After gold medals at the World Championship in 1998 and 2002, Olympic gold in 2000, a Euroleague title in 2003 and WNBA titles with the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001 and 2002, Los Angeles Sparks forward DeLisha Milton-Jones1 had pretty much packed her bags for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Then an injury to her right knee knocked her off the team and forced her to tearfully watch the Games on TV.
Now 33, Milton-Jones feared her time to get another Olympic shot might have passed, but thankfully it hasn’t. Among the final three players named to the US team, she’s eager to again hit the Olympic hardwood.
“I am so thrilled, so honored, so pleased to be able to say I’m once again an Olympian,” says Milton-Jones. “Whenever I watch the commercials on TV, I get chills. It’s a spectacular group of women that are going to represent our country at one of our most crucial moments in women’s basketball history. We’re coming off a bronze medal from the World Championship, and people are wondering how we are going to respond.”
The Milton-Jones of 2008 is vastly more seasoned in international play than the first-time Olympian in Sydney.2 “My teammates tease me all the time: ‘You’re more international than you are American,’ because I say things like ‘call me on my mobile,’” she says. Over the past eight years, she’s played with and against most of Europe’s best players.
Accompanying Milton-Jones to Beijing is her husband of five years, Roland Jones, a fellow pro baller.3 “I can attribute a lot of my success on the court as far as my game away from the basket to him,” she says. “Going with me to the gym in the wee hours of the morning and staying late at night working on different things with me, helping me try to become more of a complete player, so I can be more versatile.
“I’m more excited for him more so than myself sometimes. I know this is something he really wants to experience, the whole Olympic setting.”4—Lois Elfman #40
1. After playing with the Sparks from 1999-2004, Milton-Jones spent 2005 through 2007 with the Washington Mystics, but returned to L.A. this year via trade.
2. Over the past eight years, she’s played in Russia, Spain, Korea, the Czech Republic and Italy.
3. A point guard, Jones has been recovering from foot surgery and hopes to play in Europe this season.
4. They’d just started dating around the time of the 2000 Olympics, so Milton-Jones brought her mother and her sister to Sydney. After the medal ceremony, she presented her mother with her gold medal. This time, she says she’s keeping it.
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