San Antonio has had a WNBA franchise for well over a decade, since the Utah Starzz were purchased by the Spurs and moved to San Antonio, becoming the Silver Stars, and giving the city a second professional basketball franchise.
But the Stars needed something special to really compete with other local entertainment options and truly make the Alamo City home.
That something special was Becky Hammon, who was acquired by the Stars in a 2007 draft day trade that would give the team their first true franchise player.
Anyone who knew anything about women’s basketball knew who Hammon was from her days slinging pinpoint passes around, knocking down three-pointers and her dazzling finishes in the paint for the New York Liberty.
Aside from having a cornerstone player, and someone to build off of, the Stars had the face of the franchise, and it didn’t take her long to get the city behind her as game attendance and ticket sales rose.
I’ve always been a basketball fan, although that statement isn’t quite accurate. In actuality, I had always been a men’s basketball fan. Not that I didn’t like the women’s game, but I just wasn’t exposed to it as much, nor did I go out of my way to attend women’s basketball games.
That all changed when Becky Hammon came to town. I had seen her in the early days of the WNBA, and enjoyed the way she played the game. I’ve always been a bit of a basketball purist, and have never believed that highlight-reel dunks were needed for the game to be entertaining. My thought has always been that if you truly loved basketball, you could watch it and enjoy it at all levels, and whether the players were male or female was irrelevant.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good alley-oop like the next guy or gal, but that’s just one part of a multi-faceted game. I have no problem admitting that having a big name player joining the Stars piqued my interest a lot more than it had previously. I was hooked by watching some games of the new look Silver Stars on TV, and had to get there in person. I was able to talk two of my brothers into going to a game with me. It was a playoff game at that, and my brother coached girls basketball teams so he wasn’t a hard sell, and my other brother has always loved watching sports live, so off we went. All three of us loved it. My jaw dropped about as many times that night as it has when I see athletes who make millions of dollars play at the top of their respective games. Here was Becky Hammon, the shortest player on the floor, knifing through defenses and somehow putting enough english on the basketball to toss in some of the prettiest layups I’ve seen, all the while being way under the basket and surrounded by towering defenders. I learned that night that while Hammon didn’t play above the rim, she played above just about everyone and everything else.
She was a natural born leader, making the game look fun and effortless. And while I was impressed with many players that night, Hammon is what kept me coming back.
I ended up eventually talking to a Stars ticket rep, who pitched the idea of becoming a season ticket holder to me. While I’m from San Antonio, I don’t live there and having a full-time job and being an hour away meant I knew most week days would be pretty much impossible. Also, while being a season ticket holder for the Stars was easier on the wallet than being a Spurs season ticket holder, it was still a considerable investment. But I was hooked on the game and the team, and when the rep told me about partial season tickets, I was sold, so I bought two partial season tickets and was ready for the season.
That next season was so much fun, but I noticed aside from trying to convert narrow-minded fans about the awesomeness that was the WNBA and the Stars, I didn’t really have anywhere to talk about the team.
I had started Project Spurs years before this, and had always thought about expanding, so I was able to expand and create a platform where I could share my thoughts on the team, and my favorite player of course. So I started the first iteration of this site, Silver Stars Central, with Samantha Garcia helping me write and even record a podcast. Silver Stars Central stayed active for about two seasons, but Samantha was in college and my schedule outside of work was getting busier and busier. Interestingly enough, when I re-launched the site as Stars Hoops with Stephen Anderson as the associate editor, I found out he and Samantha were related.
While running a network of nine sites means I don’t get to spend much time focused on just one of the sites or just focused on writing, I was able to cover Hammon’s last season, and I still enjoy watching the team as much as I did back then.
While many players came before Becky, and even as the team transitions into a new era, I will always think of the Stars as the team that Becky changed, that team that she made relevant, and the team that hooked me as a lifelong fan.
But I owe so much more to Becky Hammon than being the inspiration behind starting the first expansion site of a new network, I owe her for opening my eyes, which allowed me to open the eyes of others through my writing.
Having her jersey lifted to the rafters along with some of the greats is only fitting Just as the NBA sidelines have always been dominated by male coaches and she changed that, it’ll be nice walking into the AT&T Center for years to come and seeing that Hammon jersey next to the likes of Robinson’s, Elliott’s, Gervin’s and others.