Meet the Washington Divas
It's 90 minutes prior to tip-off of the Washington Mystics vs. New York Liberty game at Madison Square Garden as I walk into the Mystics locker room in search of Nikki Blue. Inside the players are sitting at their lockers, making their final preparations before heading out for shootaround. Ankles are taped, braces are on, and shoes are laced up.
Photo: Mitchell Layton/NBAE/Getty Images
Photo: Mitchell Layton/NBAE/Getty Images
Photo: DC BasketCases
Nikki Blue and Tamara James are known as the Divas of the Mystics squad. But what exactly makes someone a diva?
“A diva is a strong woman that is very in touch with her fashionable side. Arrogant at times, but yet classy and definitely an outspoken, powerful woman,” said Blue.
James says it’s all about having the attitude and energy along with the style; knowing that when you walk into the room, you know everyone is looking at you. She sums it up with, “You have to be ready at all times.”
“They definitely are divas,” says teammate DeLisha Milton-Jones. “I would say TJ is the diva of all divas because you can never catch her off guard. Even on her bad days, you’d never know it. Nikki Blue is a close second to her.”
Blue and James were both selected by the Mystics in the 2006 WNBA Draft. While they are just beginning their second season as teammates, both of them have been divas for years.
“I went through a tomboy phase, especially in junior high when I was around 13 and I was really into basketball,” Blue said. “Once I got to high school, I kind of broke out that and really found myself and really got into fashion. I love wearing high heels, love dressing up, and love wearing makeup. Especially going to prom and things like that. That’s when I transitioned into being me.”
While Blue’s diva epiphany happened in high school, it took James a little longer to get in touch with her inner diva.
“I was pretty much a tomboy growing up,” she said. “I always had this diva in me, it just took something to bring it out and going to the University of Miami brought it out of me. It was just the atmosphere in Miami. You see everyone going around looking nice and everybody has confidence. It's very necessary down there in Miami.'"
While they were already divas prior to draft day, Nikki and TJ never had an equal counterpart until they met as teammates with the Mystics.
“It was awesome,” Blue said about meeting James. “I really didn’t consider myself as a diva before I got to the Mystics. I just considered myself as well-dressed and well taken care of. But when I met TJ, she said ‘We’re divas. We’re the divas of the team.’ And I said okay, I guess we are.”
Blue said she had a few teammates at UCLA with diva tendencies, but none came close to matching James.
“In college there was a couple of us, but not as strong of an attitude as she has,” she said. “She’s actually introduced herself as ‘Hi, I’m a diva.’ I haven’t taken it that far. I’m a little more of the quiet one.”
James was the sole diva on her college squad, which makes her appreciate having Blue as someone to share in her diva ways.
Neither of them will leave the house without their lip gloss on, purse in hand and as James put it, “diva-ish from head to toe.” While their teammates arrive at practice everyday wearing basketball shorts and t-shirts, James and Blue always come decked out in their latest gear.
Nikki lists Louis Vuitton and Gucci as some of her favorite purse designers and says she favors clothing lines such as Rocawear, Apple Bottoms and Baby Phat. Tamara, however, takes it to a whole other level.
“I’m a Baby Phat goddess,” James said. “I have Baby Phat shoes, I have Baby Phat underwear, I have Baby Phat clothes, shades, everything. I think I’m going to go ahead and meet Kimora and tell her that she let me go ahead and model her clothes for her.”
Note to Baby Phat owner Kimora Lee Simmons: if you’re looking for an athlete to endorse your clothing line, contact Tamara James.
While Nikki and Tamara are happy to have each other, they are not content with the rest of their Mystics teammates being un-diva like. They have been on the recruiting trail this season in search of candidates they like to call “Divas in Training.”
The top Diva in Training so far has been DeLisha Milton-Jones. James says Milton-Jones is the only one that has the diva attitude that is necessary to play on her and Nikki’s level. However, James said that Milton-Jones still has some off days that need to be fixed.
“I am a diva in training. I’m still waiting to get my diva broach,” Milton-Jones said. “I don’t think I’ve passed the test just yet. I’m not sure what I have to do. They have to put me through an initiation trial and if I pass I think I’ll get my broach one day.
“But I do a lot of things that are un-diva like, so they demote me on a regular basis. A diva is supposed to be prepared for whatever. You should never be caught with your pants down, without your supplies, whether that be a phone, a scrunchie for your hair, lip gloss, whatever. You’re never unprepared. I’m always forgetting everything, so this diva thing might not work out for me.”
Nikki and TJ have some work to do in order to get DeLisha ready for her diva debut at an upcoming Mystics appearance. The theme of the night is Motown and the divas are planning to be the Supremes. While there may be a battle between Nikki and TJ over who is going to play the role of Diana Ross, they know they can’t do it without a third Supreme.
“We’ll definitely have to see who will be Diana because she’s the ultimate diva,” Blue said. “We’re going to do it, but we need to find someone worthy enough to fill our third spot.”
Milton-Jones may be the leading candidate, but it may not a lock for her to fit the role, if you consider her reaction to seeing the Nikki and Tamara at Mystics media day two weeks ago.
“I shook my head. They came in and they were diva-ed out, diva from the head to the toe. The outfits were rather flamboyant and revealing,” she said. “That’s not something I could do. That’s why I’m still in training because I’m not ready for that yet. I’m not ready for the runway like they are.”
Milton-Jones may never truly embrace being a diva herself, but she believes having Tamara and Nikki in the locker room is a true benefit to the team.
“It keeps us laughing and keeps the mood light in the locker room and you need that sometimes,” she said. “Especially during times like these, when you’re 0-3, early on in the season, you need stuff in the locker room to make you smile and they do a good job at that.”
I met up with the divas and Milton-Jones in the locker room following the Liberty game, which the Mystics lost 81-76, to fall to 0-3 on the season. Despite the loss, as soon as I brought up the divas to Milton-Jones a smile came across her face.