Sheryl Swoopes may best be remembered as the woman who once played one-on-one against Michael Jordan. But her basketball legacy will run far deeper than that. Swoopes, a forward, began hooping it up at age seven with her two older brothers, James and Earl. In 1989, as a high school senior in Brownfield, Texas, she was named the state's female high school player of the year. In 1991, after two years of juco ball, Swoopes moved on to Texas Tech where in her two-year career she led the Red Raiders to a 58-8 record, two Southwest Conference titles and the 1993 NCAA title. She was named 1993 National Player of the Year and NCAA Final Four MVP after setting an NCAA championship game scoring record (for men or women) with 47 points in Tech's 84-82 win over Ohio State.
In 1994, Swoopes landed a spot with the U.S. national team, a squad that won all 52 international games it played in preparation for the 1996 Olympics. In Atlanta, Swoopes averaged 13 points per game and helped the U.S. team win the gold medal. The following year, Swoopes signed with the WNBA's Houston Comets and helped the team to back-to-back-to-back championship wins. In 1999, Swoopes logged the WNBA's first-ever triple-double in a game against Detroit with 14 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists. As if that's not enough to impress basketball historians, Swoopes was the first woman to have a basketball shoe named for her, the Nike Air Swoopes.
They said it: "It didn't matter how good I was. It was always, 'You're a girl. You can't play with the guys.' It's always been motivation for me." --Swoopes