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Paving the Path: Sheros & Heros

Sheryl Denise Swoopes (born March 25, 1971)

Is an American former professional basketball player. She was the first player to be signed in the WNBA, is a three-time WNBA MVP, and was named one of the league's Top 15 Players of All Time at the 2011 WNBA All-Star Game. Swoopes has won three Olympic gold medals and is one of ten women's basketball players to have won an Olympic gold medal, an NCAA Championship, and a WNBA title. She was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016. In 2017, she was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.


Born in Brownfield, Texas, she was raised by her mother, Louise, and learned to play basketball with her three older brothers. Initially recruited by the University of Texas, but left the school without playing a game and enrolled at South Plains College, where she played for two years and then finished her college career at Texas Tech playing for the Lady Raiders.


Among Sheryl Swoopes many accomplishments are, a member of the 1993 Lady Raiders’ NCAA Championship Team. And as honor, her jersey was retired by the school the following year, making her one of three Lady Raiders to have their jersey retired.

In 1994 Sheryl was named to the 1994 US National Team competing in the World Championships, in Sydney, Australia. She was selected to play on the 1996 US Olympic Team, winning a gold medal at the Atlanta Games.


In 1997, Sheryl was recruited by the Houston Comets in the inaugural season of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). Sheryl and the Houston Comets won four championships from 1997-2000. And was named WNBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) 2000, 2002 and 2005. She is the second player in the WNBA to win both the regular season MVP and the All-Star Game MVP award in the same season. Sheryl Swoopes is the only player in WNBA history to record a triple-double in both the regular season and the playoffs, and she was the first player in the WNBA to have a Nike shoe named after her, the “Air Swoopes”


Swoopes was married from June 1995 to 1999 to her high school sweetheart, with whom she has one son, (b. 1997). In October 2005, Swoopes announced she was gay, becoming one of the highest-profile athletes in a team sport to do so publicly. Swoopes said, "it doesn't change who I am. I cannot help who I fall in love with. No one can. ... Discovering I'm gay just sort of happened much later in life. Being intimate with [Alisa] or any other woman never entered my mind. At the same time, I'm a firm believer that when you fall in love with somebody, you can't control that." She and her partner, former basketball player and Houston Comets assistant coach Alisa Scott, together raised Swoopes' son, the couple broke up in 2011. Later that year, Swoopes got engaged to Chris Unclesho, a longtime male friend; the couple wed after a long engagement on July 21, 2017.


Swoopes won the female Associated Press Athlete of the Year award in 1993. The same year, she also won the Honda Sports Award for basketball and the WBCA Player of the Year award. She was named one of the 20 female athletes of the decade for 2000 to 2010 by Sports Illustrated. She was named an LGBT History Month Icon by the Equality Forum.


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