In the past 10 days, current and former WNBA players have acted as a head coach in an NBA game, helped a Black candidate win a Senate seat in Georgia over WNBA team owner Kelly Loeffler, and flipped the U.S. Senate in the process.
When the Atlanta Dream players chose to support Georgia senate candidate Raphael Warnock, he was polling at 9%. He defeated Loeffler, a co-owner of the Dream, with 50.8% of the runoff voting total on Tuesday.
The women of the WNBA proved — once again — they are a powerful force. Now one of them is poised to make a different kind of history.
This weekend, former WNBA star Becky Hammon will coach at Target Center as an assistant for the San Antonio Spurs. On Dec. 30, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was ejected from a game. He turned to Hammon, pointed and said, "You got it."
Hammon coached the rest of that game, becoming the first woman to act as a head coach in the NBA.
In Minnesota, another former WNBA point guard found herself nodding in approval.
"Me and Becky go way back," said Lindsay Whalen, the Lynx star now coaching the Gophers women's basketball team.
Hammon making headlines revived this memory for me: A handful of years ago, Hammon and the San Antonio Silver Spurs played the Lynx at Target Center, and I watched Whalen and Hammon compete against each other with a ferocity that suggested hatred.
I've never seen two men compete so hard without staring each other down, trash-talking or throwing a punch. After the game, I asked Whalen what was behind the physical play and she said, "Nothing. Just competing."
This week, Whalen remembered meeting Hammon when Whalen was a rookie for Connecticut and Hammon was playing for New York.
"We go back to the Eastern Conference when I played my first season," Whalen said. "We beat New York, 2-0, in the playoffs and it was the start of a good rivalry.
"We'd play them four times a season and even scrimmage them because they were so close. I just remember that you had to bring it against her or she was going to make you look silly. She was so good — one of the best pure jump shots ever, able to get to the rim and direct her team at all times.
"She was always a really smart player. That's why she's in the NBA. She was somebody I looked up to, somebody I wanted to prove I could compete against, along the same lines as Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi, because they were the best of the best."
Hammon was a four-time all-WNBA selection. Popovich hired her in 2014 and she became the first woman to become a full-time assistant coach in NBA history.
Hammon and Lynx coach and general manager Cheryl Reeve would be the logical choices to become the first woman head coach in the NBA.
"I think there's no question that Cheryl could do it," Whalen said. "Whether she wants to or not, I'm not sure. I've never really talked to her about that subject, but there's no question that she could run an NBA team. The X's and O's, the intensity, the swag that it takes, she has all of that, and she knows the game so well — motivation, how to organize a system and structure for a team."
Hammon may be better positioned to be the first. Popovich is about to turn 72 and said, "I assumed that most people already knew that she was qualified to be a head coach in the NBA."
Reeve agreed, adding that the NBA would benefit from hiring more women. "The diversity of thought is so powerful," Reeve said. "The big leap is to that top position, and when it happens you'll see that copycat business where more will follow.
"Becky is well-positioned, extremely qualified and probably would get the first opportunity. We're going to get there. I think next season you're going to see Becky Hammon being the head coach of an NBA team."
Jim Souhan's podcast can be heard at TalkNorth.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. • email@example.com