How Far Can Becky Hammon Go in the N.B.A.? | The New Yorker – The New Yorker

It was August, 2012, and Becky Hammon, the point guard of the Silver Stars, San Antonio’s franchise in the W.N.B.A., was on her way home from the London Olympics. While waiting to board a connecting flight in Atlanta, she spotted the craggy face of Gregg Popovich, the head coach of the N.B.A.’s San Antonio Spurs. Popovich is widely considered one of the greatest coaches of all time, and is known for a capacity to inspire selfless team play even among players of colossal ego. One of his many fans, Barack Obama, has said that if he were a free agent in the N.B.A. he’d sign with Popovich. Hammon was far less famous, but Popovich was an admirer, and he recognized her, too. He had been watching her play since 2007, the year before she led the Silver Stars to the W.N.B.A. Finals. From time to time during the next few seasons, Popovich would call or text Dan Hughes, the Silver Stars’ coach, with comments about her performance.

Though only five feet six, Hammon was a commanding presence on the court: gum-snapping, energetic, her quick cuts and jab steps to the basket punctuated by a swishing ponytail. She could slip through a narrow space between two defenders and drive to the hoop, scooping a shot that would skim the rim and slide through the net. Like Magic Johnson, she flipped no-look passes over her shoulder, and, like Stephen Curry, she hit shots from half-court. But Popovich was most struck by her prowess as a court general: she had an uncanny ability to direct her teammates around the floor. “I’d watch the game, and the only thing I could see—it’s an exaggeration, I mean, but—was Becky’s aura, her leadership, her effect on teammates, her effect on the crowd, the way she

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