Two years ago, Becky Hammon, a gritty WNBA point guard with a flair for nailing decisive three-pointers, was chatting with San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker about life after basketball when he made a bold prediction. "I told her, You could be the first female coach in the NBA," Parker remembers. "[Spurs head coach Gregg] Popovich would hire you."
Call Parker a fortune-teller, because he was right. In a historic move last summer, the Spurs hired Hammon, making her the first full-time female assistant coach in the four major North American pro sports. Now, Hammon, who was known as Big Shot Becky as a player, is helping Popovich call the shots. She sat down with SI KIDS to talk about her first year coaching the defending NBA champions.
You could feel excitement in the air as league deputy commissioner Mark Tatum strode to the podium at the Midtown Hilton in New York City Tuesday night at the NBA draft lottery.
He had in his hand the envelope that would hold a team’s fate. He cracked opened the envelope and said the dreaded words, “The fourth pick in the NBA draft will be held by the New York Knicks.”
The excitement left the room like a punctured balloon. You could hear the audible groans of the hometown fans as they realized the awful luck of their team.
Shoni Schimmel isn't a rock star or a movie star. Though as she walks around New Mexico's capital city — sometimes with her parents and five of her seven siblings as an entourage — the second-year WNBA player seems like she is. Especially at the Santa Fe Indian School, where her mom is the varsity boys basketball coach. Schimmel has visited many times, but her presence is still cause for excitement. If students spot her between classes, they scream her name and wave frantically. Those who meet her in the school's pueblo-style buildings reach for whatever objects are nearby and ask her to autograph them. Sometimes kids present her with pieces of paper, but often it's an object they will keep close to them, such as their shoes, iPhone cases, or even the shirts they are wearing. It shows just how much Schimmel's celebrity status has increased over the last year.
The 22-year-old became the highest drafted Native American player in the WNBA when the Atlanta Dream selected her with the eighth pick last April. Schimmel's large fan following made her No. 23 jersey the league's top seller, and the Dream's first player off the bench was even voted a starter on the Eastern Conference All-Star team by the fans.
When Chris Paul found himself cornered by Chris Bosh in the second quarter of the 2013 NBA All-Star Game, he used the height difference to his advantage. As the Miami Heat big man closed in and reached to swipe the ball with his left hand, the 6-foot Los Angeles Clippers point guard saw an opening for a pass. The path? Between the 6'11" center's legs. The receiver? Paul himself. In a flash, Paul bounced the ball between Bosh's legs, raced around him to collect it, and then drove the baseline. The play didn't result in a basket, but it gave Paul another highlight to add to his reel while Bosh was left frozen on the wing. "Bosh was turned to force me left," says the eight-time All-Star, who would go on to win the game's MVP award. "I saw his legs were wide apart, so I went for it."
That's the special thing about Paul. The undersized floor general has never let his lack of size hold him back. He's unafraid to blow past his defender and drive into a lane clogged with big men. He can shut down opposing scorers of all sizes. He grabs rebounds like a small forward. Paul, who has led the league in steals five times and assists three times, is having one of his best all-around seasons. As of April 6, he was leading the NBA in offensive win shares, an advanced stat that estimates how many victories a player produces for his team. He showed just how effective a little guy can be no matter who he's up against when he put up 41 points and 17 assists — while turning the ball over only once — in a win over the Portland Trail Blazers last month. Here, Paul shares a few tips on how he's become one of the league's most successful guards despite his stature.
Our moms do a lot for us, and we should celebrate them everyday. But that’s especially true on Sunday, which is Mother’s Day. To mark the occasion, we asked four star athletes to share the wise words from mom that helped prepare them for success.
Work Now, Play Later
Advice from Danielle Payton, mother of Orlando Magic point guard Elfrid Payton
"Growing up, my mom always advised me that it was important to take care of my work before I played," says Elfrid. "I wasn't allowed to play basketball or hang out with my friends until all my homework was done. My mom always wanted us to prioritize work before play because she wanted to make sure we knew where to focus our efforts throughout our lives. To this day, I make sure that I take care of any work obligations first because my mom's voice in my head is saying, 'Keep working, keep working, and the fun stuff will be that much more rewarding.' Whether it's getting reps in the gym, eating healthy, or watching film — all of that needs to be done first. That work ethic has been ingrained in me since day one thanks to my mom. I give credit to my mom for fostering a drive for success in me because, as an athlete, you have to make sure that you focus on what you need to get done first and foremost. I also plan on finishing my education degree in a few years because I know how important it is, thanks to my mom. She works hard at her job helping people with disabilities find and maintain employment, and I look up to her for that. She always made sure we had what we needed. For that I am grateful."
Some people have really cool jobs: astronauts, actors, racecar drivers. I’ll add play-by-play announcers to that list, too.
John Ireland has had that job for nearly nine years. Ireland is the play-by-play announcer for the Los Angeles Lakers and a sports radio show co-host for the Mason and Ireland show on ESPN Radio. A former campus radio sports director at UCLA, Ireland was a radio sideline reporter for Clippers and Lakers before nabbing a coveted play-by-play gig. He called Clippers games for five years before joining the Lakers in 2011.
As Ireland told me during our interview at the Staples Center in April, “Most people pay to come and watch the games, but I get paid to be at the games.” Pretty neat, right?