The WNBA has strong, powerful women with voices that need to be heard. We’ll hear some of their stories in the coming weeks when the league releases its first-ever film, “We are the W.”
Last season was the 25th anniversary of the WNBA, the kind of milestone that put a brighter-than-usual spotlight on the NBA’s sister league.
It’s the kind of attention that runs the risk of becoming a fleeting moment in time that’s easily discarded and forgotten about.
That’s why the latest project by the WNBA is so important.
Prior to the start of this upcoming season, the WNBA plans to release its first-ever short film, We Are the W.
The movie will focus on three WNBA players who are each at a different point in their basketball career timelines: Izzy Harrison of the Dallas Wings (mid-career); veteran Angel McCoughtry of the Minnesota Lynx; and Didi Richards who was a rookie last season with the New York Liberty.
While each provides a compelling tale about their journey to where they are now, the linchpin to them is McCoughtry.
McCoughtry, 35, is a former No. 1 overall pick of the Atlanta Dream in the 2009 draft, a five-time All-Star, two-time Olympic gold medalist, and was named to the WNBA’s 25th Anniversary team.
In many ways, McCoughtry is the blueprint for these women and so many others with hopes and aspirations of being in the WNBA someday.
Representation and speaking truth to power, has been one of McCoughtry’s greatest contributions to the game. She has not shied away from using her voice and platform for change which includes a groundbreaking proposal following several killings of Black citizens by police officers.
“The fact is, this is fighting for them, the younger generation,” McCoughtry said.
Her impact on younger players is undeniable.
When first approached about being involved in this project, Richards wasn’t totally sure if she wanted to do it.
That all changed when she found out McCoughtry was involved.
“‘Sign me up,’” Richards recalled telling those who were selling her on the idea of being involved in the film. “‘You should have started with that.’”
Richards added, “It was a certain respect I had for her. To be in the same film as her, was very special for me and humbling at the same time.”
It also speaks to the impact of having female representation in professional sports, which is one of the biggest takeaways from the movie.
“Growing up, there weren’t many times I could turn on my TV and see the WNBA,” Richards said. “So that is a huge step for me.”
As for Harrison, she came on board in part to provide a behind-the-scenes look at her life as a WNBA player, and all the complexities that come with that.
“It’s the first time I’ve been able to spotlight my story on a deep level,” said Harrison, whose father and older brother played professional football and basketball, respectively. “Of course, we do interviews. But this is giving people and fans insight into what my day-to-day life is. I don’t think many people know what goes into a women’s basketball career and how complex it can be from one career to another career. That’s the beauty of this documentary. Our walks of life are totally different.”
Beyond the empowerment component of the movie, it also highlights how each has overcome some form of adversity, whether it was a critical decision like Harrison deciding to not play overseas for the first time; or a significant injury like the one suffered by Richards that left her temporarily paralyzed.
All three women acknowledged the power in the lessons learned from those decisions on how to move forward following a significant setback.
That is why on many levels, their stories have the potential to connect with a wider audience that extends beyond the WNBA’s fanbase.
For Richards, as tough as the road to recovery was for her, knowing how close she came to never being able to play again rekindled her love for the game to the point where she says she loves it now, more than ever.
“I never had this much fun playing basketball,” said Richards who went from being temporarily paralyzed to being a second-round pick just six months later. “I don’t know if it’s New York, the WNBA, the injury...but the injury started it and it’s been a snowball effect.”
Even with all three women at different periods in their professional careers, one thing we know for sure.
There are still plenty of chapters left to be written about them as well as the WNBA and its players.
“My story is still being written,” Harrison said. “And I want people to be able to see that in this documentary.”