She Is Our Champion: She Has Logged Every Superlative in the Basketball Record Books. Now WNBA Houston Comets Superstar Sheryl Swoopes Makes History Again, by Coming out about Her Happy Family Life with Her Long-Term Lesbian Love-And Signing with Olivia. and She's Only Just Begun

By Stockwell, Anne | The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine), November 22, 2005 | Go to article overview

She Is Our Champion: She Has Logged Every Superlative in the Basketball Record Books. Now WNBA Houston Comets Superstar Sheryl Swoopes Makes History Again, by Coming out about Her Happy Family Life with Her Long-Term Lesbian Love-And Signing with Olivia. and She's Only Just Begun


Stockwell, Anne, The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)


There are famous people, and then there are stars. Sheryl Swoopes is a star. Widely considered the greatest female basketball player in the history of the sport, Swoopes has augmented her great natural gifts with a drive that has led her Women s National Basketball Association team, the Houston Comets, to the never-equaled feat of a "four-peat"--four national championships in a row.

Now Houston's number 22 is taking the ball into new territory: Swoopes came out as a lesbian on Good Morning America in late October. She's also joining Martina Navratilova and Rosie Jones as spokeswomen for America's most prominent lesbian-centered business, Olivia Cruises and Resorts. What persuaded her to come aboard? It's best expressed in Olivia's slogan, she says: "Feel free."

In a gay-press exclusive interview, Swoopes is forthright about the journey that led her here: "I don't want to say I've been living a lie, but for the past seven, eight years I haven't been able to be comfortable in my own skin, around my own friends and family."

Swoopes is truly a first: No major athlete, man or woman, has ever come out at the pinnacle of a career in pro team sports. Navratilova is justly celebrated for coming out while still on top, but tennis is essentially solitary. Swoopes, on the other hand, is the key talent on whom the WNBA was built. From day one--along with fellow Olympian Lisa Leslie--Swoopes was the WNBA star the cameras loved, the upbeat wife and morn who proved that basketball players could also be ladies who like their pedicures.

Swoopes says that's how she really is. "On the court I'm all about business," she laughs. "But I want to look good while I'm doing it!" No problem there. Her personal stats are legend. She is the first female player to have a Nike shoe named for her, and she is confident that Nike will continue to endorse her now.

Her drive is unstoppable. After she suffered what could have been a career-ending knee injury in 2001, she came back fighting and was named the WNBA's Most Valuable Player of 2002, having previously won the title in 2000. She was named MVP again this year, becoming the first player to win the honor three times.

On the day we meet, at a public basketball court in Las Vegas, Swoopes's grace under pressure is on abundant display. Thanks to Hurricane Rita, her family's trip here began with 15 hours in gridlocked traffic north of their Houston home. In three days they leave for Europe, where, like many WNBA players, Swoopes will play basketball during the off-season.

As we talk, Swoopes keeps a watchful eye on her handsome son, Jordan. (She divorced Jordan's football-player father, Eric Jackson, in 1999.) Occasionally she takes an aside with her affable partner, Alisa "Scotty" Scott, herself an ex-basketball player and former assistant coach of the Comets. Scotty's rapport with Jordan is plain to see. They shoot hoops to pass the time; Swoopes shouts encouragement across the court. Now and again she joins in. At 8 years old, Jordan can outplay all the grown-ups but his two moms.

As word spreads on the other courts that she is here, worshipful pairs of eyes begin to peek around the canvas partition. Finally a shy group of too-tall teenage girls in uniforms brave the trip across the floor to meet the star. Swoopes takes time with each. With the tallest she puts her own six-foot frame on tiptoe in comparison, pretending to be annoyed: "You're not supposed to be taller than me!" Swoopes flashes that smile, and the girl surrenders to a grin that beautifies a mouthful of braces.

Swoopes says she's nervous about coming out--but she's not scared. She has made her decision. She's always been this way: shooting high, breaking out, making history.

What you're doing is going to mean a great deal to many people.

I'm nervous. I'm anxious. I'm excited. I'm relieved. For so long now I just feel like I've been in this little shell, and there's only a few people that I'm OK with, that Ill talk to. …

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She Is Our Champion: She Has Logged Every Superlative in the Basketball Record Books. Now WNBA Houston Comets Superstar Sheryl Swoopes Makes History Again, by Coming out about Her Happy Family Life with Her Long-Term Lesbian Love-And Signing with Olivia. and She's Only Just Begun
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