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Becky Hammon inducted into Liberty's Ring of Honor

Becky Hammon smiles during a ceremony inducting her

Becky Hammon smiles during a ceremony inducting her into the New York Liberty Ring of Honor at halftime of a game between the New York Liberty and the Seattle Storm at Madison Square Garden, Sunday, Aug. 2, 2015. Credit: Jason DeCrow

Throughout Sunday's Liberty game, the 10,682 fans in attendance got glimpses into the past.

Decade-old highlights of Becky Hammon flashed on the Madison Square Garden scoreboard. Accompanying her dribbling, passing and shooting were her bouncing blonde ponytail as she ran the floor, her bushy bangs, her bubbly, almost cartoonlike attitude that went hand-in-hand with her 5-6 stature.

As she addressed the media before being inducted into the Liberty's Ring of Honor at halftime of the team's 78-62 win over the Seattle Storm, the distinction between then and now was evident. No more bangs. Darker hair. A certain maturity about her, one that could be acquired only by a player who had been through it all.

But most evident: the weight of the words she spoke, and the barriers she is breaking as a coach.

"Leadership,'' Hammon said, "has no gender."

When she signed with the Spurs last year, Hammon became the NBA's first full-time female assistant coach. A year later, she was named the Spurs' summer league head coach and led the team to a title July 20.

That in itself is worthy of headlines. But the story surrounding Hammon has been her gender.

"I hope we get to the point in society that this is not news anymore," Hammon said. "[It should be] we hired this person because they're right for the job. All that other stuff doesn't really matter."

Hammon, who was an undrafted free agent out of Colorado State before playing seven seasons with the Liberty between 1999-2006 and becoming a six-time WNBA All-Star selection, joined five others -- Vickie Johnson, Teresa Weatherspoon, Rebecca Lobo, Sue Wicks and Kym Hampton -- in the Liberty's Ring of Honor. Liberty president Isiah Thomas presented her a ring.

"You guys loved me first," Hammon said to the New York crowd during her speech.

Before the game, Hammon praised Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, the man who hired her.

"There's lots of guys that would say, 'Oh, yeah, she has a great basketball mind' and leave it at that," Hammon said. "Pop said she has a great basketball mind and I'm going to give this girl an opportunity.

"In professional sports, it's so male-dominant, but we're not asking the man to get up and leave his seat. We're just saying scoot over a little bit. Make a little room at the table for the ladies."

Before her pregame news conference concluded, Hammon was asked if she could imagine herself as an NBA head coach in the future.

"Even just two years ago, the question would probably be preposterous," Hammon said. "But just because something hasn't been done doesn't mean it can't be done. I don't see why not; if not me, someone else. The point is do you know basketball, do you know what it takes to lead people? And leadership really has no gender."


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