Fran Harris: A True Champion

"I was always a kid who wanted to do and become a lot of things," recalls Fran Harris.

Fran Harris was a member of the 1997 Houston Comets, the team that won the first ever WNBA championship. She only played in the league for two seasons, the inaugural year with Houston and the following season with Utah. But it was 1997 that helped to shape the then 30-year-old Fran Harris into the woman she is today.

Harris spent some time playing in Europe after her college career ended at Texas, but she had been absent from the game for seven and a half years before the WNBA showed up on the scene. And the former Longhorn trained hard to get into the shape necessary to play at the professional level.

"I got into a very 'boot camp' mentality and I got into the kind of shape I needed to be in�. I wanted to be able to play professional basketball in this country and I did."

There was a lot of hype, an abundance of fan support and a variety of other distractions as the WNBA premiered in 1997. And most experts didn't expect much from the Comets. Despite the challenges they faced, Houston finished on top because they had more than Cynthia Cooper and athletic talent. They embodied "persistence, determination and discipline," according to Harris.

For many, a championship in a professional sport would be the pinnacle of their career. But it was just the beginning for Harris. At the conclusion of the 1998 season, she hung up her sneaks and decided to take her life in a new direction.

"I didn't start playing until I was 15, so I had an appreciation for my own genius and my own brilliance (outside of the game) before I ever picked up a basketball."

Harris was ready to let her brilliance shine, and although she had left the pro game, basketball made her better equipped to succeed. She left the game with the confidence, the notion of teamwork and the positive attitude that she acquired while playing ball.

She pursued a variety of careers. Her r�sum� features stints as a sports analyst, an author and a film producer along with a PhD in Business Administration. Currently she is a TV host, an ordained minister, a business strategy consultant and she owns and runs a basketball camp. A multimillion dollar media company is also in the works.

�The great thing about being an athlete is that you have the ability to push yourself beyond your known physical limits,� says Harris.
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But Harris' passion is empowering women. She founded a non-profit foundation aimed at helping women become entrepreneurs. She coaches and consults women who want to enter or are already in the business world.

The seed for this cause was planted when Harris was a child watching her mother struggle as a businesswoman. Harris' mother died when she was 16, but Harris believes that by helping women in business, she is able to keep her mother's legacy alive.

"I just enjoy seeing people step into their greatness," says Harris, "and when I get to be a part of that, it fuels me to do it more and I just became more passionate about it."

While many of Harris' accomplishments and goals appear to have no relationship to basketball, it is clear that her experience as an athlete provided her with the mental toughness and stamina that is necessary to succeed in business.

"The great thing about being an athlete is that you have the ability to push yourself beyond your known physical limits," she says, "and that gives you such a mental edge."

Fair play was another element of sport that Harris carried over into her new career. Harris is committed to teaching and practicing integrity and honesty in business.

"We are conditioned to trample over, triumph over, dominate� you know, all those things that world tries and gets us to do� and sometimes when you get into that philosophy you get into things that are not of the highest level integrity. � I always say I am the most ambitious person you will meet, but I will never do anything unethical or dishonest, ever."

As Harris continues to inspire and achieve in the business world, the WNBA remains in her heart and mind. The lessons she learned and the experiences she had have had a lasting impact on her life. While she may no longer be in a WNBA uniform, the qualities she embodied on the court -- "persistence, determination and discipline" -- stay with her as she continues to work toward making her dreams come true.

Fran Harris may have won a WNBA title in 1997, but it's what she has accomplished off the court that has made her a champion forever.

For more on Fran Harris' work, check out her website.