A Hidden Talent No More
Shameka Christon finally recognized as an All-Star.
by Stephen Litel
With the announcement of the WNBA All-Star game reserves, one player finally who was overdue to make the big show finally gets the nod. New York’s Shameka Christon will represent the Eastern Conference and, frankly, it’s about time.
When the Liberty came through the Twin Cities on June 23, I had the opportunity to sit down with Christon to discuss the team’s play, as well as whether or not she thought she was deserving of an All-Star berth. Having never met her before then, the honesty of her responses struck me. Coupling her play on the court with the refreshing nature of our interview, it’s great to see such a well-rounded player and person receive the recognition she deserves.
“The funniest thing is when I first came into the League, everybody was like, ‘Arkansas? They have players in Arkansas?’ said Christon. “For me, it’s been a challenge from Day 1. I’m like, ‘I’m from Arkansas, I’m here and I can play.’ I have confidence in myself, my teammates have confidence in me, my coaches have confidence in me and, for me, that’s all that matters.”
Throughout the erratic play and search for a “face of the franchise” since Becky Hammon left, the New York Liberty seem to have fallen to the lower echelon of the WNBA. Although they have and have had fine players during that time, something seems off and it’s difficult to put a finger on it unless you happen to be on the inside. Yet, even without that supposed “superstar,” Christon likes her team and the direction they’re heading.
“With me being the oldest player here by being here the longest, I just really try to talk to the players,” said Christon. “I mean, we all talk to each other like, ‘Hey, we don’t have that big name superstar, but collectively, we get the job done.’ People may not want to respect that and that’s OK with us. That’s fine.”
After all, the Liberty have made the Playoffs since Hammon’s departure. They have had small amounts of success, yet they know there remains a lot of work to do. As a whole, the players cannot control free agents signed to the team or which player arrives via the draft, so all they can do is start by taking responsibility for what they can control on the basketball court.
“We need to compete really, really hard for 40 minutes,” said Christon. “The two games last year in the Playoffs against Detroit, it wasn’t for 40 minutes. The last game, obviously, we came out in the first half and got down 17, 20 points and that’s tough against a team like Detroit. The positive we took out of that was that we came back and only lost by one point. You hate to walk away from a game with what if’s, but that’s the way we all felt. What if we would’ve came out like that in the first half instead of just the second? Our biggest focus and the thing that I think is going to push us over the hump is realizing and understanding that we have to play and execute for 40 minutes. If we make a mistake, it’s ok because that’s going to happen. Make up for it.”
The Liberty are in the midst of another non-stellar season, so it would be understandable if Christon would look ahead to a few individual honors such as the All-Star game. However, that is not the case. Christon would give up any and all individual honors for her team to play up to their own expectations, as well as having assurances that the organization is committed to winning as much as their star.
“Honestly, I’m one of those people who never reads the paper. I just don’t do it. I don’t listen to what other people say because I think, as a player, that can either make you or break you. I just don’t pay attention to it. I just go out there and focus on the things that I do well and also strengthen my weaknesses. Right now, honestly, I think if I just play hard and do what my team needs me to do, good things will happen. I would love to be an All-Star, but that’s not my focus. My main goal is to win a championship and I know I have to do that step-by-step with my team. If I make it, great. If I don’t, we still have the biggest goal and that’s to win a championship.”
The New York Liberty may have a long way to go to meet their championship aspirations as an organization, but they have their star player to build around in Shameka Christon.