More than Undefeatable: The Positive Mindset of Izzy B

In part one of a four-part series for the WNBA “More than Undefeatable” campaign, the first edition begins with Isabelle Harrison of the Dallas Wings.

In anything she does, you can find Izzy Harrison with a smile on her face more often than not: except ballet, gymnastics, or tap dance.

“I thank my mom for putting me in it (growing up) even though I hated that s***,” says Harrison before a hearty laugh.

She has some of the best footwork on either end of the court in basketball, is incredibly agile for her size on the defensive end, and is capable of switching and of coverages, which is essential considering how much the Dallas Wings have changed as the season has gone on. 

She can easily get to the rim off a fake dribble hand-off as she has a quickness mismatch against most full-time fives in the league. A quick switch from the defense can also lead to a mismatch, with Harrison quick sealing and using her strength and fluidity to attack slighter players. You don’t score 1.13 points per possession (per InStat scouting) strictly on natural gifts alone, in the same class as Bri Jones (1.16) and Sylvia Fowles (1.11). 

Particularly in the post, the countless hours of mastery, honing of counters, and fine-tuning shine through, something Harrison credits to her time at Tennessee as she nailed down technique.

Harrison reinforced her mindset of positivity and resilience in Knoxville as well. She was part of one of Pat Summitt’s final recruiting classes before she retired due to early-onset Alzheimers. Harrison tore her ACL late in her senior season and would miss the entirety of her rookie campaign in 2015 after being drafted 12th overall to the Phoenix Mercury.

“I always told myself, if I can get through this, I can get through whatever is thrown my way, and I’ve kept that same mindset. When I was doing my ACL (rehab), I would be around Pat and her rehab for her Alzheimers, and she always had a smile on her face every time I saw her.”

Seeing Summitt approach life with that attitude in spite of a life-altering disease was grounding and forced perspective.

“We love basketball, and Pat’s a pioneer, but she’s able to go through that and keep it moving. So I just couldn’t take that (ACL) too hard, you know? There are lives outside of this.”

Harrison comes from a big family, one of 12. Her father’s a pastor, and her mother is also active in the church. Positivity, uplifting, encouragement, and energy were a mainstay in the Harrison household growing up. When that many people constantly surround you, it’s hard to stay in a negative space for long.

Basketball and sports are in her DNA; it’s her lifeblood: Her brother David played in the NBA, D.J. played at Colorado alongside David, sister Dorie just finished up her college career at Lipscomb, and her father Dennis was a Pro-Bowler with the Philadelphia Eagles.

“I come back to my group chat after the game, and it’s like 30 messages from them because they all watched; it’s hard to be negative when you grow up in that environment,” says Harrison.

She recently started watching the show Love, Death, and Robots, a sci-fi anthology series that she got into because it reminded her of Black Mirror (she’d like another season soon, as would I!). The show takes on a brand new story each episode, with different actors, different themes, different settings, and different writers; She doesn’t say it, but I feel it embodies who she is as a person and how she goes about life in a way. She loves that each episode is a new experience.

Harrison is confident in who she is, but she’s not one-dimensional. She tries everything and soaks in new opportunities. 

For instance, she tweeted that she thought it was time she had a shoe deal due to the work she’d been putting in on and off the court. That led to signing a deal with Jordan just before the regular season after her self-advocacy put her on their radar. She quickly asserted herself as a brand ambassador with a custom-made jersey dress and debuted the Air Jordan 1 ‘Starfish’ as her introduction to Jordan.

“I got the call right after AU (Athletes Unlimited) that they wanted to sign me. It was one of those moments when you realize everything you worked for is coming into play. Jazz Jordan is so hands-on with everybody on the team; it feels like a family whenever I’m with them. So obviously, we’ve got the swag, we’ve got the culture, but the human aspect is something I love about Jordan. It’s an amazing environment.”

Having spent her past W off-seasons paying overseas, Harrison was ready to try something new. The overseas game was important to her and any other player’s development, but she missed out on life. Branding opportunities are minimized when you’re playing a couple of thousand miles and a half-day flight away. 

She had multiple opportunities to play in Europe after the 2021 W season but was ready to take a shot at staying home in the United States for a change.

“I was like, I’m going to take a chance, I’m going to stay home and work on my branding because the basketball’s going to stop one day. I want to be able to do something that I’ve worked on for all this time.”

Harrison got connected with the Dallas Mavericks through the Wings and worked in their marketing department during the NBA season. She even took away some ideas from the Mavs and carried over their practices to the Wings to bolster some of their business and marketing strategies.

But, she still needed a way to hoop, improve her game, and prepare for the upcoming W season while she was investing in off-the-court growth.

Harrison found herself in another unique environment earlier this year when she participated in the inaugural Athletes Unlimited basketball season.

“I think I grew a lot as a player but also seeing the game in a different way! I like that it’s player-led and allows players to trust what they know. I feel like sometimes, coaches can get in the way of a player’s potential because they put them in a box, and I’m just not about that. I love that AU just gives everybody the freedom to play the game.”

Harrison also played a role as both a coach and general manager of her own team, as each week on AU, teams are drafted, redistributing players and varying the competition. Her eyes were opened to how much work goes into coaching, something she’d always respected but never witnessed firsthand. She put together scouts on other teams, diving into film studying tendencies on top of her own prep for games and practice. She loved the draft process, contemplating how to construct a new roster, matching personalities, and trying to construct a cohesive team. 

While AU pushed her to a higher level on the court, it opened her eyes to new career opportunities in the future.

“After going into the AU Draft every Sunday and seeing all the players on the board, being like, ‘Okay, what type of identity do I want? What players work well together?’ When you’re drafting a team, they may be good, but if they don’t mesh together, what is the point,” says Harrison when I ask her about her draft philosophy, and it was music to my ears.

“I would love to be a GM for a team one day, and I can see myself doing it.”

Harrison came out of the gates hot for the Wings after coming into the season off of AU, but her role has changed throughout the year as the team tried to find their identity. She was in and out of the starting lineup to a smaller rotation role as the season closed,

“I still remain the same, I come in, and I smile, I do my job, I make sure I take care of my body, lift up my teammates, and whatever else happens after that, it’s up to God. So I just allow myself to try to stay as positive as possible and go from there.”

Ask anyone; Harrison is a bright spot in all facets. She was awarded the May WNBA Cares Community Assist Award this season for her mental health advocacy and work in community service.

There was a story that came out in mid-May when the Wings played in New York at Barclays Center against the Liberty. Harrison met up with a fan at the game, Zack Quinones, whom she had met through social media.

Harrison tries to be herself on Instagram or Twitter. She’s not about fabrication. “I like to be personal. If I tweet at someone, it’s something I’d say to whoever I’m replying to,” says Harrison.

She used to do Q&A’s routinely on Instagram, but it got to a point last year where she needed a more professional way to do them, so she switched over to doing them on Cameo and posted on her Instagram that if anyone wanted to talk to her or do Q&A’s, Cameo would be the best way to do that so she could keep everything in one place.

She received a text message on Cameo from Zack that he appreciated her light in the world, had enjoyed following her career, and that he’d almost committed suicide a few years prior but had been inspired by her positivity to keep going.

“It was amazing that he felt comfortable with me in sharing that. So I sent him a message back, and I kept it at that. I was like, this isn’t anyone’s business, that’s serious to me, and he felt comfortable enough to tell me, so I’m not going to tell anyone.”

That changed up this past New Year’s Eve when Harrison was hosting an IG Live and started asking people watching what they were doing for the holiday. One of the requests to speak was from Zack, and she brought him up.

“He came up and felt comfortable enough to share his story with everyone…I was like almost crying on live. And I was like, you know what, Zack, for you to share your story with everyone and be so vulnerable, I want to make sure you come to a game.”

Quinones is from New York, so they planned on a Dallas’ first road appearance against the Liberty. Harrison got him courtside seats and a fresh pair of J’s she thought would look good on him. It was his first W game, and Dallas got the win.

“Zack is hilarious; the stuff he sends and the stuff we laugh about is so funny. I feel like often, the people who fake a smile just to keep going are those hurting the most. I just appreciate what he’s meant to my career and that I was able to show him the WNBA. Now I go on his story, and he’s posting other players in the league, and I’m like, “UH UH Zack!” says Harrison before a good laugh.

“Nah, I’m just playing (laughs), but it’s just so cool because now he loves the W, just from that simple interaction. I’m glad I was able to make that connection, and he’s okay.”

It’s awesome listening to Harrison recount her connection with Zack. You can tell how much it meant to her, but it also illustrates so much of who she is. Her genuine nature is striking. I don’t think I could fault anyone for not being active like that or being unwilling to take in someone else’s story that they haven’t met in person. Rather, it paints the picture of someone who really cares and is that light in the world just by being herself.

Isabelle Harrison is many things; a basketball player, a businesswoman, a model, a sister, and a daughter. Izzy is more than undefeatable, not just for how she approaches life on a daily basis and how she takes on new challenges on the hardwood, but for how she continually responds in the face of something difficult.

She embodies the principle that the only failure is in not trying something and giving it her best shot. Growth comes through her endearing positivity. She has the ability to be anything she wants to be someday due to that approach and the effort she puts in, and I can’t wait to see what’s next for her.

WNBA reporter Mark Schindler writes a column on throughout the season and can be reached on Twitter at @MG_Schindler. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the WNBA or its clubs.