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Our show today is sponsored by Beast Brands, makers of premium organic hair, body wash lotions and skincare products. All these formulas are vegan, cruelty free and made in the USA. Go to get these dotcom WSC to get 20 percent off your soon to be favorite products. You know, I came in as a sponge, but also knowing who I am and what I can do and being confident in that and also just continuing to grow and really working for that, I think sometimes people come to the pro level and don't always work as hard as they should.
And, you know, I want to do more than just be here.
Welcome to the Women's Sports Podcast, where we talk to the biggest athletes in the world about the untold stories behind their success.
I'm Kelly O'Hara and my guest today is Brandon Stewart.
Only a few years into her professional career, Breanna Stewart already boasts one of the greatest resumes in basketball history. During her time at UConn, she won four national titles, completed two undefeated seasons, and was the first ever unanimous pick for AP Player of the Year, the number one pick in the twenty sixteen WNBA draft in just three seasons in the league. She's already won a title and been named MVP.
She's also an Olympic gold medalist and a Euro League MVP. Simply put, she's won everything.
Stewie, welcome to the show. Thank you. Is it OK? I call you Stewie. We've never I don't think we've ever met in real life. And I feel weird about calling people nicknames or calling you like the wrong name if I haven't met them. So you wouldn't call mystery stories. Good. You don't care when people close to me. No, I don't know. I prefer because they mispronounce my name, so. Yeah, because it's Brianna.
Not Brianna. Yeah, exactly. Yes. It's easy to say it's a good nickname. Nice. Well, let's just get right into it. We're going to start at the beginning. You're born in Syracuse, New York, 1944. What was your early home life like and how did you first get into basketball? Yeah. So early home life. I mean, in the beginning it was me and my mom biological that is not really in the picture from there.
When I was probably four or five, the person who I call my dad kind of came to my life and became part of our family. And he was the one that kind of got me started with basketball, just getting me active and able to do things, you know. Was he a basketball fan or did he, like, see something in you? And I was like, oh, I want to get her into basketball.
I think he was a fan. And it was just also I needed to be doing something like I played soccer for a hot second and wow. Let me tell you let me tell you, it did not go great. I mean, the hand eye coordination came later, that's for sure. Yeah. Yeah. But he kind of got me started and was like, you know, he's even today, he's like my biggest supporter, but biggest critic for sure.
Interesting. So how old were you when you started playing? Probably six or seven and not good. I mean, doing other sports like is that when you're still playing soccer, what does it look like? I literally think I just went to one soccer camp because I remember I had like this blue soccer ball. I'm like, that was my, like, soccer claim to fame. Yeah, I played softball. I played volleyball. And then, you know, as I continued to go through high school and that type of thing, I just focused on basketball.
So I read about your dribbling routine. When did that happen? What's the story behind that? Yeah, so that happened when I was in middle school and it was summertime and my dad was kind of like, hey, you know, you should go dribble around the block.
I was like, why? I'm like, why? I've never seen anyone drive around the block. Yeah. So then I was like, no. And then like the next day you should go around the block and I'm like, no, I am the again so guarded around the block. And it was kind of like fun. To please you, I'll do it. I'm going around and I'm like, my neighbors are looking at me, I'm like, I'm like, this is stupid.
This is like, what is this girl doing? Just rolling around the block? And then come to find out. It became my thing. It was something that I really did consistently until I graduated. And I hope just continue ballhandling, I guess. Yeah. Was that like your first? Did you see your skills improve your game improved just from that time spent with the ball?
Yeah, I can definitely tell that I could see the improvement. I mean, in fifth grade at an interval between my legs. And it was like trying to figure out how to juggle between my legs and like how many times in a row, like juggle between my legs. And then eventually when I look back to when I was a senior figure almost around the whole block, you know, like things like that. Yes. It's just like perfecting that for sure.
I feel like that was part of your first taste of like work hard, get rewarded like see results. Yeah. So you became very good, very young. At what point did you realize you had the X Factor like you could go far in basketball?
So when I was 14, I played on 16 under USA team. Yeah. I don't know for some reason, like I was living in a bubble in Syracuse and I just wasn't aware that we had like USA teams and can like play at those type of events even when we were young. So you at 14, had you ever watch, like, Team USA Basketball in the Olympics? So I think that sparked it. Like I remember when I was 14, that would be the 2008 Olympics.
And like I remember watching that like at my grandma's house. And like I remember because Australia had on the onces, you know, like like I don't even remember that one.
Like, they won, like, look it up later. Look it up later. I'm going to the. He is.
Yeah, that's what I remember. But it's interesting because I got an invitation to go to the tryouts and they have all the youth things in Colorado Springs. And at first my parents were like, no, you're not going.
No way. Yeah I because they're like my school.
And so at what point in the year did you get called? Was it like spring fall before the Olympics. After the Olympics. Like when was that.
So I'm pretty sure it was spring like and then we would have something in sometime in the summer. Yeah. And they were like so they said no. And then like really like mom, dad. I'm like I want to go, this is my dream. Or you just like OK, I need this.
I was like all these people I know are going to be OK. My friend, my yeah.
My friends, my coach was like, she needs to go. She really needs to be there. And then so the coach knew that this was important and special.
And then I went and made the team and then that kind of started my USA career. I went there by myself. Looking back, I'm like, wow, this is like, bye, totally.
Listen, if it makes you feel any better, my parents didn't say no because of school. My parents didn't believe that it was real that I got called in to a youth team camp. They were like, this is somebody joking? We're not sending you to California on a plane by yourself. So because I was about the same age as yours, like probably fifteen, and I'd never been to anything like that before. Yeah, that's that's the same for sure.
And I've never flown anywhere like that by myself. And now it's like I'm going to Russia. I'll see you when I see it. Totally. Yeah. That experience makes you have to become like pretty independent at a young age. It's crazy. So you go to your first teen USA camp and then you see the Olympics, you watch Australian onesies. So was that like a moment when you said, I want to get there one day?
Yeah. Yeah. I think once I knew it was like actually a thing and actually possible that became my biggest goal was to to win a gold medal at the Olympics and had the pleasure of being there in twenty sixteen and. Yeah, but hopefully we'll just wait till next summer.
So you're playing youth teams, national teams, you're playing in high school. What was your high school career like. You just like an absolute all star.
So when I was in eighth grade I was six too. So I'm six four right now and like I've been six four since.
Do you think any any more inches are going to be in your favor?
No, I'm like I'm going to the chiropractor and stretching and so maybe I'll just like get a little bit ago.
But yeah, I played varsity, so in New York University as an eighth grader. OK, so because I was six too. There you go. Was more of a defensive player really. It was interesting. A couple of shots and I could rebound and like the rest was still a work in progress and then just continue to kind of figure it out as I went through high school.
Do you feel like you developed your offensive game through high school or do you think that came later? No, I think I developed it through high school, especially my junior senior years. Like I remember my dad, he was like begging me to shoot at three begging. And I was like, I want it. I want to shoot it. Three. He was like, I don't want you to be like I run to the block type of play.
I want you to just be like, oh, you're tall, you're the center, and that's what he was like, you know, I want you to be able to learn to dribble dribbling around the block, be able to shoot and shoot a three and just kind of be able to play all over the place.
And now I can yeah, you have him to thank for your success, or at least partially, I'm sure you have a little bit to do with it. So high school career, you're better at defense, you get better offensively. You're like focusing on technical. You end up at UConn, the UConn Women's Asthma Program, like the best. How does that happen? Like, did you go on a recruiting trip and you're just like, this is it?
Or was it the type of thing where you knew they were the best you wanted to be at the best place and competing with the best and winning all the time? Yeah. So UConn came on the radar pretty early because I'm from New York, you know, so. Yeah, close, close. I think the first time I went there, maybe I was a freshman and sophomore.
So you end up at UConn, but how like you unvisited. Did you visit because they called you or were you just interested? Like, was it, oh, I'm going to go watch a game. Yeah. So how do you end up standing next to the coach?
I'm pretty sure they had us come up for a recruiting trip. It was college game day. So it's actually the only college game day that UConn has had for the women's team. So I remember that Mike was playing, remember, just kind of being a part of that whole atmosphere. And then when I committed I committed to UConn when I was a junior.
OK, did you look at other schools? Yeah, I went to a few other schools. I went to North Carolina and Duke, Maryland, Penn State. But like I knew I wanted to go to UConn. It was just kind of like it was just like you knew. I don't want to, like, commit early, I guess, but I still was early enough. Yeah, but so when you committed your junior so that's what, twenty to twenty ten.
Twenty eleven I think.
Yeah. So I was looking at UConn National Championships eleven. I thought you guys had way more than that.
Spent a little rough for us lately but it was a little rough before you got there. Like first of all when you got to UConn you became a household name and I'm going to read off these stats just to like preface what you did and what we're about to talk about. And they're just insane. Four time national champion, four time most outstanding player of the NCAA tournament, three time AP player of the year. And you end your career with one hundred and fifty one to five record.
And four of those losses came in your freshman season when you were growing up to UConn on campus freshman year. What was in your head like? What were you thinking? Did you think what you ended up accomplishing was possible?
I mean, I think I hoped, you know, like it was like the questions like, why did you get to school? What do you want to do? What are your goals here? And I'm like, well, I want to win. Yeah, I want to win them all like that.
But yeah, a lot harder than than it is to kind of just say that for sure. My freshman year was by far the worst year. So going into your freshman year, you can't win in twenty ten. And then they didn't win again until your freshman year. So twenty eleven, twenty twelve. They don't win. So you're going into the program and you know, everybody's saying that maybe Yukon's lost a step. So how do you handle that, being a freshman, being highly recruited?
I mean, there's just a ton of pressure. Yeah, I think obviously it was pressure. I think I wasn't playing as well as I wanted to. Like, I was struggling kind of in the practice aspect, you know, I thought I was working hard, but they want you to work. So. So, yeah.
And I hadn't really figured out that there was more to kind of do. I was a little stubborn. Yeah. So I was trying to do things my way and he wanted me to do things his way and we were kind of like that for a little bit. So what did that look like?
I mean, in the end I always lose because I'm the player I've had so many times, like where he was yelling at me, where I was doing something wrong.
One drill I missed a rebound like like, OK, I'm sorry, I'm looking back. I'm like, wow. So he was like, Stewie, do you see those stairs right there? Oh, no. And I was like, yeah, he was like, run them. I was like, what? So I was running stairs during practice. They just continued. He forgot about me. Like, every time I got to the top, I was like, I should just turn left, just go, just turn left is left, exit, exit, go back to the door.
And you just kept running.
Kept doing it. Was that the first time you had a coach that had that type of personality and expected the absolute best out of you? Yeah, I think like from all aspects for sure. And I think looking back now, I could have handled my freshman year better. I'm sure there's always things that we can do better, but it's like the way that he kind of helped me throughout my four years, like it was best decision in my life.
And I understand, like, you have to break you down to build you back up, like in some aspects, because some things we learn that are not the best ways to do things for sure. What's one of the things that he broke you down in and then built you back up? Anything specific? I think it's just the working hard aspect. And yeah, I thought I worked hard in high school and I think for a kid I probably worked hard, but it's even more than that.
And it was I was focused on my freshman year and he was focused on beyond me even being in your career. Yeah. Yeah. And just helping prepare me for that. And, you know, now obviously in the WNBA, like I can tell the difference for who went to UConn and who didn't like how that they kind of just handled themselves and take care of themselves.
That's pretty incredible that you can tell that.
I mean, that just takes such like a special person. And obviously he's gotten the results and UConn has the legacy that it does. And it's all attributed to him, obviously, the players that have come through. Yeah. What do you think of UConn dominance? Because it's kind of like UNC Women's Soccer. They talk about, oh, it's a powerhouse. And is that really good for the sport? Because one team's winning the whole time.
What are your thoughts on that? I mean, I think it's like I won, so I don't care.
Yeah, I mean, I won and know it is a thing. It's just tough. Like, I understand you want to have some, like, differences in the sport, but also you can't say that we were making the sport worse, totally. Like we're trying to chase perfection. And you're mad about that. So now all these other teams have won and nobody's complaining. I mean, we still hear the same things about women's sports. And it's kind of just like if we win, you complain.
If we don't complain.
Yeah. I love what you just said, that you were chasing perfection. And I mean, I think that that can never be discounted or looked down upon. That's what you want sports to be. I mean, I think that's why we as athletes, that's what we're all chasing is perfection because it's not attainable. But it's not I don't have a problem with you guys winning all the time. When I was at Stanford, I was like, dang it, we're just I lost Stanford once.
So did you once. One time. That was one of my five. I probably watch the game and was pumped.
So sorry, I'm not a great moment. And I said, listen, you want enough. But was a pressure like at Stanford my senior year we went to the national championship and we were undefeated going into that final and lost. But the pressure of like winning every single game you guys did that, you basically did that almost your whole career. For me, that was one season. And I wanted to not lose it then, yeah. So how you handle it like your college athlete had, what was your mindset?
So I lost four times in my freshman year, so I was very used to losing three of those guys to Notre Dame. But it was hard, I think. So my freshman year, like I said, it was kind of like a fluke. We got lucky and then we played really well at the end of my sophomore year. You'll take it my sophomore year we were undefeated because that was like, oh, we put all the pieces together and we just, like, crushed up.
My junior year we lost Stanford. Could have had a crazy win streak. Yeah, you could still upset about that. Isn't it funny that you can be upset about something like one game midseason that you lost, like it broke a win streak and you've won so many of the things, but still you're sitting here and like, that's the most annoying part right now.
You're sitting there being like, I'm annoyed. Even in this day. At this moment, yeah.
My senior year, you guys would have been a hundred. And something wins in a row if you did lose to Stanford.
I'm still salty, but that was the hardest season because it was like we want to if we don't win the third, we can't win four in a row, do you know what I mean? And it was like my senior year. Nobody was going to, like, stop us, especially in my last year. And it was a lot of pressure and the same like I felt like we lost this one game to Stanford. Like, we can't, like, lose all of our marbles right now because, you know, sometimes we lose our minds if something kind of happens.
But that was pressure the hardest one. I remember after we won, I was emotional and it was hard. And finally I felt a little bit. Yeah, that was after your senior year? No, my junior. Junior. So I was cool. Like, I'm going pro. See you guys. Yeah. Yeah.
So you crush your college career, you leave college, undisputed go and surprising No. One, you're drafted first and this is in twenty sixteen so drafted first overall into the WNBA to Seattle also then that year you win a gold medal in Rio and you are also named Rookie of the Year at the end of the season. So walk me through twenty sixteen. What was the transition like. I mean I feel like you just go from high to high to high.
You know, it was a lot so twenty sixteen. My senior year we won, it was April 5th. The draft was two weeks later probably. And then two weeks after that was when like WNBA training camp started. So it was just kind of a whirlwind in a sense. I remember so much was happening. I was at Indianapolis. That was where our championship was. And I was kind of like, well, what am I going to wear, what to wear?
What am I going to wear to the draft? Yeah, OK.
So like, I don't know, this is you ask yourself what you're going to wear to the draft right after you win.
Yeah. So that was the thing. Obviously getting drafted, coming out to Seattle.
I had to fly back for my graduation because graduations are usually in May and then it was just kind of like I'm learning the ropes in the WNBA.
And then all of a sudden it's like, all right, stop. We have the Olympic break. And I got a call from our head person for USA Basketball, Carol Coulon. And she was like, I wanted to let you know, like, you're one of the twelve.
What was that feeling like? I was, like, speechless. I think just knowing that that was something that I've always wanted to be a part of and now is actually becoming a reality was pretty amazing. And then, yeah, we started with the USA team. We went to Rio, we won. It was crazy.
So you come back from the Olympics and then for people who are listening, they probably don't realize, like what your WNBA season timeline is like, because you guys start in May and you end in October and Olympics is basically right in the middle. So your rookie year, you're going from college straight into the league and then you pause, you go to Rio, you win, and then you have this high of winning Olympic gold medal. But then you have to go back and you still have regular season games.
Yeah. You still have things that you want to accomplish. So how did you handle that? I mean, I was just in a whirlwind. I was just kind of going with wherever I was supposed to go. We took that one month break for the Olympics and then came right back into it. And I made my first year. We were like seventeen and nineteen. We didn't have it figured out, that's for sure.
Mean, we were a little below five hundred, but we made the playoffs, I think.
Pretty sure the playoffs. But we lost, so how did you because you just come from college winning everything, you're playing on a club team that, like you said, doesn't have everything figured out, then you go play with Team USA in Rio, you win an Olympic gold medal. So how are you handling the juxtaposition of winning all the time, winning with Team USA, but then, like, grinding it out in the league? I wasn't handling it very well.
Okay, so my first game was in L.A. at Staples Against the Sparks and I was like, oh, first game, whatever. Great that we get smoked by like 20 smoked.
Were you nervous? Probably a little, yeah. You're just more pissed that your guys got smoked.
We got smoked. And then I was like mad. Like I was in a locker room and I was mad because it's like, OK, I lost. I should be mad. And the WTA season is so quick that it's I can't really think about the game for very long because it's like we have another one coming up. I think we went back to Seattle and we had another game shortly after. So it's like I was mad at my teammates were like, all right, where are we going to go eat?
Was that the first time that you would experience like that professional mindset of like the game that we just played is over with.
We got another one in a couple of days, like sit in, sulk about it forever, whereas you can sometimes say, I want you to feel that for a while. Yeah, for sure. I can understand that because I haven't played on sometimes some of the best club teams. So it's always interesting when you're like having to try to figure out. It just seems like you're like a winner. You win and then dealing with not winning, like it's just like you have to almost practice it, but you don't want to be good at it because you don't want to be losing.
It humbles you real quick, that's for sure. I was like, OK, yeah. So obviously the first season doesn't end up the way you want it to, but you still win Rookie of the year, which is incredible. And then you go overseas. So can you talk a little bit about playing abroad? You've played two seasons in China and two in Russia, but a lot of people probably don't understand that. A lot of you guys go play abroad.
Give me some insight onto that, like why you do it, what it's like.
So for the WNBA, for professional basketball players, it's a normal for us to kind of go into the WNBA season because it's those dates you set May to October. And then from there we go overseas from October until almost May. And it's just like a never ending cycle of being overseas. So my first two years, I was in Shanghai, China, which was amazing. Definitely a cool place to be. First place in China for sure. And then my last two, I was in Russia.
But it's kind of like if you're young, you have to go and you have to at least, like, try it. And if you don't like it, then you stop going and hopefully find another source of income. Why do you have to go when you're younger?
I mean, the money's there. You just kind of believe in the money on the table.
Can you talk a bit about that, how competition works, WNBA and then playing overseas?
Yeah. So I'm about to enter my fifth year in the league. So my first four years I was on my rookie contract and this is before our CBA collective bargaining agreement that we just finished last fall kind of came about. And the rookie deals are super low. I mean, not super low, but like super low. And in terms of what you think compared to, like an NBA player. Absolutely. And it's like fifty thousand. And then you take away the taxes of all and all that.
And it's like, well, it's not a lot. I'm not a lot.
And it's just kind of like overseas where the money is is better and where there's going to be a lot more and offers. And also they know people by who they are. But also you have to kind of continue to prove yourself and new territories. It'll be interesting to see what happens this year as far as overseas because the economy is kind of messed up in a lot of different ways. But if you want to play, like for me, I want to play basketball, so I'm going to go play wherever I can play.
And that's the easy decision. Yeah. So really, the overseas decision is like it's money and then it's also the ability to be getting in games year round because that's similar to us where the end of bissel only goes. Well, it's changed from year to year, but like March through sometimes October. And then we have a league over in Australia and people will go playing that for the remainder of the year to fill those months, especially if they're not getting called internation camps and stuff like that just gives you the ability to get games.
And I don't think people realize how important it is to have consistent. Playing environment, not just like training for games now it's hard it's hard to, like, not play and then play. I mean, it's gonna be hard for you guys to not play and then play and then the same with us. Like it's going to be rough. Yeah, for sure.
Like, hello, we're back.
Like hamstrings are on.
Clients are learning exactly what is the emotional mental piece of going overseas like China and Russia are very different cultures from America. You're pretty young when you first went over there. How did you handle that in that aspect of life?
Yeah, so, I mean, I've been overseas before with USA Basketball, but nothing where it's been like a long stint like that. I was young and I was excited. I was like, oh, I'm going to go to China and this will be great. But China is different compared to Russia because you can only have one foreigner on each team. So it's me and eleven other Chinese players. And it's just like, did you learn some Chinese phrases?
OK, listen, this a little while ago.
So I'm focused on Russia now. But yeah, it's tough and there's no way to really prepare for it.
Like, I brought over my snacks and I brought over my this and that. And I mean, I was in a hotel room for five months. That's Thailand's Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn and China. Nice. They are nice over there. Did you order room service every day? That's service experience.
I was near a Starbucks, so that was great.
But you're resigned to go back over this coming year to Russia? Yeah. Yeah. So you think that you'll continue to play over there, even though, like you said, you guys signed a new CBA collective bargaining agreement this past January that has improved a lot of the issues, compensation. But you think that you'll continue to go for the foreseeable future? I think every year you'll go, yeah.
I mean, I think I'll go for as long as I can. I mean, as long as I can, like, kind of hold up. So my first year in Russia, we were in the league championship and I ruptured my Achilles. So I was going to ask you about that, put me out for a little bit and not being able to play soft. So now any opportunity I have to play, I want to kind of do that and be a part of it and still like the money is better in the WNBA.
And listen, we've come a long way, but still, I can't turn down the offers from overseas. Make sense.
Get what you can while you can. How did you handle Achilles injury? Was that the first time you had a major one? Yeah, that was my first major one. It was a crazy experience.
We were in the championship twenty seconds before halftime. I go up to shoot and on my way up like something happened to my leg. So it ruptures on the way up, which is weird anyway, so they say and I remember I was on the ground and I was like, I thing I just ruptured my colleagues. And I was like I was thinking in my head, I was like, oh, I hope I broke my ankle because I'm like, oh, instead of repairing your Achilles.
Yeah, I'm like, maybe that's two months or something. And then I'll be back. But it was the weirdest feeling. So I stood up and I imagine this is my foot. I could only feel the heel like I kind of feel anything else.
Like I don't like talking about this, but I oh you don't want to see my scar like oh my gosh.
But yeah, it was I mean, I was in shock. I'm hungry. So we went to the hospital. No MRI, they did an ultrasound, they're like, we can't find your Achilles. I'm like, cool, like, where's the bottom?
That's how I was like, when appropriate question. I appreciate that.
They shot a blood thinner in my stomach. And the next night I flew direct Viena to L.A..
Wow. I can't believe you flew all the way like halfway. I mean you had to fly halfway around the world with a ruptured Achilles, get back to America.
So get it fixed up and then you're on the road to recovery. How is the mental, physical, emotional process of rehab. It was a roller coaster and I think that was the best way to put it. The people that I rehabbed with, John Mayer, and he was like, listen, this is going to be a roller coaster of a journey. And that's exactly what it was. Some days I was just like, I don't know. I don't know if I'm gonna be able to do this.
And then it's like you don't know if you're going to be able to be back, be able to play. Where I was playing. It was just nuts. I mean, I couldn't walk until July and I got hurt in April and it was my right side, so I couldn't drive. That is the worst part. I had full ankle reconstruction when I lived in Brooklyn, New York, and it was my right foot. I did my rehab on the Upper East Side and I would have to krutch to the bus, to the subway, to a bus, and then crutched to the rehab center.
So that's intense. Yeah. So right when you got back to L.A., you had a text from Kobe. How was he through that process with you? So when I landed on that flight from Vienna, Kobe's text was the first one I saw. And to have him kind of be there and just be in support of me right away, like right from the jump, knowing that someone like him went through the process, I was set up to meet all the same doctors that he used.
He was just there for support. He was a sound board and he would check in with me throughout my journey. And it was tough hearing. He passed over actually with Team USA. I was going to play my first game back that next day after we found out the news. And it's just I mean, I still can't believe it. Like someone like that. Like, obviously he was a legend, but he's also like an icon, you know, like everybody knows who Kobe is and what he's done and what he was doing for women's sports, especially being an advocate for women's basketball.
It's just tough. You know, sometimes like life can't figure out why life works the way it does, but definitely going to continue to do what we can in his honor and and judges honor and all the other victims. And I mean, it's it's terrible. It's terrible. But it's a thousand times worse when when kids are involved. Yeah. Sometimes there's no words, but you get back.
No. You play your first game back from injury with that weight on you. And you're also playing at UConn. How did you feel like stepping out on the court and just being back like that first game back is always just there's nerves, there's excitement, there's questions.
I mean, I was expecting it to be an emotional day coming back and like, thinking about this before even realizing or learning about Kobe's death. So it was definitely even more emotional. Obviously, we were honoring Kobe and all of the victims and families before the game. And then, you know, it was having to, like, flip that switch and be like, OK, we're going to play, but we're going to play for them, you know, like Kobe would want us to play and like saying that, like, you know, everybody says that.
But that's actually how it would have been. You know, they would have wanted us to play that game and coming back from injury. I mean, I was and it was a blur. You know, when you come back from the first game, it's kind of like my head is spinning. I don't know what I'm doing. I'm like, OK, I just run up and down, totally run up and down court. I made my first shot, which was great, but I should have known that if I made the first one, I was going to miss all the rest.
You didn't make one other show ball game. Oh, no. All right.
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All right, well, not to back up a bit, but so you've been abroad every season, but you in your first season of WNBA, not so great when Rookie of the year, second season goes OK, well, second season, you're an all star, which is sweet. And then third year, your all star, your league MVP and you win your first WNBA title. What for one, what did your team do? Like how did you guys get there and what changes did you make when you turned pro?
Yeah. So I think the first year was obviously rough. The second year was getting better, but we still had like a terrible record. And then the third year it was kind of the year that we put all the pieces together and we're able to kind of come together as a team. For me, going from my second to my third year, like I remember, like putting an emphasis on like whatever I'm doing obviously isn't good enough and like going to be better and continue to take care of my body more.
And it's more than just I that's more than just being on the basketball court. You know, it's the things you do off the court. It's, you know, what I'm putting into my body. Yeah. I was like, all right, I'm all and now I'm all in and like just having the mindset that that year I was going to continue to get better. Like, I knew. I mean, like, you know, you have your goals going into things.
And I knew I wanted to have like an MVP season. To have that, you need to make sure your team is doing well as well. I think that year, my third year, we actually lost our first game.
Really, I think I feel like there's a study behind teams that lose their first game of the season and then end up winning the championship. I feel like that's the thing. Yeah, like lost our first game and almost lost our minds, but then we're able to kind of figure it out. And then just by the end, we were like clicking like no other. But our team plays really well together and really kind of has a great chemistry. And it's fun.
It's fun being here in Seattle and playing in front of great fans and stuff like that. What was that like? Just achieving everything that you set out to accomplish. I think it was just, you know, everything that I was working for. And we talked about the mental aspect of things, but like mentally knowing what I wanted to do and not messing around with it. And I think that to be able to kind of see that come to fruition, it was great.
And let me taste a little bit of the success at the WNBA level. And it was something that I want to feel more, you know, I want it to happen more than once and continuing to just be at that high level and bring you back as many times as I can.
Do you think that the fact that you went into the season with very clear goals, do you think that was part of the reason you were able to be successful because you set those ahead of time? Yeah, I think for me and I think, you know, I'm a person that I like to my goals and I like to try to achieve them. And I hold myself accountable. You know, I do the things that sometimes I don't want to do, but I know that I still have to do them.
And if I don't if I don't work, I feel like shit. You know, it's like now now I've ruined it. Now I've lost it all. It's all over.
But it's holding ourselves to high standards because we want to be more than what we are totally chasing perfection right there.
Would you say that you want to be in Seattle forever, like what you want to do your whole career there?
But yeah, I mean, I like it here. I've been kind of welcomed with open arms here and we have more to do. You know, it's going to be interesting. Yeah, makes sense. Well, I want to talk a little bit about off the court stuff and just advocacy work that you've done and in the past couple of years, you've really put yourself out there, which I respect a lot. You wrote an incredibly powerful piece for the Players Tribune describing your own experience with sexual abuse.
And you've been a very outspoken supporter for the Metoo movement. Talks to me about that. Like, do you feel like you've always been outspoken? Was there a time when you were like, no, I want to like this is something I want to talk about? What was your process there? Yeah, I think, you know, when I kind of graduated from college and realize now it's just me and like, I'm taking care of myself and that's everything, you know, I'm an honest person, I think, for the most part.
But I want to I want to be genuine as well. I want you to know how I'm feeling. And the meta article wasn't the easiest thing for me to kind of put out there. And I was in China when it happened, but it was kind of like, you know, how can I use my story and my experience to help someone else, you know, to help potentially save someone's life or save them from kind of going down the wrong path and that type of thing.
And it was tough because it just brings back memories and that's everything. But it needed to be done. And I didn't do it for me, but just to help the other people. And I think even now, you know. We have these platforms, we have these big giant platforms because of, you know, where we got ourselves within our sports, and it's kind of a disservice if you don't use your platform to really speak up for what people deserve.
And I mean, you know, it's happening it's happening right now with everything happening in the world. I know you made headlines speaking out about the killing of Jorge Floyd and being at protests. And why do you think as athletes we drive some of the most important conversations in America? I think it's just because we have a lot of eyes on us. Everybody knows that. And at the same time, we're also people we're also going to some of these things that other people are going through.
And right now, obviously, the racism that's still happening in our country is actually insane. And it's just continuing to kind of educate ourselves and learn how we can be better and, you know, help this country be better. Because in the end, like I talked about when I was younger, we were younger, we represented Team USA and the best thing ever. But it's like sometimes like we want to represent a country that treats everyone equally. And, yeah, we're the best country in the world.
But it doesn't mean we can't get better.
We have a lot of work to do. So definitely, yeah, I feel like as athletes we encounter and we work with and we're teammates with people from all different backgrounds and lifestyles, color, gender, sexuality. And I think that we have this space where I think people feel safe and good. But then you realize that that's not the case everywhere in your life. But it should be and it needs to be. And how do we create what we have like something special here within a team environment throughout the country?
Because it's unacceptable.
Like I saw one of the NFL guys talking about, like, you know, in a locker room. It's probably the most diverse atmosphere that we're in. And I think for all of our sports, everybody's different. Everybody has their own thing. And we just accept that. And I think it's also a generational thing. Like I think we're the ones that are the most accepting of whatever anybody wants to be, you know, and how do we make the rest of the world kind of see the way that we see things like.
Yeah, no, I think that's spot on. And the one thing that encourages me is that, like, we are the future, like we're creating it right now. And I'm hopeful for what is going to come in the future because of the conversations and the things that are happening now.
Yeah, it's definitely inspiring to see. Like, don't get me wrong, I was sad. I was exhausted and it's like I'm not black, you know, so I can't even relate to, like, how the black community is feeling. But it's like it's all those emotions. But it's also inspiring the way that everyone is coming together so quickly. Yeah, absolutely. I agree. But thank you for being a voice and for with everything that you're doing, you're a partner, official partner with the Rain Organization, which create and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline.
Like, those sorts of things are just so important in that there are people out there that I know have benefited from you speaking up and I've a lot of respect for you.
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Just to wrap things up a little bit before we end. You've already established yourself as a household name in a league that is very hard to break into. How do you think you've been able to do that? Why? What's the secret sauce for Stewy?
Secret sauce? I think my secret sauce is just the fact that, you know, I came in as a sponge, but also knowing who I am and what I can do and being confident in that and also just continuing to grow and really working for that. I think sometimes people come to the pro level and don't always work as hard as they should. And, you know, I want to do more than just be here. You know, I want to win and be successful.
Do you feel like your mental game is part of it? Yes, I think like now I'm like the mental side of things is like 90 percent total.
I agree. It's so important. The fact that you've learned that so young is like 10 years from now. I'm going to look at your career just like, oh, my God, and you're still going to be playing. And the amount that you're going to accomplish is just mind boggling. And I'm jealous, but also very proud.
So is the end of the podcast.
They say work hard, get lucky. How much of your success is luck and how much has been hard work?
I'm like ninety five percent of my success has been hard work for sure. I mean, I'm lucky that I'm six four and my arms are super long, but that's not the end all be all.
Love it. Good answer you.
This is an understatement. You've accomplished so much already. Where do you want to go next and how do you keep pushing?
I want to just continue to kind of see how good I can be, become the best player I can be in my sport and help as many people as I can outside of my sport. I love it.
Stewie, this has been amazing.
Thank you so much for your time for just being open and candid and for everything that you're doing on the court, pushing this sport forward and off the court and creating a world that we live in.
So thank you for sure. Thanks for having me. Thanks so much for listening to the show this week. You can subscribe wherever you get your podcast. And also don't forget to sign up for the Just Women's Sports newsletter. It's everything you need to see and know in women's sports delivered straight to your inbox. And while you're at it, it also throws a ball on social. It's just women's sports. Our show is co-produced by just Women, Sports and, um, integrated a division of John Marshall Media.
Big thanks to our executive producers, Hayley Rose Rosen, Adrian Glover and Robin Lynn, Jawn Murray and Sydney Sharda. Research Postproduction is by Jen Grossmith and Cut-throat. Special thanks to Jesse Louis, Sarah Storm and Hoffmeyer. I'm Kelly O'Hara and you've been listening to the Gentleman Sports Podcast. See you next week.