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Swoopes, Sheryl

Sheryl Swoopes

1971–

Basketball player

Her name rhymes with "hoops." Her talent has been compared with that of Michael Jordan. Even more importantly, she has earned the ultimate endorsement contract most athletes only dream about—a line of footwear named in her honor. Sheryl Swoopes has reached the pinnacle of women's professional basketball in the United States. She built her career on record-making play. Swoopes is the only player—male or female—ever to score 47 points in a collegiate national championship game, which she did while leading Texas Tech University to its first national basketball championship in 1993. As a professional player, Swoopes continued her exceptional play, helping to popularize the WNBA. She led the Comets to four consecutive WNBA championships, won three Olympic gold medals, and earned the league's most valuable player award a record three times. Former basketball phenomenon Nancy Lieberman-Cline told the Washington Post of Swoopes: "We're breaking new ground with Sheryl. Women's sports hasn't had a team sport athlete with the star-appeal that Sheryl has. She's young and pretty and articulate … She's the female Jordan."

Being a "female Jordan" is nice, but the title does not bring with it the kind of salary and opportunities Michael Jordan enjoyed as a professional basketball player. Indeed, Swoopes was first described as a "Legend without a League" because at the beginning of her career women's professional basketball had a tentative foothold in the American market. In 1993 the engaging Swoopes completely dominated the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships. Had she been a man, she would have cruised into the National Basketball Association draft and landed on a team with a million-dollar salary. Instead she had to embark for Italy, where she faced homesickness, language barriers, and a meager salary by sports industry standards, just to be able to keep playing.

But by the mid-1990s things began to improve for the emerging star. She became an anchor of the women's national basketball team in 1996 and the first sportswoman ever to get her own signature line of athletic footwear: the Nike "Air Swoopes" basketball shoes. Although her compensation still paled in comparison to Jordan's, she still became a wealthy woman with a bright future and a role model for others to follow.

Hailed from Small Town America

Swoopes was born in 1971 in Brownfield, Texas, a small city in the western region of the state. Her parents were divorced before her first birthday, and she grew up with her mother, Louise, and three brothers. Swoopes credits her siblings with helping to hone her game. "At first, they didn't like playing with me," she admitted in the Los Angeles Times. "Then when they did, they wouldn't play hard. But eventually one brother, James, played ball at Murray State. He's 6-4. He wouldn't play hard until he saw how good I was getting, when I beat him a couple of times." With the help of her two older brothers, Swoopes developed into an All-State and All-American high school player—one who was eager to test her skills against any opponent. "It helps to play with the guys," she explained in the Washington Post. "They're so much more physical than girls are. Once you go out and you play with guys, and you get in a situation with girls, you think, 'Well, if I scored on that guy, I know I can score on her.'"

The six-foot Swoopes was widely recruited by colleges, including the high-profile University of Texas at Austin. "Texas was the only school I really considered out of high school," Swoopes told the Los Angeles Times. "It was a big national basketball power, and I thought they could take my game to another level. But once I got there … well, I just didn't realize how far it was from home." Austin is 400 miles from Brownfield, and the moment Swoopes arrived on her new campus she began to feel the distance acutely. After four days she relinquished her full scholarship and returned to her mother. Ignoring the suggestions that she had ruined her career, she enrolled in South Plains Junior College in Levelland, a school within easy driving distance of Brownfield. That institution was glad to have her, especially when she was named National Junior College Player of the Year after her second season.

In 1991 Swoopes enrolled at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Still close to home, she nevertheless found a coach and a program that could put her amazing skills to use. With Swoopes's help, the Lady Raiders finally moved out of the shadow of the University of Texas Lady Longhorns, winning back-to-back Southwest Conference titles. Swoopes's coach at Texas Tech, Marsha Sharp, told Sports Illustrated: "I can't tell you what Sheryl has meant to this program. She'll be a legend in women's basketball, but not just because of her play. She has a charisma that the crowd loves. You never doubt that she is a team player."

Took Texas Tech to the Top

Swoopes's teammates and coach might have considered her a "team player," but their opponents usually came off the court viewing the Brownfield native as a one-woman wrecking crew. Fourteen times over two seasons at Texas Tech she scored 30 or more points in a game. In her senior season she averaged 27.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per game as the Lady Raiders compiled a 31-3 record, including a national championship. Facing the University of Texas at Austin in the Southwest Conference final, she put a phenomenal 53 points on the board. As Swoopes herself observed to the Washington Post during those days, "At times, I get it in my mind that there is no way I can miss."

That feeling of invincibility followed Swoopes to the NCAA tournament in 1993. There, in the semifinal match between Texas Tech and Vanderbilt University, she earned 31 points, 11 rebounds, and three steals as the Lady Raiders cruised to a 60-46 victory. Swarmed by reporters after the game, Swoopes predicted that she would play even better in the final, when Texas Tech would meet Ohio State University.

At a Glance …

Born Sheryl Denise Swoopes on March 25, 1971, in Brownfield, TX; daughter of Louise Swoopes; married: Eric Jackson, 1995 (divorced 1999); one son: Jordan Eric Jackson. Education: Attended South Plains Junior College, 1989–91; Texas Tech University, BA, 1994.

Career: Professional basketball player, Italy, 1993–94; U.S. Women's basketball team, player, 1994; Olympic team member, 1996, 2000, 2004; WNBA, Houston Comets player, 1997–.

Awards: Named collegiate player of the year, 1993; Naismith and Sullivan Awards for amateur athletics, 1993; named Sportswoman of the Year by Women's Sports Foundation, 1993; gold medal, Summer Olympics, 1996, 2000, and 2004; Defensive Player of the Year, 2000 and 2002; regular season MVP, 2000, 2002, and 2005; ESPY Award, 2001.

Addresses: Office—Houston Comets, 1510 Polk Street, Houston, TX 77002.

Her predictions proved true in dramatic fashion. As a nation watched, Swoopes and the Lady Raiders beat favored Ohio State in a close game, 84-82, before a sellout crowd at Atlanta's Omni Arena. People had little to say about the final score, however. All anyone talked about was Swoopes's personal performance—47 points, including 16 of 24 field goals, four three-point shots, and a perfect 11-for-11 from the free throw line. "I thought I should personally take control of the game," she explained in the Washington Post. "I felt like I needed to score whenever I got [the ball]."

What Swoopes did in her evening at the Omni was break the old record for most points scored in an NCAA final game. The former record of 44 points had belonged for 20 years to Bill Walton, who had gone on from college to become a top-ranked NBA player. "I've been watching a lot of basketball over a lot of years, men and women, professional and amateur," wrote Atlanta Journal and Constitution columnist Furman Bisher. "… I've never seen a player take over a game and keep it won for her team like Sheryl Swoopes took over for Texas Tech." Coach Sharp was even more glowing in her appraisal of her star's performance. "There are no words to explain what a great player Sheryl Swoopes is," Sharp exclaimed in the Washington Post. "We are just pleased that she got to show the whole nation." Even the Ohio State coach graciously conceded that Swoopes could not be beaten. "You don't really appreciate Sheryl Swoopes until you try and stop her," Nancy Darsch commented in the Washington Post. "She's an absolutely tremendous player. She showed why she's national player of the year."

Raised Profile of Women's Basketball

In the wake of the NCAA championship, Swoopes was endowed with almost every prestigious collegiate and amateur honor imaginable. She won both the Naismith and the Sullivan Awards, and she was named Sports-woman of the Year by the Women's Sports Foundation. Sports apparel companies—most especially Nike—called about endorsement contracts. What Swoopes wanted to do most was play more basketball. She faced the grim reality that all American women basketball players must face: she would have to go abroad in order to turn pro. Her salary would probably be about a tenth of what her rookie male counterparts could draw from the NBA—and she would have to acclimate to a new culture, a new language, and a new home in another part of the world.

"People say, if you were a male, you would have gone in the [NBA draft] lottery," Swoopes said in the Washington Post. "It's really frustrating to think about it, to think that men have so many more opportunities than women. Going overseas and staying in the United States, those are just two totally different things. The NBA, you watch it on television all the time, but you don't hear anything about women playing overseas, unless you know their college coaches and ask them how so and so is doing. It's sad and frustrating."

Nevertheless, Swoopes signed a contract to play basketball with Bari of the women's Italian professional league. She appeared in only ten games before returning home to America, citing contract disputes, the language barrier, and culture shock as reasons for her quick exit. She had indeed faced the frustrations firsthand. "There I was, right after the championship game, still wanting to play," she recalled in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. "I wanted to play the next day…. On a scale of one to 10, I was at a 10. Then I went overseas, and I was at a one all of a sudden. It was a big drop." She returned to Texas Tech, finished her degree requirements, played in pickup games, and did some volunteer coaching.

Raised Profile of Women's Sports in America

Aware that her skills were eroding, Swoopes was relieved when she was invited to try out for the U.S. women's national basketball team. Membership on the team—consisting of a core of America's best female players—offered Swoopes the opportunity to play highly competitive basketball and to stay in the U.S. Her goal, of course, was to represent the United States at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta. "I almost go crazy thinking about going back to Atlanta for the Olympics," she said in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. "I can't wait."

Joining seasoned professionals such as Teresa Edwards and Lisa Leslie, Swoopes embarked on a busy schedule of exhibition games and appearances at such tournaments as the world championships and the Goodwill Games. Her salary as a Team U.S.A. member—estimated at $50,000—was regally supplemented by the introduction of a Nike "Air Swoopes" basketball shoe for women. Swoopes promoted the shoe—the first ever named for a woman athlete—in a high-profile commercial directed by Spike Lee, as well as by personal appearances across the country. Swoopes saw the publicity as a perfect vehicle to broaden the fan base for women's basketball in America. "Our opportunity to change things for women's basketball is now," she claimed in the New York Times.

Swoopes was right on target, as usual. The NBA had endorsed the formation of an American women's professional league, and she was assured a starring position on one of the teams. Her radiant personality and basketball talent brought her the level of fame that attends some of the NBA's male players—if not necessarily the extravagant salary. She signed with the WNBA on January 22, 1997, and was assigned to the Houston Comets. Only the birth of her child could have kept her from appearing in the first-ever WNBA game in 1997, and that is how it happened. After rest and recuperation, Swoopes joined the Comets on the court for the first time on August 7, 1997. She played in nine regular season games during that first season and helped her team to win the first-ever WNBA championship that year. After making 82.6 percent of her regular season free throws in 1998, Swoopes led the league in average points per game and in average steals per game in 1999. In early 2000 she dropped out of the USA National Team in order to spend time with her son after divorcing her husband of four years, Eric Jackson, in 1999. That summer she joined Team USA at the Olympics in Sydney, Australia, where the team won a second gold medal. Later, as the 2000 WNBA season wound down Swoopes was named both defensive player of the year and most valuable player of the regular season; the Comets won a second WNBA championship. A devastating knee injury kept her on the bench during the 2001 season, and that year she collaborated with Susan Kuklin on Hoops with Swoopes, a basketball book for children. Despite her time off the court due to injury, Swoopes was named Outstanding Women's Pro Basketball Performer of the Year at the 2001 ESPY Awards.

Earned Accolades

All of the acclaim she received was a sweet surprise for her, a small-town Texas girl who grew up shooting hoops with her brothers. "I never in my wildest dreams thought I would have as many opportunities as I do to go out and do something with my life and actually make money so I can help the people who helped me," she concluded in the Washington Post. "Coming from a town of 10,000, it's really unbelievable. It's like I'm in a big old dream." The attention and praise for Swoopes mounted as she returned to the game in explosive form in 2002, helping her team win a third consecutive WNBA championship. The next year Swoopes lead the Comets to a record fourth consecutive WBNA title. She also brought home a third Olympic gold medal that year, having won others in 1996 and 2000. Although in her mid-thirties, Swoopes played as if she was at the height of her career in 2005, and earned the league most valuable player award for the third time, a first for any WNBA player, despite her team not making the championship finals.

Swoopes took a bold step in 2005 when she came out as a lesbian. Unlike other players who made similar announcements after retiring, Swoopes remained a vibrant part of the Houston Comets and an ambassador for the WNBA. She was the first team-sport athlete, male or female, to come out while remaining in the limelight. Her coach, Van Chancellor, supported her and was quoted by MSNBC.com as saying: "To me, she will always be one of the greatest ambassadors for the game of women's basketball. She has long reveled in her position as a role model and hopes that parents won't discourage their children from looking up to her because she is gay. Her wish is that her coming out could help someone dealing with the same issue." Initial reaction to Swoopes' announcement remained positive as she prepared for another season with the Comets and joined the national team on a European tour in 2006.

Sources

Books

Burby, Liza N. Sheryl Swoopes: All-Star Basketball Player. Rosen, 1997.

Burgan, Michael. Sheryl Swoopes. Chelsea House, 2001.

Johnson, Anne Janette, Great Women in Sports, Visible Ink, 1996, pp. 458-461.

Kuklin, Susan. Hoops with Swoopes. Jump at the Sun Hyperion Books for Children, 2001.

Rappoport, Ken. Sheryl Swoopes, Star Forward. Enslow, 2002.

Sehnert, Chris W. Sheryl Swoopes. Abdo & Daughters, 1998.

Torres, John Albert. Sheryl Swoopes. Mitchell Lane, 2002.

Walker, Rosemary. Sheryl Swoopes. Capstone High-Interest Books, 2001.

Periodicals

Advocate, December 20, 2005, p. 10.

Atlanta Journal and Constitution, April 2, 1993, p. E1; April 5, 1993, pp. D1, D5; April 12, 1993, p. C2; March 27, 1994, p. E9.

Black Issues Book Review, September 2001.

Ebony, March 2003, p. 46; May 2003, p. 16.

Emerge, December/January 1996, p. 12.

Jet, August 1, 2005, p. 49; October 10, 2005, p. 46.

Los Angeles Times, April 2, 1993, p. C1.

Newsweek, November 7, 2005, p. 85.

New York Times, March 30, 1995, p. D9; October 26, 1995, p. B16.

People, November 7, 2005, p. 87.

Sports Illustrated, April 12, 1993, p. 42.

Washington Post, April 5, 1993, p. C1; June 15, 1993, p. E1.

On-line

Houston Comets, www.wnba.com/comets (March 22, 2006).

"Sheryl Swoopes," WNBA, www.wnba.com/playerfile/sheryl_swoopes/index.html?nav=page (June 11, 2002).

"WNBA Star Swoopes Says She's Lesbian," MSNBC, www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9823452/page/2/ (March 22, 2006).

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Swoopes, Sheryl 1971—

Sheryl Swoopes 1971

Professional basketball player

Homesickness Influenced Her Career

Making a Mark in the NCAA

Tough Times for a Female Pro

A Place on the National Team

Sources

Her name rhymes with hoops. Her talent has drawn comparisons with Michael Jordan. More importantly, she has earned that ultimate endorsement contract most athletes only dream abouta line of footwear named in her honor. Sheryl Swoopes is helping to re-define the limits of womens professional basketball in the United States. A prominent member of the U.S. womens national basketball team, Swoopes is the only playermale or femaleever to score 47 points in a collegiate national championship game. She is widely considered one of the finest womens basketball players ever to grace a court. Former basketball phenomenon Nancy Lieberman-Cline told the Washington Post of Swoopes: Were breaking new ground with Sheryl. Womens sports hasnt had a team sport athlete with the star-appeal that Sheryl has. Shes young and pretty and articulate.... Shes the female Jordan.

Being a female Jordan is nice, but the title does not bring with it the kind of salary and opportunities Michael Jordan enjoys. Indeed, Swoopes has been described as a Legend without a League, since womens professional basketball has never been able to gain a foot-hold in the American market. In 1993 the engaging Swoopes completely dominated the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships. Had she been a man, she would have cruised into the National Basketball Association draft and landed on a team with a million-dollar salary. Instead she had to embark for Italy, where she faced homesickness, language barriers, and a meager salary by sports standards, just to be able to keep playing. Recent years have been kinder to the emerging star, however. She is an anchor of the womens national team and the first sportswoman ever to get her own signature line of athletic footwear: the Nike Air Swoopes basketball shoes. She may make a pittance compared to Jordan, but she is still a wealthy woman with a bright future.

Homesickness Influenced Her Career

Swoopes was born in 1971 in Brownfield, Texas, a small city in the western region of the state. Her parents were divorced, and she grew up with her mother, Louise, and three brothers. Swoopes credits her siblings with helping to hone her game. At first, they didnt like playing with

At a Glance

Born Sheryl Denise Swoopes, March 25,1971, in Brownfield, TX; daughter of Louise Swoopes; married, husbands name Eric Jackson. Education: Attended South Plains Junior College, 1989-91; Texas Tech University, B.A., 1994.

Basketball player. Led the Texas Tech Lady Red Raiders to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Final Four, 1993; scored 47 points in the NCAA championship final as Texas Tech defeated Ohio State 84-82. Played professional basketball in Italy, 1993 and 1994. Joined U.S. Womens basketball team, 1994; played in Goodwill Games and 1996 Summer Olympics.

Selected awards: Named collegiate player of the year, 1993; Naismith and Sullivan Awards for amateur athletics, 1993; named Sportswoman of the Year by Womens Sports Foundation, 1993.

Addresses: c/o Nike, Inc., One Bowerman Dr., Beaverton, OR 97005.

me, she admitted in the Los Angeles Times. Then when they did, they wouldnt play hard. But eventually one brother, James, played ball at Murray State. Hes 6-4. He wouldnt play hard until he saw how good I was getting, when I beat him a couple of times. With the help of her two older brothers, Swoopes developed into an All-State and All-American high school playerone who was eager to test her skills against any opponent. It helps to play with the guys, she explained in the Washington Post. Theyre so much more physical than girls are. Once you go out and you play with guys, and you get in a situation with girls, you think, Well, if I scored on that guy, I know I can score on her.

The six-foot Swoopes was widely recruited by colleges, including the high-profile University of Texas at Austin. Texas was the only school I really considered out of high school. Swoopes told the Los Angeles Times. It was a big national basketball power, and I thought they could take my game to another level. But once I got there ... well, I just didnt realize how far it was from home. Austin is 400 miles from Brownfield, and the moment Swoopes arrived on her new campus she began to feel the distance acutely. After four days she relinquished her full scholarship and returned to her mother. Ignoring the suggestions that she had ruined her career, she enrolled in South Plains Junior College in Levelland, a school within easy driving distance of Brownfield. That institution was glad to have her, especially when she was named National Junior College Player of the Year after her second season.

Making a Mark in the NCAA

In 1991 Swoopes enrolled at Texas Tech University in Lubbock. Still close to home, she nevertheless found a coach and a program that could put her amazing skills to use. With Swoopess help, the Lady Raiders finally moved out of the shadow of the University of Texas Lady Longhorns, winning back-to-back Southwest Conference titles. Swoopess coach at Texas Tech, Marsha Sharp, told Sports Illustrated: I cant tell you what Sheryl has meant to this program. Shell be a legend in womens basketball, but not just because of her play. She has a charisma that the crowd loves. You never doubt that she is a team player.

Swoopess teammates and coach might have considered her a team player, but their opponents usually came off the court viewing the Brownfield native as a one-woman wrecking crew. Fourteen times over two seasons at Texas Tech she scored 30 or more points in a game. In her senior season she averaged 27.4 points and 9.3 rebounds per game as the Lady Raiders compiled a 31-3 record, including a national championship. Facing the University of Texas at Austin in the Southwest Conference final, she put a phenomenal 53 points on the board. As Swoopes herself observed to the Washington Post during those days, At times, I get it in my mind that there is no way I can miss.

That feeling of invincibility followed Swoopes to the NCAA tournament in 1993. There, in the semifinal match between Texas Tech and Vanderbilt University, she earned 31 points, 11 rebounds, and three steals as the Lady Raiders cruised to a 60-46 victory. Swarmed by reporters after the game, Swoopes predicted that she would play even better in the final, when Texas Tech would meet Ohio State University.

Her predictions proved true in dramatic fashion. As a nation watched, Swoopes and the Lady Raiders beat favored Ohio State in a close game, 84-82, before a sellout crowd at Atlantas Omni Arena. People had little to say about the final score, however. All anyone talked about was Swoopess personal performance47 points, including 16 of 24 field goals, four three-point shots, and a perfect 11-for-11 from the free throw line. I thought I should personally take control of the game, she explained in the Washington Post. I felt like I needed to score whenever I got [the ball].

What Swoopes did in her evening at the Omni was break the old record for most points scored in an NCAA final game. The former record of 44 points had belonged for 20 years to Bill Walton, who had gone on from college to become a top-ranked NBA player. Ive been watching a lot of basketball over a lot of years, men and women, professional and amateur, wrote Atlanta Journal and Constitution columnist Furman Bisher. ... Ive never seen a player take over a game and keep it won for her team like Sheryl Swoopes took over for Texas Tech. Coach Sharp was even more glowing in her appraisal of her stars performance. There are no words to explain what a great player Sheryl Swoopes is, Sharp exclaimed in the Washington Post. We are just pleased that she got to show the whole nation.

Even the Ohio State coach graciously conceded that Swoopes could not be beaten. You dont really appreciate Sheryl Swoopes until you try and stop her, Nancy Darsch commented in the Washington Post. Shes an absolutely tremendous player. She showed why shes national player of the year.

Tough Times for a Female Pro

In the wake of the NCAA championship, Swoopes was endowed with almost every prestigious collegiate and amateur honor imaginable. She won both the Naismith and the Sullivan Awards, and she was named Sportswoman of the Year by the Womens Sports Foundation. Sports apparel companiesmost especially Nikecalled about endorsement contracts. What Swoopes wanted to do most was play more basketball. She faced the grim reality that all American women basketball players must face: she would have to go abroad in order to turn pro. Her salary would probably be about a tenth of what her rookie male counterparts could draw from the NBAand she would have to acclimate to a new culture, a new language, and a new home in another part of the world.

People say, if you were a male, you would have gone in the [NBA draft] lottery, Swoopes said in the Washington Post. Its really frustrating to think about it, to think that men have so many more opportunities than women. Going overseas and staying in the United States, those are just two totally different things. The NBA, you watch it on television all the time, but you dont hear anything about women playing overseas, unless you know their college coaches and ask them how so and so is doing. Its sad and frustrating.

Nevertheless, Swoopes signed a contract to play basketball with Bari of the womens Italian professional league. She appeared in only ten games before returning home to America, citing contract disputes, the language barrier, and culture shock as reasons for her quick exit. She had indeed faced the frustrations first-hand. There I was, right after the championship game, still wanting to play, she recalled in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. I wanted to play the next day.... On a scale of one to 10, I was at a 10. Then I went overseas, and I was at a one all of a sudden. It was a big drop. She returned to Texas Tech, finished her degree requirements, played in pickup games, and did some volunteer coaching.

A Place on the National Team

Aware that her skills were eroding, Swoopes was relieved when she was invited to try out for the U.S. womens national basketball team. Membership on the teamconsisting of a core of Americas best female playersoffered Swoopes the opportunity to play highly competitive basketball and to stay in the U.S. Her goal, of course, was to represent the U.S. at the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta. I almost go crazy thinking about going back to Atlanta for the Olympics, she said in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. I cant wait.

Joining seasoned professionals such as Teresa Edwards and Lisa Leslie, Swoopes embarked on a busy schedule of exhibition games and appearances at such tournaments as the world championships and the Goodwill Games. Her salary as a Team U.S.A. memberestimated at $50,000was regally supplemented by the introduction of a Nike Air Swoopes basketball shoe for women. Swoopes promoted the shoethe first ever named for a woman athletein a high-profile commercial directed by Spike Lee, as well as by personal appearances across the country. Swoopes saw the publicity as a perfect vehicle to broaden the fan base for womens basketball in America. Our opportunity to change things for womens basketball is now, she claimed in the New York Times.

Swoopes might have been right on target, as usual. The NBA has endorsed the formation of an American womens professional league, and she is assured a starring position on one of the teams. Fan support for a womens league may hinge on the Olympic performance of the womens national team, as well as upon the popularity of products the women basketball players have endorsed. As the new millennium approaches, Swoopess radiant personality and basketball talent could bring her the level of fame that attends some of the NBAs male playersif not necessarily the extravagant salary. She has also expressed interest in coaching, and this too could provide her with a comfortable future. Rutgers University coach C. Vivian Stringer recently signed a contract that could pay as much as $300,000 per yearincentive enough for any former NCAA star.

All of the acclaim she has received has been a sweet surprise for Swoopes, the small-town Texas girl who grew up shooting hoops with her brothers. I never in my wildest dreams thought I would have as many opportunities as I do to go out and do something with my life and actually make money so I can help the people who helped me, she concluded in the Washington Post. Coming from a town of 10,000, its really unbelievable. Its like Im in a big old dream.

Sources

Books

Johnson, Anne Janette, Great Women in Sports, Visible Ink, 1996, pp. 458-461.

Periodicals

Atlanta Journal and Constitution, April 2, 1993, p. E1; April 5, 1993, pp. DI, D5; April 12, 1993, p. C2; March 27, 1994, p. E9.

Emerge, December/January 1996, p. 12.

Los Angeles Times, April 2,1993, p. CI.

New York Times, March 30,1995, p. D9; October 26, 1995, p. B16.

Sports Illustrated, April 12, 1993, p. 42.

Washington Post, April 5, 1993, p. C1; June 15, 1993, p. E1.

Anne Janette Johnson

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"Swoopes, Sheryl 1971—." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Swoopes, Sheryl 1971—." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/swoopes-sheryl-1971

"Swoopes, Sheryl 1971—." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved August 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/swoopes-sheryl-1971

Swoopes, Sheryl

Sheryl Swoopes

1971-

American basketball player

Sheryl Swoopes has played on college, professional and Olympic championship basketball teams. She has won all sorts of individual awards, owns countless records and even had a sneaker named after her. She has also played one-on-one against the redoubtable Michael Jordan . And, she has rebounded from serious knee injuries to earn league honors. But perhaps her most noteworthy achievement was playing, and staying on top of her game, shortly after having a baby.

Swoopes, a 6-foot shooting guard who once scored a record 47 points in the NCAA championship game while leading Texas Tech to the 1993 national title, led the Houston Comets of the Women's National Basketball Association to four consecutive titles from 1997-2000, and played on two gold-medal winning U.S. Olympic teams. In the midst of her competitive season the "Texas Tornado" gave birth to her son, Jordan, in July, 1997. "When she found out she was pregnant with Jordan at age 25, she committed herself to playing in basketball and staying in shape throughout the pregnancy," Elisa Ast All wrote in Pregnancy Today. "She had no morning sickness or any other symptoms that hindered her lifestyle."

Big Star in Texas

Shortly after Swoopes was born, on March 21, 1971, her father left home. Her mother, sometimes relying on welfare to meet family needs, raised Swoopes and her three brothers by herself. Swoopes began playing basketball at age seven. After earning national junior college Player of the Year honors at South Plains

J.C. in Texas, Swoopes transferred to Texas Tech University. Despite playing only two seasons there, she ranked fourth among all-time Lady Raiders with 1,645 points and sixth for steals. She averaged 24.9 points per game.

Swoopes scored 47 points in the NCAA championship game as the Lady Raiders held off Ohio State with a score of 84-82. In that game she made 16 of 24 shots and all 11 of her free throws. She scored 53 points in the conference championship game, then totaled 130 points and 43 rebounds in the first four games of the NCAA tournament. During her two seasons of play, Texas Tech sported a 58-8 record. The school retired her jersey number (22) the following season. That winter she also played ten games for Basket Bari, a professional team in Italy. Swoopes was also a member of the gold medal-winning 1996 Olympic team. The championship culminated a 60-0 run over two years.

Sneaker Deal, WNBA and Baby

In a tribute to Swoopes's marketability, and the rising popularity of women's sports in general, the Nike shoe company in October, 1995 introduced the Air Swoopes women's basketball footwear. Nike paralleled the announcement with an extensive advertising campaign with Swoopes appearing in newspaper and television advertisements, and retail displays. Swoopes has also represented such companies as Kellogg, Wilson, Hasbro and Discover Car.

Swoopes was the first player chosen by the WNBA, which assigned her to the Houston Rockets as play began in June, 1997. Then along came the baby. She gave birth to Jordan, named after Michael Jordan, on June 27. About six weeks later, on August 7, Swoopes took the court in her WNBA debut, playing about five minutes in a 74-70 victory by the host Comets over the Phoenix Mercury. "I was very nervous for the first game after being out of competitive basketball for a year," the Associated Press quoted Swoopes. "There's a big difference in pickup ball and getting out here. It's going to take awhile to get the butterflies out."

Swoopes received a warm applause from the crowd. At courtside, some fans hovered around the baby, held by her husband, former football player Eric Jackson (the two divorced in 2000). "Upon learning she was unexpectedly pregnant, her biggest fear was telling her agent and other WNBA associates about her condition," All wrote in Pregnancy Today. "She kept her special secret throughout the first trimester 'in case something happened,' and then shared the news. 'I was nervous about what everyone would think, but they were all very supportive,' she says."

Swoopes played nine games that season (the WNBA, plays during the summer, and plays a much shorter season than the men's National Basketball Association) as the Comets won the inaugural league championship. Houston added three more, registering a rare four-peat in professional sports. Swoopes was voted the WNBA's Most Valuable Player and Best Defensive Player in 2000.

Chronology

1971 Born March 25 in Brownfield, Texas
1989 Named to U.S. Olympic Festival South Team but sidelined because of injury
1991 Transfers from South Plains Junior College (Texas) to Texas Tech University
1993-94 Plays ten games with Basket Bari of Italian professional league
1997 Signed by Women's National Basketball Association and assigned to Houston Comets
1997 Gives birth to son, Jordan, on June 25 and makes WNBA debut on August 7; plays nine games of season
2000 Divorces husband Eric Jackson
2001 Misses season after tearing anterior cruciate ligament and lateral meniscus in left knee

Swoopes missed the 2001 WNBA season after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament and lateral meniscus in her left knee. She recovered in 2002 to earn her second MVP award from the league, averaging 18.5 points per game. She scored 32 points in a game against Sacramento, one point shy of her career high. She was also named the league's top defensive player, securing a team-record 88 steals. The Comets became the only team to make the playoffs in all six WNBA seasons.

"Ultimate Star"

Swoopes, arguably, is the prototype of today's moden woman athlete, as marketable as she is athletic. "Swoopes," Hall of Famer and former WNBA coach Nancy Lieberman wrote on ESPN 's Web site, "is the definition of the ultimate star and you can't help but have an incredible respect for her game."

Career Statistics

Yr Team GP Pts FG% FT% RPG APG SPG BPG TO
HOU: Houston Comets (WNBA); TXT: Texas Tech University; US: United States Olympic Team.
1992 TXT 32 690 .503 .808 8.9 4.8 3.43
1993 TXT 34 955 .546 .868 9.2 4.1 3.41
1996 US 8 104 .547 .750 3.5 3.9 1.50 0.63
1997 HOU 9 64 .472 .714 1.70 .8 .78 .44 4
1998 HOU 29 453 .427 .826 5.10 2.1 2.48 .48 58
1999 HOU 32 585 .462 .820 6.30 4.0 2.38 1.44 83
2000 HOU 31 643 .506 .821 6.30 3.8 2.81 1.06 82
2000 US 8 107 .517 .692 4.6 3.0 1.00 1.00
2002 HOU 32 592 .434 .825 4.90 3.3 2.75 .72 87

Awards and Accomplishments

1991 Junior College Player of the Year while at South Plains J.C.
1992 Southwest Conference Newcomer of the Year and Postseason Classic MVP
1992 Named to Kodak All-America team.
1992-93 Southwest Conference player of the year in successive seasons
1993 Final Four MVP with record-setting 47 points in championship game as Texas Tech defeats Ohio State, 84-82
1993 Named national college basketball player of the year by nine organizations, including USA Today and Sports Illustrated
1994 Texas Tech jersey (No. 22) retired
1994 Member of bronze medalist U.S. team in World Championship
1996 Member of gold medalist U.S. Olympic team and women's national basketball teams that won a combined 60 straight games
1997-2000 Leads Houston Comets to four consecutive WNBA championships
1998 Named Sportswoman of the Year by Greater New York chapter of March of Dimes
1998-2000 Led U.S. in scoring on Winter European Tour team as Americans sport 4-1 record
1999 WNBA Player of the Week for July 18 and August 1
1999-2000 Leading vote-getter in WNBA All-Star balloting for two successive seasons
2000 Averaged 13.4 points per game for gold medalist Olympic team
2000 WNBA Most Valuable Player and best Defensive Player
2000 WNBA Player of the Week for June 12
2000 Posted 500th rebound, 300th assist and 200th steal
2001 Wins Espy award from cable network ESPN for Women's Pro Basketball Player of the Year
2002 Named WNBA Most Valuable Player and Best Defensive Player
2002 Invited to join President Bush for opening ceremonies of Winter Olympic Games in Sale Lake City
2002 Rang opening bell of American Stock Exchange in New York with USA Basketball teammate Dawn Staley

SELECTED WRITINGS BY SWOOPES:

(With Greg Brown) Bounce Back, Dallas: Taylor, 1996.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Books

Burby, Liza N. Sheryl Swoopes: All-Star Basketball Player. New York: Rosen, 1997.

Burgan, Michael. Sheryl Swoopes. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2001.

Kuklin, Susan. Hoops with Swoopes. New York: Jump at the Sun Hyperion Books for Children, 2001.

Rappoport, Ken. Sheryl Swoopes, Star Forward. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow, 2002.

Sehnert, Chris W. Sheryl Swoopes. Edina, MN: Abdo & Daughters, 1998.

Torres, John Albert. Sheryl Swoopes. Bear, DE: Mitchell Lane, 2002.

Walker, Rosemary. Sheryl Swoopes. Mankato, MN: Capstone High-Interest Books, 2001.

Other

All, Elisa Ast. "Bouncing Back from Baby." Pregnancy Today, http://pregnancytoday.com/reference/articles/swoopes.htm, (January 6, 2003).

"Rockets Five Days of Giving Slated to Help Diverse Group of Houstonians in Need." Houston Rockets, http://www.nba.com/rockets/news/fivedays_001219.html, (December 19, 2002).

"Sheryl Swoopes." National Sports Agency, http://www.nationalsportsagency.com/sswoopes.html, (January 12, 2003).

Sweet, Jacinda. "For Former Texas Tech Star, Shoe Is 'a Dream Come True,' Arizona Daily Wildcat, http://wildcat.arizona.edu, (October 9, 1995).

USA Basketball, http://www.usabasketball.com/bioswomen/sheryl_swoopes_bio.html, (January 12, 2002).

Wiechmann, David. "A Decade-Old Dynasty," University Daily, http://www.universitydaily.net/vnews/display.v/ART/2003/01/15/3e24dbc2409ab, (January 15, 2003).

WNBA.com, http://www.wnba.com/playerfile/sheryl_swoopes/index.html, (January 12, 2002).

Sketch by Paul Burton

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