Olympic Diaries (2004): Sheryl Swoopes Explains Origin & Crossover Success of Nike Air Swoopes Line

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Sheryl Swoopes wearing the Nike Air Flight One during an Olympic Basketball photo shoot

Nice Kicks: You were a part of three Olympic Basketball teams in your career. You’re our 2004 installment of the Olympic Diaries series, but which year was most important to you?

Sheryl Swoopes: I think anytime you accomplish something for the first time in your career, it’s going to be the more special than the others simply because it’s the first time or first one. So, of all the ones I participated in, from Atlanta to Australia to Greece, I’d probably have to say the 1996 Games in Atlanta. My family and friends were there to help me and enjoy that moment with me. Also, it being here in America was just special. To play in your own country on the biggest stage ever as one of the youngest players on that team, was just awesome. Growing up, I never had the opportunity of watching women play basketball except for the Olympics, and it really wasn’t on TV like it is now. As a child, playing in the Olympics was my ultimate goal. I didn’t necessarily think it would be basketball, but I just knew I was going to get to the Olympics someway, somehow. So, the first one was definitely more special to me, but all of them were great, and they all meant something different. I would take that ’96 team we had, and put it up against any team today and believe that we would win.

Nike Air Swoopes “Olympic”

Nice Kicks: Is that ’96 team sort of like the women’s equivalent to the men’s 1992 Dream Team in your eyes?

Sheryl Swoopes: Absolutely. We’ve always been head and shoulders ahead of our competition. Is the world catching up to us? Absolutely, but I still don’t think anybody in the world can beat USA basketball. Other countries would have to play a near-perfect game, and USA would have to play the worst game ever. I don’t see that happening. What made that ’96 team so special is the time we spent together. There was no WNBA at the time, so we were together for an entire year training in Colorado. We also went on a European tour and a college tour. Our record was 60-0 that year. There were so many different personalities on that team, and we had a great mixture of babies, veterans and people in the middle of their career. Everybody on the team understood what their goal was individually, and everybody understood the team goal. We made lots of sacrifices on that team. For an entire year, we lived together and trained together in Colorado Springs. There were times during that year when I really wanted to quit because of the schedule that we had. Plus, I couldn’t stand to play for Coach Tara Van Derveer at the time, but to this day, I have so much respect for her, who she is and what she means to the game of basketball. Training with her during that year taught me so much about myself and about the game. To this day, I think playing for her during those Games helped make me the person and player I am today. Looking back on it, I enjoyed every moment and every day spent with that team and coaching staff. It was a special team.

Sheryl Swoopes wearing the “Olympic” Nike Air Swoopes

Nice Kicks: So, you went from being one of the youngest players on the ’96 team to being the veteran on the 2004 team.

Sheryl Swoopes: Yes. I went from being the baby on the team in ’96 to being the mom on the team in ’04. On that team, me, Dawn Staley, and Lisa Leslie had a real strong bond. Dawn and Lisa weren’t going to go to the Games that year without me, Dawn and I weren’t going to go without Lisa, and Lisa and I weren’t going to go without Dawn. We were kind of a trio that grew with the Olympic team. All three of us went from the babies on the ’96 team to the veterans on the ’04 team. The three of us grew with each other and knew what we were going to get from each other every single day in practice and in the games. It was a great feeling for me because, even though I was one of the oldest players on the team, I still felt I had a lot to give in the position of teaching the younger players the things that we learned along the way while playing under Teresa Edwards, Katrina McClain and the other veterans on the ’96 team. To be able to pass on the things we learned in ’96, made it a special moment for me.

Nice Kicks: Is there a player on this year’s Olympic Basketball team that reminds you of yourself?

Sheryl Swoopes: None [Laughs]. There’s a couple of players that remind me of myself offensively, and then there’s some that remind me of myself defensively. If I had to pick one, it would be Tamika Catchings. I don’t know if she reminds me of myself per se, but I just admire her talent, her ability and her hard work. She works hard on both ends. She’s not just satisfied with being a good offensive player or a good defensive player. She really works hard on both ends. I’d liked to think that’s the kind of player I was.

Sheryl Swoopes (rear) wearing the “Olympic” Nike Air Tuned Swoopes

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