15 for 15
The first player to win WNBA titles with two teams
By Lois Elfman #40
There are only six players in the history of the WNBA who have won titles with two different teams. The first one to do it was Olympia Scott (1), who earned her first championship ring with the Sacramento Monarchs in 2005 and her second with the Phoenix Mercury in 2007.
Scott, a power forward, was a first-round pick in the 1998 WNBA Draft. She had been a four-year starter at Stanford University, (2) where she was also team captain. The Cardinal made three Final Four appearances during her time there.
A starter with the Indiana Fever in 2001 and '02, Scott spent much of her 10 seasons in the WNBA as a reserve. (3)
"I've always believed that a team is only as good as its role players," says Scott, 35, who still plays professionally overseas. (4) "As important as it is to have those superstars and those go-to players, you also need role players who firstly understand their role and embrace it, but also understand the importance of adding to the team and not taking away from it because they're not the star player or maybe their role isn't what they envisioned it to be.
"Playing on the pro level, we were all stars at one point," she continues. "I understand what it feels like to be in that role where you're playing a lot of minutes. I've played all roles on a team. I've been the rookie. I've been the veteran. I've been the starter. I've been the reserve. I've been the person coming back from injury. I've been the new mom. (5) I've been the newly traded player."
What she brought to the Monarchs in 2005 and the Mercury in 2007 was a sense of responsibility to energize the bench, which she felt in turn energized the players on the court.
"A lot of times we don't realize how much our energy is contagious," Scott says. "I felt it was my responsibility to make sure that the bench and the role players gave energy to the players who played a lot of minutes. In order for us to be successful, we all needed to have this winning energy—not just the players who were playing the minutes."
During her one season in Sacramento, Scott was touched by the intensity of Monarchs fans. The city as a whole was kind of quiet, but she found the mood in the team's home arena as loud and electric as New York. The support she witnessed even at community events fed her enthusiasm for the team. (6)
"It really was a meaningful championship," Scott says. (7) "It was tears, but I was just so happy that we won. I really felt like everyone genuinely felt, 'We did it!'"
The dynamic was different in Phoenix, but the role players were still crucial. Focus was on All-Stars Diana Taurasi, Cappie Pondexter and Penny Taylor, but the reserves willingly did the dirty work. It was Taurasi's fourth season in the league, and she was hungry to equal the success she'd had in college.
"I had to learn a new leadership style, which was to lead from behind, to allow others to lead the charge physically, but to still help instill in them the mindset, the approach, the right attitude," Scott says. "Keeping the bench into it."
Coach Paul Westhead (8) had a set rotation, and rarely went deeper than seven players.
"It was easier for the bench players to get down in that type of system, so it was more important for the bench to energize, especially because you're talking about starters who were playing 35 to 40 minutes a game," she notes. "There were times the bench was cheering and really trying to energize them."
Scott is still holding onto hope to be the first player to win three titles with three different teams, and says she's in top condition. She's also ready to bring that behind-the-scenes jolt of energy that is often underestimated.
"I'll play until the wheels fall off," she says. "I'm passionate about basketball."
Scott is also busy developing businesses away from basketball. She and her mother, Dr. Jacqueline D. Scott, have developed a company called Super Parenting: Raising the Next Generation (http://superparenting.com). Super stands for Sensitive Understanding Positive Effective and Responsible. You can also read about Scott on her personal Web site, http://olympiahoops.com.
(1) The others prior to the 2011 WNBA season were Kelly Schumacher, Swin Cash and Le'coe Willingham. They are now joined by Taj McWilliams-Franklin and Rebekkah Brunson.
(2) Her grandmother's younger brother, the late Dr. Sebron Edward Tucker, was the first African-American student-athlete at Stanford.
(3) Olympia Scott played on six teams: Utah Starzz, Detroit Shock, Indiana Fever, Charlotte Sting, Sacramento Monarchs and Phoenix Mercury.
(4) She recently returned from a season in Turkey.
(5) Daughter BreAzia is 12.
(6) The Monarchs disbanded after the 2009 season.
(7) The coach who led the Monarchs to the 2005 title, John Whisenant, became head coach of the New York Liberty this season.
(8) Paul Westhead left the Phoenix Mercury after the 2007 season to take a job with the NBA's Seattle SuperSonics, but returned to women's basketball in 2009 when he became head coach at the University of Oregon.