Teresa Weatherspoon joined the Liberty at age 31 for the WNBA’s inaugural season in 1997, helping to lay the foundation for the league as one of its brightest stars.
“I just know that there was a job to be done and we all understood that, every one of us, because we all played overseas at the time,” Weatherspoon said. “We were basically in our prime and wanting to come home and play. We just knew we had to perform and perform well.”
The 5-8 point guard performed so well before coming to the WNBA and then across eight seasons in the league that she will now be inducted Friday into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.
“There isn’t a single word that I could possibly use to describe what it means to be part of such a prestigious group of people who’ve had the opportunity to be inducted, to be enshrined,” Weatherspoon said. “It’s more of me reflecting on my path, my family, and how hard it was to get to this point. ...
“There was something in between that meant more to me than anything and that was a simple word called 'work.' I wanted to work harder than anyone else. ... My desire to be great was greater than anything else.”
Her accomplishments matched her desire. First came the national championship and Wade Trophy as the country’s top player at Louisiana Tech. There were the Olympic gold and bronze medals, the six Italian league All-Star selections and the two Russian league titles.
Then in seven seasons with the Liberty, there were the five All-Star selections, four trips to the finals, two defensive player of the year awards and 'The Shot' — the game-winning, buzzer-beating, half-court heave in Game 2 of the 1999 finals against Houston.
The Texas native also provided inspiration to a girl from Queens who saw the Liberty’s all-time leader in assists and steals play at the Garden in the late 1990s, the girl who grew up to become the Liberty’s all-time leader in points and rebounds.
“Seeing someone that looked like me, an African-American woman, play at the highest level allowed me to dream,” Tina Charles said. " ... I’m just very happy for her.”
In 2016, Weatherspoon was named one of the 20 best and most influential players in WNBA history. Now, at 53, she’s teaching skills and serving an ambassador-type role as the Liberty’s director of player and franchise development.
“I gave it everything I had,” Weatherspoon said. “I can actually say I left everything I had playing on the floor.”