Weatherspoon, Teresa (1965—)

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Weatherspoon, Teresa (1965—)

African-American basketball player . Name variations: Spoon; T-Spoon. Born on December 8, 1965, in Pineland, Texas; daughter of James Weatherspoon and Rowena Weatherspoon; graduated from Louisiana Tech University with a degree in physical education, 1988.

Was a member of three gold-medal basketball teams in international competition (1986–87); led her college basketball team, the Lady Techsters, to an NCAA championship (1988); won a gold medal with the women's Olympic basketball team (1988), and a bronze medal (1992); joined the New York Liberty team in the first year of the Women's National Basketball Association (1997); named the WNBA Defensive Player of the Year (1997).

Teresa Weatherspoon, nicknamed "Spoon" by her family and friends and "T-Spoon" by her fans, was born in 1965 in Pineland, Texas, the youngest of six children, and raised in a sports environment. Her father James Weatherspoon, who played minor league baseball for the Minnesota Twins, holds the record for the most grand-slam home runs in a single game. Her mother Rowena Weatherspoon encouraged her early interest in sports and urged her to play on the boys' teams with her brothers. Teresa therefore played Little League baseball, rather than softball with the other girls, as a child. During her high school years, she excelled both on the basketball court and in the classroom, graduating as valedictorian. By the time she began attending Louisiana Tech University, she had proven herself to be a star in the making.

Weatherspoon led the Lady Techsters to the NCAA finals twice and to a national championship in 1988. Both in 1987 and in 1988, she was named a Kodak All-American and a Wade Trophy winner. Her senior year brought a host of prestigious honors, including the Broderick Cup and being named Louisiana State Player of the Year. The NCAA listed her on its Women's Basketball Team of the Decade, and she was chosen as the 1988 NCAA tournament's most valuable player. By the time Weatherspoon graduated with a physical education degree in 1988, she was the university's career leader in steals and assists. Her level of play was such that she landed spots on the U.S. national teams in the 1986 FIBA World championships, the 1986 Goodwill Games, and the World University Games. Weatherspoon brought home gold medals in all three international competitions. She also competed in her first Olympic games in 1988 when the American team brought home the gold.

Following graduation, Weatherspoon could continue her career in basketball only by going abroad, as there was no professional basketball league for women in the United States. She played professionally in Italy for eight years and in Russia for two before returning to America to compete with the U.S. Olympic team, taking a bronze medal at the 1992 games. On January 22, 1997, however, Weatherspoon signed with the newly formed Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) and was assigned to the New York Liberty. That first season she posted impressive numbers and earned the honor of being the league's Defensive Player of the Year, in addition to leading the league in steals. She repeated that feat in 1998, while also being among the leaders in assists. Weatherspoon enjoyed a successful 1999 season as well when she led the Liberty to the WNBA final rounds, sinking a half-court shot that won the game against the Houston Comets and keeping the Liberty in the

competition. Although her team eventually lost that championship, Weatherspoon vowed to play until her team succeeded in winning a championship. An All-Star starter in 1999 and 2000, Weatherspoon has an aggressive style of play that makes her a league favorite. For the thousands of girls and young women for whom she's a role model, she co-wrote a motivational book, Basketball for Girls, in which she encourages them to be aggressive in achieving their goals.


Leland, John. "Up in the Air," in Newsweek. September 1, 1997, pp. 57–62.

Page, James A. Black Olympian Medalists. Libraries Unlimited, 1991.

Judith C. Reveal , freelance writer, Greensboro, Maryland