Michael Jordan is the benchmark for any NBA basketball player to aspire to, but is there someone else that WNBA stars look up to? Sheryl Swoopes came into basketball just as Jordan began to wind his career down, and the world was looking for a new hero. She was lighting up the WNBA, so did Sherly Swoopes become the female Michael Jordan?
The same position
When the WNBA was formed in 1997, people were trying to draw comparisons to players in the NBA. Swoopes was a super athletic small forward, just like Jordan, so the comparisons were always going to be there.
Swoopes also made scoring look easy, and she was the real driving force behind the success of the Houston Comets for the ten years she played there. Jordan had some all-stars surrounding him at the Bulls, but there was no denying that if he wasn’t playing their championship success was far less likely.
The comparisons to Michael Jordan continued for Swoopes as her career in the WNBA progressed. She won four WNBA titles in her first four seasons in the league. If Swoopes could keep this up, she was going to be one of the most decorated champions in the history of basketball. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to win another title after her first four, but that was still an impressive haul, and only two championship rings behind Jordan.
Her immediate impact on the WNBA wasn’t lost though, and she was one of the biggest stars of women’s basketball when it was arguably at the peak of its popularity. People were sitting up and taking notice of Swoopes, and it wasn’t just basketball fans.
Huge Nike deal
Swoopes made it to the WNBA All-Star game six times during her career, and that star appeal got sponsors interested. The athletics manufacturer Nike invited Swoopes in for a conversation, and she left that chat with more than she expected.
Swoopes was not only being offered a great financial deal, but she was also getting her own line of sneakers. The Nike Air Swoopes came with a signature ‘S,’ and they redesigned the sneaker to feel faster because of the Comets star’s speed across the court. Now girls didn’t have to be like Mike, they had their own hero’s sneakers they could wear thanks to Swoopes.
Swoopes and Jordan were also both on the Team USA Olympic rosters that picked up multiple gold medals. Jordan took two golds, while Swoopes stuck around for a third Olympic gold. They were superstars in their own rights, but both chose to fight for their country’s pride and come home with gold against the best in the world.
Both players were known for their ability to steal the ball from their opponents and turn defense into attack in seconds. Jordan actually remains the third all-time steals leader in the NBA and Swoopes wasn’t bad at it either.
Swoopes is fourth in the all-time WNBA rankings, and both she and Jordan profited numerous times from stealing the ball. Combined with their speed across the court, once they stole the ball, there was no stopping them from driving to the hoop.
Sheryl Swoopes became the first woman in the history of the WNBA to record a triple-double. She set the standards for those who followed her by showing them the way forward. Michael Jordan was a trendsetter in basically everything he did on the court, and his stats remain some of the most impressive in NBA history.
Swoopes has played fewer games than many of the top stars in the all-time WNBA ranking, but her contributions to basketball should never be forgotten. Sadly the team she made history with, the Houston Comets no longer exist any longer, which makes it harder to remember Swoopes’ achievements.
Not topping the scoring charts
Jordan is one of the all-time elite scorers in basketball, and Swoopes didn’t quite match Jordan in terms of scoring. Swoopes is around five points per game behind the top scorers in the WNBA. People tend to remember scorers above everything else, which makes it hard to argue that Swoopes is Jordan’s female equivalent. She had the promise of Jordan and comparisons were made during her career, but their career totals are significantly far apart.
When Swoopes signed an endorsement deal with Nike, it showed that there was a market for the WNBA and people were interested in it. Several other top athletic companies were investing in other stars like Rebecca Lobo and Candace Parker. That was thanks to Swoopes’ impact on a commercial level, but eventually, interest in the women’s league subsided.
After Swoopes retired, she ended up finding herself in financial difficulty, which is a stark contrast to Jordan. Michael Jordan has become one of the wealthiest sports stars in the world and is worth an estimated $1.9 billion. Luckily for Jordan interest in the NBA never went away and thanks to his Jordan Brand, he’s hugely influential in the financial world.
It’s perhaps a little unfair to compare anyone to Michael Jordan, who is widely considered the best basketball player of all time. Sheryl Swoopes was expected to be his female counterpart, and while there are definite similarities, she didn’t quite measure up. Not that failing to measure up to Michael Jordan is a bad thing, as no one else has managed to do it.