WNBA Pioneer: Teresa Weatherspoon

Weatherspoon Looks Back on A Decade of Greatness

Guard Teresa Weatherspoon enjoyed a brilliant WNBA career over eight seasons. As a two-time Defensive Player of the Year and multiple All-WNBA selection, she was recently honored as an All-Decade Honorable Mention and will be honored at center court during the 2006 WNBA All-Star Game at her old stomping ground, Madison Square Garden. Not two seasons removed from the league, she still has the itch to play competitively and a unique perspective on the league she helped to build. We caught up with her while she was back in NYC...

M.W.: As we celebrate a decade of WNBA Basketball, what would you say are the biggest changes made from then until now?
T.W.: "That's a question I probably haven't even thought about. The one thing I do see a lot I think in the years before a lot of people could probably say the Liberty, the Comets, or the Sparks, they're going to be right there, they are powerful teams. But now you have such an influx of talent, such an abundance of talent coming in and it kind of spreads, and I think that truly makes a tremendous difference as far as more support, because each time has a great deal of power, and it's a good thing to see and it's even more competitive."

Weatherspoon played with the Liberty from 1997-2003.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images
Looking back on some of the early championship teams, what are some of the memories that stand out for you?
"You know what, a team like the Comets... you can't say but great things about them. Even though we always seemed to be the bridesmaid, they were so powerful. Everybody keeps saying they were a three-headed team, but they were a four-headed team. You cannot leave out Janeth Arcain along with Cynthia Cooper, Sheryl Swoopes and Tina Thompson. Man, that's a team. They could kill you from any angle. So they were a very difficult team to defend, you almost had to play a flawless game to beat them. Then here comes the Los Angeles Sparks, and you had Lisa Leslie, one of the greatest centers to play the game, and then you have Mwadi Mabika, Tamecka Dixon and Nikki Teasley. Don't forget Latasha Byers down in the paint rebounding the basketball for them. They had so many ways to beat you too. They were strong and they were big. Even a playmaker like Teasley, she was big. So they were pretty powerful and they could push the basketball down the floor, and that's the one thing that made them so good, they pushed the basketball, they were the lady Showtimers. They were a pretty good basketball team and each time we played in the Finals we still felt like we had an opportunity to win."

Now in 1999 when the other league folded, there was a big influx of talent into the WNBA. How do you think that improved our game with the addition of players like Dawn Staley, Katie Smith and Yolanda Griffith?
"With the ABL folding and players coming into our league, now you had all the great talent together, not one league at this time playing you need to have everybody in here to play against each other, so everybody can see what women's basketball is all about at a really high level of basketball. You have all the talent in the world rockin' and rollin' every night."

Do you consider yourself a pioneer?
"Yes, any time you are in the beginning of something you always should be considered, so of course I do."

Now that the league has grown in ten years, do you feel that the emotional investment is paying off for you?
"Of course when you're in training camps with your teammates and playing the game, you want to win championships. Of course you want that ring to be on your finger and the banner to come down. You also think about longevity how can you keep our league going, how you can keep it moving from one year to the next year, and bring in the support, keeping the fans excited about what we do, continue to have that vision for young people to see that dream."

Despite being out of the game, T-Spoon still has the itch to play.
Ray Amati/NBAE/Getty Images
In those early days, did you ever think ahead that the WNBA would go this far, or where you more focused on winning a championships and just playing?
"When you are in training camp, you're thinking about 'let's get our team to gel together and we're going out to kick everyone's butt that we can.' This is what you're thinking at that time. But there were times when we were sitting down and you really understand what the WNBA is all about and thought about what you have to do as a player not only on the floor, even off the floor, to keep it alive. We did that quite a bit, not only with our team, but with everybody that was a part of the WNBA."

Do you still keep in touch with a lot of those early teammates?
"I get to see them sometimes. It's difficult for me because I love the game so much, and those ladies that I played with were like sisters. It was a family atmosphere for me and it's hard. I don't feel like I'm going out and being in battle to help them. I miss them, I love them and I appreciate them. I couldn't play the game by myself. It was always the team first, and I would be nothing without them."

Do you still get the itch to play at that high level?
"You're talking to me right now I got that itch right now. I know that I can play at that level, but there's just a time where you say I want something different in my life. I don't want to not be able to walk someday because my legs are so bad. But, of course, I'll play every day, all day. I play with the guys, I still run, I still lift, I still do all of those things, I'm still just as competitive as ever. I don't want to lose picking up cards if I have to. I don't want to lose, and I still love it. My fire and desire is the same, my itch comes, but I make sure that I'm in control of that itch."

So what other things are you doing now to keep busy?
"I spent a lot of time over the winter with hurricane victims. They were actually ones that were displaced in Shreveport, Louisiana, that's where I was. To sit down and talk with them and hear what they've gone through and what they're going through and what they're going to continue to go through is amazing. I haven't gone through anything. I haven't endured anything compared to what these children are going through. If it was just a word, a hug, a listen, I tried my best to do that, but as far as while I'm there, I'm still going to play, I'm going to find somewhere to play even if it's just with the children."