You never know where life will take you. The road is long and the twists and turns can amaze you. You walk into your career with one goal in mind, but over time, things evolve and you evolve with it. As you continue on your path, you grow, form new relationships, and enter new arenas. When it’s all over, you can look back and feel proud of everything you’ve accomplished.
On August 11, Becky Hammon took her rightful place in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Hammon joined a star studded class that included:
- Dwyane Wade
- Dirk Nowitzki
- Pau Gasol
- Tony Parker
- The 1976 United States Women’s Basketball team
- Gary Blair
- Gregg Popovich
and many more.
Becky Hammon's basketball journey began in South Dakota. South Dakota isn’t a basketball powerhouse, but Hammon worked hard, played hard, and was able to land at the University of Colorado, where she became one of the best players in school history. There, she landed in New York with an ascendant Liberty franchise.
Hammon wasn’t drafted coming into the WNBA, but it didn’t matter as she endeared herself to the New York faithful with great passing, clutch plays, and all around excellence. In eight seasons in New York, Hammon made the All Star Game three times and got to the Finals three times as well. On induction day, the team honored their iconic point guard:
Hammon was one of the toughest players in the game, and one of its most resilient as well. In her speech, she spoke about the importance of resiliency:
“Being resilient is both a character trait and a learned skill. The tough part about being resilient is that you can only develop this skill through going through hard stuff. The amount of times I heard no or had a door shut was the amount of times I was going to climb through a chimney or window. I was gonna bust through something to get to where I needed to go,” she told the Hall of Fame ceremony. “I was going to find a way and pressing on became an integral part of my story.”
Liberty fans know firsthand how tough and resilient Hammon is. After she tore her ACL in 2003, she returned in 2004 and helped lead the Liberty to their sixth Conference Finals appearance. Although she was untitled in her playing career, she retired as one of the WNBA’s greatest players and an inspiration for the generation of hoopers that came after her. Hammon retired near the top of various Liberty franchise statistics, a place she still holds to this day. In 2015, she was inducted into the Liberty Ring of Honor
As one chapter of her groundbreaking career closed, she opened another in San Antonio. In seven seasons with the Silver Stars, she led them to the playoffs six times, including a Finals appearance in 2008. While in San Antonio, she played under now Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello. Prior to the Liberty’s game against the Indiana Fever on August 13, Brondello spoke about Becky as well as the ‘76 USA Women’s Olympic Basketball team:
“I’m really, really proud of Becky and what she’s done for women’s basketball and paved the way in the NBA. I got to coach Becky, she really changed the the organization of the San Antonio Silver Stars when we were able to bring her in a trade and had really good success. will bring her in and the train had really good success... She’s a role model for so many because she was undrafted. She has a really amazing story and how much she just believed in herself. And she an unbelievably skilled player but she’s the same as a coach. She’s a player’s coach and she believes in herself and I think that goes a long way can inspire everyone around her.
“And then obviously the 1976 team being rewarded, I think that’s fantastic,” she added. “That’s what it’s about. And I think [back to] what Becky said [when] she said ‘Bet on women.’ I think that’s so important in this world where we are today. We need more and more people to do that and for women to get the opportunities that they deserve...”
As A’ja Wilson recently said in a media availability, “If you can see her, you can be her.”
In 2014, Hammon retired from the WNBA and took an assistant coaching job with the San Antonio Spurs. She was the second woman to ever serve as an assistant coach in the NBA and in 2020 became the first woman to serve as a head coach in an NBA game. When you’re the first at something, it can be a very lonely, isolating feeling. At the same time, it also is rewarding and opens up a world of new possibilities, as Hammon explained:
“Being a trailblazer, it’s a very heavy and lonely trail at times. It’s also super exciting and adventurous and awesome. There are many nicks and scratches and cuts that happen along the way. And luckily for me, I literally grew up in the sticks! So I was ready. I’m an outdoors girl. But in those times of frustration, difficulty, and sometimes fear, I had voices speaking encouragement into my life, and reminding me of the excellence that they saw in me. Family, friends, coaches, peers, players, teammates in attendance tonight or at home watching, thank you for picking up the phone,” she said.
“Thank you for reminding me of who lives inside me and who goes before me no matter what paved or unpaved path I am on. Your encouragement carried me to the stage tonight. Thank you.”
In one of the more emotional moments of the evening, Becky had a special tribute for her friend and mentor, Gregg Popovich:
"I know you weren't trying to be courageous when you hired me, but you did do something nobody else in professional sports has ever done."— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) August 13, 2023
Becky Hammon got emotional thanking Gregg Popovich in her Hall of Fame speech pic.twitter.com/QEoRyclll5
As Hammon continues her coaching journey, she leads a Las Vegas Aces club that has the potential to go down as one of the best teams in pro hoops history. The Aces have dominated in ways reminiscent of one of Hammon’s old foes, the Houston Comets. They can do everything imaginable on a basketball court and feature stars that can lead the WNBA into a new, exciting future. As the game grows, we should remember and acknowledge the trailblazers that got us this far. The game is better and more inclusive thanks to their excellence and persistence.