Texan Sheryl Swoopes was the very first African American woman chosen for the Womens National Basketball Association (WNBA) during the league’s inaugural season draft in 1997. The athlete’s impressive 11-year span with the Houston Comets scored the star forward numerous slam dunk titles including three WNBA MVP awards (2000, 2002, 2005), three WNBA -Defensive Player of the Year awards (2000, 2002, 2003), and four WNBA champion titles (1997-2000). Swoopes is the second player in WNBA history to win both the regular season MVP award and the All-Star Game MVP award in the same season (the first player to win the award was Los Angeles Sparks’ Lisa Leslie-Lockwood).
Swoopes led the U.S. to win the bronze medal in 2006 when the WNT team competed in Brazil during the World Championship.
The Seattle Storm signed Swoopes to their all-star WNBA team (including players Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson) on March 3, 2008. She played with the team for one season.
An international career brought success to Swoopes’ doorstep as well. She joined the Russian basketball team VBM-SGAU Samara for their 2004-2005 seasons, the Italian basketball team Taranto Cras Basket from 2005-2006 and Greece’s Esperides Kallitheas team in 2010.
Born in Brownsfield, Texas in 1971, Swoopes was raised by her mother, Louise Swoopes, and three older brothers. She married her high school sweetheart in 1995 and had a son they named Jordan Eric Jackson in 1997. Almost eight years later in October 2005, Swoopes made the announcement that she was gay. She would quickly become the most decorated WNBA player to ever make this announcement.
Swoopes is currently living in the state of Washington with her son and partner – former basketball player and Houston Comets assistant coach – Alisa Scott.
* Photo provided by the Seattle Storm