I had just had my first child when NBC gave me a daunting assignment: first ever play-by-voice of the newly established WNBA. It required a summer of travel and untold hours of preparation, developing a new broadcast skill…a stressful task for a new mother. Little could I have imagined, that the league’s biggest star was about to undergo a similar journey.
Sheryl Swoopes was counted upon to launch the fledgling WNBA. She became the first woman to have a Nike shoe named after her, the “Air Swoopes” under the Jordan brand. A superstar who led Texas Tech to a national championship and Team USA to the first of her three Olympic gold in 1996, Swoopes became pregnant before the start of the season. When she returned for the final one-third of the season to play for my hometown team, the Houston Comets, we had an immediate connection, as young mothers trying to find our way in uncharted waters.
Babies in tow, we each did what we set out to do in that summer of 1997. Swoopes came back and delivered the first of a remarkable four WNBA championships for the Comets, making them the leagues dominant force. As the confetti rained down at the Houston Summit in that first August, I felt an inexorable sense of pride in Sheryl, in my city and in myself. It was that connection with Sheryl, which inspired me to tell her story.
I feel honored that Sheryl has entrusted her story to me, as it has been largely untold in her voice. It’s a rich story indeed, punctuated with an honesty that few public figures possess. Sheryl’s journey through divorce, falling in love with a woman, financial ruin, and lack of recognition of her stellar career, have neither embittered nor deterred her. She has defied society’s labels from that very first WNBA season in regards to motherhood, sexuality, financial accountability and age. On her fortieth birthday, she sank a buzzer-beater to help the Tulsa Shock end it’s record 20-game losing streak.
Sheryl is every woman. Struggling with money, love, family, and pride…But with no regrets and no excuses. She challenges us to suspend judgment at every turn of her life, even as she forges ahead with a new fiancé and business, back in Houston, a place that still serves as a touchstone for both of us. Adding the poignancy of Sheryl’s story, her Comets are no more. That powerful franchise, so emblematic of “girl power”, fell victim to the unforgiving world of business. Those glory days for women’s basketball in one of the nations great cities, is something that I hope to preserve in this film, along with a singular woman, who is unforgettable in so many ways.