Women’s basketball legend and one of the all-time WNBA greats Sheryl Swoopes was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on April 4, joining the likes of Cynthia Cooper, Lisa Leslie and Dawn Staley.
It is time now to take a look back at her incredible career. We start at the beginning.
Swoopes capped off her collegiate career by leading the Texas Tech Lady Raiders to the 1993 NCAA championship, scoring an NCAA championship game record 47 points in the 84-82 win over Ohio State.
Swoopes was named the NCAA Final Four MVP as well as the Naismith National Player of the Year that season after averaging 28.1 points (second in the NCAA) and 9.2 rebounds as a senior. In her two years at Texas Tech, Swoopes averaged 24.9 points and 8.0 rebounds while leading the Lady Raiders to a 58-8 (.879) record, two Southwest Conference titles, two NCAA Tournament appearances and the 1993 NCAA title.
In 1994, Texas Tech would retire Swoopes’ No. 22 jersey — one of only three retired numbers in the program’s history.
Prior to joining Texas Tech, Swoopes played her first two seasons of college ball at South Plains Junior College in Texas, where she was named the 1991 Junior College Player of the Year.
Swoopes was named to the USA Basketball Women’s National Team and competed in the 1994 Goodwill Games and the 1994 FIBA World Championships.
She averaged 10.8 points and 4.0 rebounds during a four-game run at the 1994 Goodwill Games, helping the United States win the gold medal. However, in the World Championships, the US squad would fall to Brazil in the semifinals before defeating Australia in the bronze medal game. Swooped averaged 9.1 points and 3.5 rebounds in the World Championships.
Swoopes would represent her country throughout her career. She appeared in four FIBA World Championships, winning gold in 1998 and 2002 and bronze in 1994 and 2006, as well as three Olympic Games, capturing gold in all three appearances (1996, 2000, 2004).
Swoopes was a member of the historic 1996 USA Olympic Team that captured the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Atlanta. Swoopes started all eight games in the Olympics, averaging 13.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.5 steals. She scored 16 points as the U.S. women defeated Brazil, 111-86, in the gold medal game in front of more than 30,000 fans at the Georgia Dome.
Prior to the Olympics, Swoopes was part of the USA Women’s National Team that played 52 exhibition games against the top collegiate and international team around the world in preparation for the 1996 Olympic Games. Swoopes averaged 11.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists during the 1995-96 tour, in which the United State squad went undefeated.
On Oct. 23, 1996, Swoopes became the first player to sign to the new Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), which would open play in 1997.
With her collegiate, international and Olympic success and a new league on the horizon in which she would star, Swoopes became the first female basketball player to get her own signature shoe, the Nike Air Swoopes.