Swoopes, Sheryl (1971—)

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Swoopes, Sheryl (1971—)

African-American basketball player. Born on March 25, 1971, in Brownsfield, Texas; attended South Plains Junior College; graduated from Texas Tech in Lubbock; married Eric Jackson; children: son Jordan Eric Jackson (b. 1997).

First woman to have her own athletic shoe named for her (Nike "Air Swoopes"); led the Texas Tech Lady Rangers to the NCAA championship (1993), setting an NCAA record in the process for most points scored by any basketball player (47) in Final Four history; won gold medal in Atlanta Olympics (1996); was a founding player in the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA); led the Houston Comets to three straight WNBA championships beginning with the inaugural season (1997); won gold medal in Sydney Olympics (2000).

Born in 1971, Sheryl Swoopes grew up in the small town of Brownsfield in West Texas and spent most of her spare time in childhood playing basketball with her brothers. Already a towering six feet tall in high school, she was recruited by the women's basketball team at University of Texas in Austin, the state's premier team. Swoopes' time in Austin lasted only four days. Homesick, she returned to Brownsfield to attend South Plains Junior College, where she was named Junior College Player of the Year. In 1991, she transferred to a nearby college, Texas Tech in Lubbock, leading its team, the Lady Rangers, to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Final Four in 1993. In the NCAA championship final, Swoopes scored 47 points, more than any other player, male or female, in NCAA finals history, to bring her team the victory.

That performance brought Swoopes awards (including National Player of the Year) and a considerable amount of media attention, but the absence of a professional basketball league for women in the United States forced her move to Italy in order to play professionally. After she spent a few months playing in Bari, in southern Italy, a contract dispute resulted in her departure from the Italian team. She returned to the United States and did volunteer coaching at Texas Tech for a time. In 1994, she landed a spot with the U.S. women's basketball team, competing in the world basketball championships and the Goodwill Games. Team USA was undefeated in its pre-Olympic tournaments and, as a member of the 1996 United States Olympic team, Swoopes won the expected gold medal at the Atlanta Olympic Games.

In June 1997, by now married to Eric Jackson, she gave birth to her first child, Jordan Eric Jackson, and was back on the court six weeks later—this time in one of the new women's professional basketball leagues in the United States, the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). That season she took her team, the Houston Comets, to a league championship, a feat the team repeated in 1998 and 1999. Swoopes was also named to the All-WNBA First Team in 1998, the same year she was second on the Comets team in scoring, three-point percentage, rebounds and steals. At the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, she and her teammates—including Lisa Leslie, Dawn Staley , and Teresa Edwards —wrested the gold medal from the Australian women's team with a score of 76–54. In

addition to her other awards and achievements, Swoopes is the first woman to have an athletic shoe named after her (Nike's "Air Swoopes").


The Day [New London, CT]. August 14, 1997.

Johnson, Anne Janette. Great Women in Sports. Detroit, MI: Visible Ink, 1998.

People Weekly. January 27, 1997; December 29, 1997.

Sports Illustrated: Womensport. Spring 1997.

Paula Morris , D.Phil, Brooklyn, New York