Napheesa Collier and Dearica Hamby Cover WSLAM 2

It was January of 1997. Sheryl Swoopes was on the peak of her profession. She had simply gained Gold within the 1996 Olympics and was set to make her debut within the inaugural WNBA season. Then she acquired information that might change her life. She was pregnant. 

 There was no playbook at that time when it comes to what to do. “How might this occur?” Swoopes stated in her 2013 documentary. 

Would she nonetheless have a job come that summer season? Was her taking part in profession over? What comes subsequent? All questions that ladies, not solely in basketball, have feared in a technique or one other relating to changing into a mom. 

 She finally advised her company, group and the WNBA, all of which supported her by means of that journey.

 “I don’t know if anybody thought that was attainable till [Sheryl] did it,” Houston teammate Tina Thompson mentioned within the Swoopes ESPN documentary. “As soon as she did, then it grew to become fairly regular.”

 “The day [Sheryl] got here again was a giant deal,” Swoopes director Hannah Storm shared with The Atlantic in 2013. “Nobody had ever accomplished that earlier than—particularly not on a group sport.”

Sheryl returned to the courtroom simply 5 weeks after giving beginning and helped the Comets to their first WNBA championship that very same 12 months (the primary of 4 consecutive titles within the years to come back). 

 She created the playbook for the way forward for the League, one crammed with dynamic girls who’ve goals of getting each a profession and a household. 

WSLAM 2 is out now that includes Napheesa Collier and Dearica Hamby.

Do you keep in mind whenever you first realized your mother was a superhero? While you’re little, it’s tough to know precisely how a lot our moms do for us. While you get a bit older, the teenager angst begins kicking in and clouds our potential to see something of purpose. And whenever you’re older, you begin to perceive simply how a lot our mothers sacrifice for us. 

I keep in mind I used to be all the time a dad’s woman. I beloved basketball and performed a number of sports activities. It bonded me and my dad. Didn’t appear fairly honest to the girl who carried me for 9 months to be a dad’s woman, however nonetheless, after I received older, I began actually comprehending simply how a lot she did for me. I discovered about her hardest moments. I began realizing that there have been possible issues I’d by no means learn about and started to know the struggles she went by means of personally whereas doing her greatest for me. It’s what mothers do. 

They get you to apply, keep as much as make you dinner, examine in your schoolwork, educate life classes and do their greatest to guard you from the world. All whereas coping with their very own lives. They maintain it down when it appears almost unattainable. 

Think about balancing all these issues on high of being knowledgeable athlete. A job that at one level felt unattainable to take care of when you grew to become a mom. 

Practically 26 years after Swoopes gave beginning to her son Jordan, there are two younger mothers within the WNBA at totally different levels of motherhood for whom Sheryl set the stage. 

Dearica Hamby is in her eighth WNBA season, a mom to Amaya and a two-time Sixth Lady of the 12 months winner. Napheesa Collier, who was the 2019 Rookie of the 12 months, is now in her fourth WNBA season and simply gave beginning to 1-month-old Mila. 

Two mothers on two journeys that had been initially surprising. 

Dearica had simply averaged 6.1 factors per sport in her first season, with about 17 minutes of taking part in time per sport, and she or he was able to show herself in 12 months two when she discovered her life was about to vary.

How am I going to play basketball? How am I going to inform my coaches? Dearica thought to herself after she discovered she was pregnant. 

“I used to be in my second 12 months. I had an honest first 12 months till my harm. I felt like I used to be again in redemption mode the second 12 months, and I knew that this was a chance that I used to be going to have to take a seat out as soon as I advised my coaches and the group that I used to be anticipating,” she tells WSLAM.

Napheesa’s journey has been a little bit totally different. She got here into the League with a splash, averaging 13 factors a sport and taking residence the ROY award. Simply as her third season wrapped up, she took a take a look at after being just a few weeks late when the tiny plus signal appeared. 

“I really feel like I didn’t have quite a lot of feelings at first as a result of it’s simply factor…I don’t know. It was simply such an enormous factor,” Napheesa shares. “That your life goes to vary without end when that occurs. So, it was simply processing that. One in every of my first ideas was, OK, I’ve to name my coach as a result of I’m not going to have the ability to play, no less than at first of the season subsequent 12 months.” 

It’s that actual thought course of that led WNBPA President Nneka Ogwumike and the remainder of the council to barter the elevation of sources for moms of the League. These new sources embrace a full wage whereas on maternity go away, a brand new annual baby care stipend of $5,000, two-bedroom flats for gamers with kids and office lodging that present a cushty place for nursing moms, to call just a few.

“I’m so grateful that I got here into the League after I did, as a result of it was proper on the tails of the brand new CBA, which supplies so many issues to new moms that we didn’t have earlier than,” Collier says. “You get so many issues that let you come again and be a working mother, that the boys clearly don’t have to fret about.”

These modifications have been very important in empowering the ladies of the League to pursue their goals of a profession, and their goals of getting a household. Desires that society has doubted. 

There’s an archaic mentality that ladies can’t be good moms and  top-tier professionals. It’s a mentality that’s prompted quite a lot of the concern and anxiousness round pregnancies like Sheryl’s in ’97, to now with Phee and Dearica. 

“I believe it exists as a result of girls are naturally caretakers and nurturers, and when you’ve a child, you wish to give all of that to the child. I believe there’s this concern that if I’m emotionally invested on this, I can’t additionally emotionally spend money on basketball. However that’s simply false,” Hamby says. “Personally, for me, I come to work, I do my job for the time allotted that I’m imagined to do my job, after which I am going residence and I’m a full-time mommy. I can separate the 2.”


The truth of working moms extends effectively past the hardwood. Who might neglect Beyoncé’s 2011 VMA efficiency of “Love on Prime,” when, after holding nothing again as she poured her coronary heart and soul into each phrase, B dropped the mic and hugged her abdomen, revealing to the world that she was pregnant together with her first baby. Bear in mind, too, that she was sporting heels for her efficiency. One more instance that ladies can actually do all of it.

For each working lady, there are a ton of questions confronted earlier than and after giving beginning. How a lot time can I take off? Will my boss be OK if I wish to take some additional time? Will my job nonetheless be there for me after I come again? For skilled athletes, one of many largest questions on their minds is a scary one: Will I have the ability to come again and play on the identical stage as earlier than?

Being pregnant naturally modifications girls’s our bodies, immensely. Weight fluctuates, hormones enhance, breast dimension modifications, post-birth again pains are attainable, simply to call just a few. The highway again will not be straightforward, but it surely’s not unattainable. 

“I gave beginning to her [Amaya] February 5, which was three weeks previous to my unique due date,” Dearica recollects. “These additional three weeks saved me, and I used to be capable of get in form in time for the season.” 

Returning to the courtroom nearly six weeks after giving beginning, Dearica got here again even higher than earlier than. She averaged 9 ppg, solidifying her spot on the then-San Antonio Stars roster, and within the seasons since has continued to raise her sport. 

“Essentially the most tough half was coaching and pondering I’d be OK from being away from her. I nursed, and so after I was gone, I actually missed her,” the Aces star says. “Once I was at exercises, it’d be like, Alright, hurry up and do that hour and a half exercise. I don’t suppose I modified my garments in time. I used to be sprinting again residence to get to her. I simply needed to carry her.”

The sacrifices she made to make it work led her to a few of her greatest seasons and two Sixth Lady of the 12 months awards. Now she’s on the No. 1 group within the League, a group that appears like the favourite to win a championship. 

Napheesa is simply at first of her comeback journey. Her daughter, Mila Sarah Bazzell, was born on Could twenty fifth of this 12 months, and just some weeks out, she’s now eyeing her return to the ground.

“I plan to strategy my comeback actually [with my] toes hitting the bottom, working, making an attempt to get again as quickly as I can,” Collier says. “Particularly as a result of Sylvia Fowles is certainly one of my favourite individuals ever. I’d love to have the ability to play a pair video games together with her if I can. Since this can be a brief season, time will not be on my facet, however I actually wish to push my physique as a lot as I can whereas nonetheless being wholesome.”

There’s little question in our minds that Phee will return again and higher than ever. Sheryl confirmed us the blueprint, and since then, Candace Parker, Skylar Diggins-Smith, Tianna Hawkins, Bria Hartley, DeWanna Bonner and plenty of extra have continued to encourage. 

Dearica is following their lead, and Phee’s received subsequent.  It’s that momma energy. That little bit additional that these girls have. 

“Truthfully, I believe it’s this mother [thing] that elevates gamers after they provide beginning, for my part,” Hamby says. “Individuals will let you know on a regular basis, I’m a unique participant than I used to be earlier than I gave beginning to Amaya. Simply the toughness that I play with and the starvation and the drive and the center that I play with, I believe it comes from giving beginning. You develop into a mother and it’s totally different.”

It additionally takes a village to lift a toddler, and one of the lovely issues in regards to the WNBA is how there’s a assist system of 144 girls who’re there for them. To assist them increase their kids and to be there for each other. 

We see that with Amaya, whether or not it’s her prank wars with the Aces’ Kelsey Plum or her position because the unofficial group mascot. She’s all the time on the sidelines with a jersey cheering on her mommy and her pals (Hamby’s teammates). It’s evident simply how particular Amaya and Dearica’s bond is, but it surely’s much more so within the moments we don’t see. 

“Her trainer left me a message just a few weeks in the past and I occurred to learn it proper earlier than the sport, which most likely was a foul concept, however she stated, Amaya’s so happy with you and she or he talks about you. You must see the best way she glows when the scholars ask about you,” Dearica says with tears slowly welling in her eyes. “I believe typically I’m laborious on myself as a result of I really feel dangerous in the course of the season that I’m not together with her as a lot. For her trainer to say that and ship me that, it meant loads.”

It might be powerful to not share as many mom-daughter moments as Dearica would love, however 5-year-old Amaya loves that her mother is a WNBA famous person. She will get to see what she might aspire to be sooner or later and even share that together with her pals in school.

Now Napheesa has the identical alternative to share the sport that she loves together with her latest No. 1 fan.

“I’m excited for the experiences that we’re going to have collectively,” the previous ROY says. “Clearly, I hope she likes to play sports activities. But when she doesn’t, it’d be so cool to see what she’s curious about. Does she wish to play an instrument? What’s she going to be like? What are her pursuits going to be? Perhaps she’ll introduce me to new issues that I’ve by no means tried earlier than.”

That’s the fantastic thing about motherhood. The journey, the unknown and the belongings you get to expertise collectively for the primary time. 

For Dearica and Napheesa, it’s not all the time going to be straightforward. There are going to be laborious occasions and setbacks, however that’s not going to cease them from doing what they should do to create the most effective life for his or her daughters. They’ll maintain it down by means of these powerful occasions and present their daughters that there are not any limitations to what a girl can do. 

And to Mila and Amaya, chances are you’ll not notice it but, however your mothers are superheroes. Not simply to you, however to girls in all places. 

Napheesa Collier portraits by Lawrence Bryant, Dearica Hamby portraits by Alex Woodhouse // Motion photographs through Getty Pictures.

Napheesa’s hair: Cameron Myers, make-up: Tara Lowery // Dearica’s hair: Sabrina Jackson, make-up: Heather Bates