By M. Goncalves
In 1999, Becky Hammon went undrafted after spending all four of her years at Colorado State. Even though she was a three-time All-American and set the all-time Western Athletic Conference scoring record for men and women, no team thought Hammon would be a contributor for their team. After persevering and continuing to pursue her basketball dream, Hammon was signed by the New York Liberty. During her rookie season, Hammon struggled, with only 6.7 minutes per game she averaged a mere 2.7 points per contest. The following season she started playing around 20 more minutes per game and her averages increased drastically, she averaged 8.3 more points, 1.2 more assists and 1.4 more rebounds than she did the previous season. Hammon, played point guard for the Liberty for 8 seasons, and went on to average nearly 15 points per game during two seasons, and earned 3 all-star appearances. During the offseason, before the 2007 season, Hammon signed with the San Antonio Stars, and was named an all-star three more times. In 2009, Hammon had her best season, she averaged 19.5 points, 5.0 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game. She eventually retired in 2014 at the age of 37 averaging 13.0 points per game throughout her career, and played over 450 games all together, but never won a championship.
Even though she retired from playing, Hammon wasn’t done with basketball just yet. During the 2014 offseason, Hammon was hired as an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs: the NBA affiliate of the Stars. Her signing with the Spurs caused her to accomplish a major and historic milestone; the first woman to ever be an assistant coach in the NBA. To this day, Hammon is one of only six female assistant coaches in the NBA. In 2015, Hammon coached the Spurs’ summer league team and continued to make history, not only was she the first head coach of an NBA summer league team, but she also led the team to the championship. As she remains with the Spurs, Hammon has the unique privilege of working with one of, if not the greatest coach of all time, Gregg Popovich. In his coaching career, coach “Pop” has won 5 championship rings and led his team past greats like Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, among others.
On December 30th, 2020, only 4 games into the current season, Popovich was ejected with under 4 minutes left in the second quarter, after yelling at the referee Tony Brown, following a non-call on all-star forward DeMar DeRozan. With over half of the game yet to be played, Hammon continued to create a path for women in a male-dominated industry, before Popovich was sent off, he asked Hammon to take over his position, thus making her the first woman to ever coach an NBA game. Although she made history, Hammon was unable to finish this legendary night with a win, the Spurs lost 121-107 to the Los Angeles Lakers, despite 29 points from Dejounte Murray.
Hopefully, Hammon is the first of many to come, as the league is ever more equal when it comes to gender, for instance the NBA now has an all-time high of five female referees. At the young age of 44, Hammon has many more years left in the NBA and as Popovich’s retirement comes closer every season, she could become the first ever full time NBA head coach. Becky Hammon is a role model to women across the globe who dream of pursuing a basketball career and all of her unforgettable accomplishments set a path for any other women who desire to follow in her footsteps.