Swoopes headlines Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame class
KNOXVILLE, Tennessee (AP) — Sheryl Swoopes will be missing her biggest supporter as she gets inducted into one more hall of fame.
Swoopes will be enshrined into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame on Saturday, one year after the three-time Olympic gold medal winner and three-time WNBA Most Valuable Player entered the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Her mother, Ida Louise Swoopes, accompanied her to the Naismith induction in what Swoopes called “the last big trip we took together.” Swoopes’ mother died of colon cancer on March 14.
“I will be a lot more emotional (Saturday) than I was at Naismith,” Swoopes said. “My mom was my biggest fan, my biggest critic, my best friend, always told me what I needed to hear - not necessarily what I wanted to hear but what I needed to hear.”
Swoopes headlines an induction class that also includes longtime official Sally Bell, former University of Iowa women’s athletic director Christine Grant, Middle Tennessee State University coach Rick Insell, former Southern Connecticut University coach Louise O’Neal and former University of Connecticut star Kara Wolters.
The class was announced in February, a month before Swoopes’ mother died.
“She hugged me, we cried together and she told me how proud of me she was and just to continue to do the right thing,” Swoopes said. “And that’s how I live every day, trying to live right, do the right thing and continue to make her proud.”
Swoopes helped the 1996 U.S. team earn an Olympic gold medal and won additional golds in the 2000 and 2004 Summer Games. She also won four straight WNBA championships with the Houston Comets from 1997-2000 and led Texas Tech University to the 1993 national collegiate title.
She was the first player to sign a WNBA contract and the first women’s player to have her own signature shoe model - Nike’s Air Swoopes. She returned to the court several weeks after giving birth to help the Comets win a title in the WNBA’s inaugural season.
“There was a part of me when I found out I was pregnant that felt like, ‘Oh my goodness, how could you do this, you’re letting the league down,’” Swoopes said. “But I also knew how important it was to have my son, to have a healthy baby and to be able to come back and to say to all those people who said, ‘Oh my god, she’s pregnant, she’s having the baby, she’ll never be the same,’ I wanted to be able to prove those people wrong.
This marks the second straight year that the Hall of Fame has honored Swoopes. She reunited with other members of the 1996 U.S. Olympic team a year ago when that squad was saluted as “trailblazers of the game.”