Sheryl Swoopes is an American basketball star and three-time Olympic gold medalist. She’s also the first player to be signed to the WNBA.
Who Is Sheryl Swoopes?
Sheryl Swoopes is an American professional basketball player. She played for Texas Tech before becoming the first player to sign with the WNBA. Referred to as the “female Michael Jordan” and famous for her offensive and defensive skills, Swoopes has won three Olympic gold medals and is a multiple WNBA MVP. She is also the first woman to have a Nike shoe named after her. In 2013, Swoopes was named head coach of the Loyola University women’s basketball team.
College Basketball Champion
Born on March 25, 1971, in Brownfield, Texas, Sheryl Denise Swoopes is considered one of the best female basketball players of all time. Swoopes began dominating the court as a student at South Plains Junior College, excelling on the college’s basketball team and earning the “Junior College Player of the Year” title in 1991.
After transferring to Texas Tech University, Swoopes quickly gained more national recognition. She scored 1,000 points in 46 games—a shorter period than anyone else in school history. At Texas Tech, Swoopes set more than 10 school records, including most points per game and best free-throw percentage. In 1993, she proved to be a key player in her university’s bid for the NCAA Championships, scoring 47 points in the final game to help clinch Texas Tech’s victory over The Ohio State University. Swoopes was subsequently named Most Valuable Player of the NCAA Final Four Championships.
After graduating from Texas Tech in 1994, Sheryl Swoopes continued to play for the USA Basketball Women’s National Team, helping the team earn a bronze medal at the 1994 World Championships and contributing to their undefeated record in the 1995-96 season. After a failed attempt in 1992, Swoopes finally made the U.S. Olympic team in 1996. She helped the team win the gold medal in Atlanta, Georgia.
Swoopes became the first player to sign to the WNBA in 1997, and was assigned to play for the Houston Comets. During her time with the Comets, the gifted forward helped lead the team to four back-to-back WNBA championships from 1997 to 2000. For her performance at the 2000 championships, Swoopes was named the WNBA’s Most Valuable Player. That same year, she once again thrived in Olympic competition, bringing home gold as part of the U.S. women’s basketball team at the Sydney Games.
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Inarguably a leading figure in her sport, Swoopes received a new type of recognition in 1995, when Nike launched a line of basketball shoes named after the WNBA star—making Swoopes the first woman to have a Nike shoe named after her. Swoopes continued to shine on the court, picking up two more MVP Awards in 2002 and 2005 and winning her third gold medal with the U.S. women’s basketball team at the Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece, in 2004.
In 2005, Swoopes acknowledged to the press that she had been in a long-term relationship with Alisa “Scottie” Scott, an assistant coach with the Comets. “I’m just at a point in my life where I’m tired of having to pretend to be somebody I’m not,” she explained to The New York Times. “I’m tired of having to hide my feelings about the person I care about. About the person I love. …I was basically living a lie.” Swoopes had previously been married to Eric Jackson. The couple divorced in 1999 and has a son together, Jordan Eric Jackson.
After 11 years with the Comets, Swoopes went to play for the Seattle Storm in 2008. But her time with the team proved short; the team dropped her from their roster the following year. Swoopes returned to the court as a member of the Tulsa Shock in 2011—marking the start of what would be her final stint in the WNBA.
In 2013, Swoopes announced that she would be returning to college basketball, this time as a coach. She was hired by Chicago’s Loyola University, marking her first coaching position. “I can’t guarantee anything, but I can promise you this: I’m going to give everything that I have every single day,” Swoopes said of the upcoming season in an interview with The Associated Press. “Everything that I’ve done and accomplished as a player, it’s time to pass that on, and I’m so thrilled for this opportunity.”
Is Sheryl Swoopes Still Married?
In 2011, Swoopes became engaged to Chris Unclesho. The fact that she is now involved with a man has surprised some. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Swoopes explained, “Everybody goes through things in life. We have different stages, phases. My life has changed tremendously since 2005.”