading figure in her sport, Swoopes received a new type of recognition in 1995, when the Nike corporation launched a line of basketball shoes named after the WNBA star-making Swoopes the first woman to have a Nike shoe named after her. Swoopes continued to shine on the court, picking up two more MVP Awards, in 2002 and 2005, and winning her third gold medal with the U.S. women's basketball team at the Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, in 2004.
After 11 years with the Comets, Swoopes went to play for the Seattle Storm in 2008. But her time with the team proved short; the team dropped her from their roster the following year. Swoopes returned to the court as a member of the Tulsa Shock in 2011—marking the start of what would be her final stint in the WNBA.
She Becomes Coach Swoopes
In 2013, Swoopes announced that she would be returning to college basketball, this time as a coach. She was hired by Chicago's Loyola University, marking her very first coaching position. What Swoopes lacks in experience, she seems to more than makeup for in determination and enthusiasm. "I can't guarantee anything, but I can promise you this: I'm going to give everything that I have every single day," Swoopes said of the upcoming season in an interview with The Associated Press. "Everything that I've done and accomplished as a player, it's time to pass that on, and I'm so thrilled for this opportunity."
Celebrate the legacy of Sheryl Swoopes for Black History Month by watching ESPN documentary, Swoops on Amazon prime video.
Khufere Qhamata, is the founder of the SMAART INCUBATOR, a serial entrepreneur, and dedicated futurist. He is chief executive of Leap72, a strategic innovation consultancy advising corporations on how to use startup economics to grow and compete for the future. He is also a co-founder and board member of Academy M, a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit specializes in the mentorship and career development of millennials. You can follow him on Linkedin.