This column introduces new MSR sports columnist Sheri Crockett, who promises to bring a new dimension of excitement to the best Black sports-writing team in America.
Has anyone ever wondered what it would be like to be involved in a sport on the professional level? I always wanted to know what it would be like to play professional basketball. In May of 1999, I got my chance when the Minnesota Lynx had an open tryout.
Basically, an open tryout is for anyone who can play or thinks they can play basketball. You pay a tryout fee (typically $100-$150), show up at the gym and get your hoop on! As a single mom of three young kids, I thought to myself, wow, maybe I can.
So with some hard work in the gym and getting down to my college weight for playing…I did just that. I knew in the back of my mind I wouldn’t make it; you know, after age 30 your body and basketball do not mix sometimes. But boy, the memories I have from that experience are priceless.
Again, in 2002, I got a chance to participate in a women’s professional basketball combine. It was in Portland, Oregon. I found out about this one while I was visiting my cousin there, whose son at that time played for the Portland Trail Blazers.
This one had WNBA/overseas coaches there. This was more the real deal than anything! With only a week to halfway get in shape, I showed up — along with 160 other women from all over, including overseas.
This was by far the most intense three days of basketball I had ever encountered, but I have the best memories from this one. Meeting and talking to Michael Cooper was the most enlightening and memorable experience of them all. I thought after talking with him that maybe I could coach at this level.
That proved harder than expected; no professional team is looking for a coach who has no college coaching experience, let alone only a few years of high school coaching. So I resumed my duties of playing in the YWCA women’s league and watching the WNBA on television.
Something is still missing, I thought. So I began officiating.
Officiating is not made for the faint at heart. You will get yelled at, you will be called all kinds of names, but at the end of the day, if at least one coach says “good job,” it is all worth it. Now here I am, still playing and now officiating.
I still continued to coach a team, and it didn’t matter if it was boys or girls, but somehow…a void still lingered. I missed the professional level. The level at which no one really argued a foul call and no one on the floor was trying to hurt you. Where you could watch the game and really enjoy it, or for that matter talk to someone about the game.
That’s it! Talk to someone! I started to wonder could I announce a game or interview players. I have so much knowledge about the game that I felt like I was the next ESPN analyst.
A year ago the dream came true when I was given the chance to do a radio spot on KMOJ, our Minneapolis Black radio station. I realized at that point that I had filled the void. The excitement to cover the Minnesota Lynx, a team I had tried out for in 1999, is more than anyone can imagine.
To sit on press row, to be able to interview players and get their emotion, to listen to coach talk about strategies — now that is the ultimate! To finally talk basketball with others who are knowledgeable about the game…more than this basketball junkie could ever wish for.
Now I have this new venture in my life to write about basketball and to let others feel the passion that I have for the sport through my words. I hope that when you read what I write you will feel it. I hope that in some way it gives you knowledge and insight that you didn’t have before. I hope that it becomes thought-provoking enough to make you ask questions.
Am I living the dream? I am, and it’s not through playing the game, but through writing about the game. Stayed tuned…this is only the beginning.
Sheri Crockett welcomes reader responses to [email protected]