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Hammon says she has a lot to say at Hall of Fame enshrinement

Updated August 12, 2023 - 4:03 pm

Becky Hammon has writer’s block. The Aces coach says it’s not something that plagues her often.

She certainly doesn’t have a fear of public speaking. Hammon regularly makes speeches at various organizations during the offseason. She spent the part of the past year appearing on ESPN to opine about the NBA, not to mention her regular media duties for the Aces.

However, putting together a speech for her enshrinement in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is proving to be a challenge for Hammon, though she promises she’ll have something ready when Saturday finally rolls around.

“It’s only going to be a five- or six-minute speech,” Hammon said earlier this week, “but it’s going to be hard to articulate what the game’s meant to me.”

Hammon will be enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2023 at Symphony Hall in Springfield, Massachusetts. She will be presented by WNBA legend Sheryl Swoopes and former teammate Teresa Weatherspoon.

Her longtime mentor Gregg Popovich and former San Antonio Spurs Tony Parker and Pau Gasol are also among the individuals who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame.

“It’s super dope just to see how much she’s just changed the game as a player and as a coach,” reigning MVP A’ja Wilson said. “It’s huge. We’re excited to hear her speech. We’re excited just to cheer her on as always. It’s right in the middle between two games so she’s probably going to be all over the place.

“It’s a huge honor for her. She’s given so much to this game.”

Hammon’s enshrinement honors a 16-year basketball career split evenly between the New York Liberty and the San Antonio Stars, the previous iteration of the Aces. She was a six-time All-Star, a four-time All-WNBA honoree and was named to the league’s 15-, 20- and 25-year anniversary teams.

In 2008, Hammon led the Stars, then called the San Antonio Silver Stars, to their first WNBA Finals appearance, though the team ultimately lost to the Detroit Shock. Her No. 25 remains the only retired number in the organization’s history.

Yet Hammon’s basketball journey goes back much further. An unheralded recruit from Rapid City, S.D., she rose to become an All-American guard at Colorado State, thanks in part to the encouragement of assistant Kari Gallegos-Doering. Hammon then fought her way to superstar status in the WNBA despite going undrafted.

“When you get told no so many times, you actually just start ignoring it,” she said. “Like alright, here’s the door that’s closed. I’m looking for a window and I’m coming through that (expletive).”

One person who opened a door for Hammon was Popovich.

The Spurs coach made her the first woman in NBA history to become a full-time assistant in 2014 and kept her on his coaching staff until she took the Aces job ahead of the 2022 season.

Hammon said she’s “forever indebted to the man” and called Popovich a mentor and friend who invested in her talent and gave her an opportunity.

While her speech still isn’t written, Hammon hopes it will speak to basketball-crazed kids around the country.

She wants to express how determination and love for the game can take anyone — including a 5-foot-6-inch girl from South Dakota who shot baskets with her father and brother in the front yard and obsessively watched “Michael Jordan: Come Fly With Me” on VHS — to Springfield.

“I played basketball,” Hammon said, “because I loved it.”

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ANYamashita on X.

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