Becky Hammon Celebrates WNBA’s 20@20

By: Lorne Chan

They gathered in Minnesota on Sunday, the 20 best to ever play in the WNBA. They were No. 1 picks, league MVPs, and one 5-foot-6 guard from South Dakota who made her own mark on the game.

Becky Hammon was honored as one of the WNBA’s 20@20, recognizing the league’s Top 20 players to celebrate its 20th season. A six-time all-star, Hammon spent 16 seasons in the WNBA before she retired and joined the Spurs coaching staff in 2014.

The 20 players were recognized at halftime of Game 1 of the WNBA Finals on Sunday. Each received their custom 20@20 ring, and 16 of the 20 were able to attend the ceremony and reunion.

 “I feel extremely blessed,” Hammon said on Sunday. “I feel really fortunate to come into the league when I did. I played against Sue Bird, Maya Moore, and Diana Taurasi. I played against everybody. It’s exciting to be here and reconnect with all these women.”

Of the WNBA’s 20@20 players, seven were No. 1 overall picks in the WNBA draft. Nineteen of the 20 players were either selected in the first round of the WNBA Draft or the now-defunct ABL Draft. Hammon was the only undrafted one to make the list.

Accepting a training camp invite to play with the New York Liberty, Hammon turned the invite into a 16-year playing career. She is eighth all-time in the WNBA in points (5,841), fourth all-time in assists (1,708) and the all-time leader in free-throw percentage (89.7). Hammon remains the Stars all-time leader in career assists (1133), three-point field goals made (498), and points per game (15.6).

Hammon played eight seasons in San Antonio, guiding the Stars to the WNBA playoffs seven times including the 2008 WNBA Finals. The only season they didn’t advance was in 2013, when Hammon missed all but one game because of a knee injury.

She also spent her first eight seasons in New York, where the Liberty reached the WNBA Finals in her rookie season, 1999.

Long before she was the first female coach in the NBA, Hammon had another first to her name. She was the first teammate to dogpile Teresa Weatherspoon after her half-court game-winning shot in the 1999 WNBA Finals, arguably the greatest shot in WNBA history.

“When we played Houston in the Finals and Teresa Weatherspoon hit that shot, it was a great moment for myself and the Liberty but also the WNBA,” Hammon said. “Another great moment was when I went to the Finals with the Stars in 2008.”

Hammon was South Dakota’s Miss Basketball in high school in Rapid City, but barely recruited by colleges. She went on to be an All-American at Colorado State University and set the Western Athletic Conference scoring record. Still, she was undrafted coming out of college and accepted a training camp invite to the New York Liberty. She was inducted into the New York Liberty Ring of Honor and had her No. 25 retired by the Stars in June.

Now, she can add one more honor to her list.

“This is really a special group because it’s a pioneering group,” Hammon said to “Sheryl Swoopes, Tina Thompson, Teresa Weatherspoon — I mean, those are the people in 1997 when I was in college that I was watching. Then you fast forward to when I was playing at the end of my career and I was playing with girls that were in fourth and fifth grade watching me play as a professional. So it’s kind of cool to kind of see the full circle.”