Chamique Holdsclaw: In Her Own Words, Part 1.
Chamique sits down with SLAMonline to discuss the Atlanta situation.
by Stephen Litel / @stephenlitel
One of the oddest stories leading up to the WNBA season was Chamique Holdsclaw’s request for a trade from the Atlanta Dream. After a fine season in the summer of 2009, the Dream were looking forward to taking the next step in 2010. As Holdsclaw sat at home, her now former teammates in Atlanta moved on without her and are the only remaining undefeated team in the WNBA. Yet, Holdsclaw arrives in San Antonio with big hopes for what the team can accomplish.
In the first part of Holdsclaw’s one-on-one with Stephen Litel, she discusses the Atlanta situation and her struggles with depression.
Stephen Litel: Of course, there’s a lot of discussion out there about what happened in Atlanta and you’ve stated you choose not to get into specifics, but this was a personal issue and not a basketball related issue?
Chamique Holdsclaw: “It wasn’t anything basketball related. It wasn’t about X’s and O’s or players and what we were going to do. It was a personal thing, something the coach and I had talked about before I came to Atlanta and it just didn’t work out like that. I’m a person of principle. If you tell me something, I expect for you to follow through. When you don’t and I talk to you about it, don’t try to make me look bad. Maybe not make me look bad, but don’t make it seem like I don’t know what I’m talking about when I know what you told me from day one. That was the main issue was principle.”
“I could have gone back and played in Atlanta, but I’m a person and my word is my bond. If I tell somebody something, they know I’m going to try my best to follow through. It’s something that I knew could have some backlash because when you stand up for something you believe in, when it’s something tough like this situation was for me, you’re going to suffer in the media. I knew it was going to be hard, but it was something that I was willing to stand up for because I believed in it.”
SL: Coach Meadors stated in an interview that she had “no idea” why you requested the trade…
CH: “I don’t read press. I don’t really read the paper unless someone on the team gives it to me because you’re in it. I don’t go online and I don’t read blogs and things of that sort, but I can’t help it that my friends do. I tell all my friends and the people I’m really close with, “I don’t want to hear it and I don’t care what somebody says about me.” I don’t care because I live it. I know what the real deal was, you know?”
“What happened was a good friend called me and she was like, ‘Look, I know you don’t read articles and all that type of stuff, but I found it quite disturbing.’ I asked her, ‘What do you find disturbing?’ She said, ‘What your coach said. That she didn’t know.’ I just said, ‘Don’t go into a whole bunch of detail, but she didn’t know what? What are you talking about?’ She said, ‘Well, she didn’t know what you were upset about. I said, ‘Oh, god. Really? Come on, we’re two adults and we talked about it.’
“Now, she’s trying to make it seem like it’s something from my past. When you say you don’t know why, the first thing people are going to think is, ‘Oh, she’s going through depression or she’s going through something off the court.’ That’s the first thing I told my agent and felt we should say something back, but he was like, “No, no, no. You know what really happened. Just sit back, be patient and be quiet until you get what you want.’ That was to get out of Atlanta.”
“It really bothered me that she tried to say that she didn’t know what happened, but on the flip-side of it when you’re a GM like she is, I probably would have said the same thing. At the moment, I was upset because I was like, ‘Yo, just be honest.’ When I thought about it business-wise, I probably would’ve said the same thing.”
SL: So, you’re saying she absolutely knew why and it’s 100 percent clear to her as to why you requested the trade?
CH: “Yes, definitely. We had a phone conversation, I expressed my feelings and she expressed hers. We talked and I said, ‘Where do we go from here?’ I felt a little disappointed that everything didn’t work out and she said, ‘Well, we don’t want to trade you.’”
“On my side of things, I just feel like I’ve been through too much. I’ve been through too much BS as far as dealing with my own personal stuff. Last year, I had a tremendous experience with a great group of women. I love that team and I gave 110%. There’s nobody in Atlanta Dream basketball who could ever question my character because I know what I gave to that team. Ask Marynell and the players and they’ll tell you the same. I knew that I, personally, after what went down between us, I couldn’t go in every day and give that 110% because I had no faith in her. We talked about something, she didn’t follow through with it, so I felt like I can’t trust her. It was a trust issue. I can’t be a leader for you when I can’t follow your word 110%. Last year, I could believe everything, but when someone tries to put something over your head, you just look at things a little bit differently. I knew I couldn’t be that same person in my heart. I couldn’t be that same person.”
“You know, when I’ve gone through the BS that I’ve gone through and I can play this game on a competitive level for a few more years, I want to enjoy it, man. It’s been a long time since I’ve really enjoyed the game of basketball. Last year, after taking those two seasons off, I enjoyed it, even with the injury, man. I was having so much fun, so that’s the feeling I want to have, win or lose. Last year wasn’t perfect, but it was something that was just great, just being back involved in a high level of basketball and just having fun. I just knew for me, personally, I just couldn’t be in a situation where I felt like when I go to work every day that I wasn’t going to be happy.”
SL: Some speculate that you were upset because your role was going to change in Atlanta. Was your role going to change or were you expecting it to be the same as last year?
CH: “No, it was nothing to do with basketball. That’s the thing. I came to Atlanta because Atlanta courted me. They told me, ‘We’re going to get your rights.’ You gotta understand, basketball–and I’ll speak for the WNBA side–is 50% X’s and O’s and 50% relationships. You’re dealing with women, so if you tell somebody something you have to do it. If you’re married and your wife tells you to do something, she expects it to get done. It was nothing about basketball. Last year was a great experience, I really enjoyed the girls and it was fun. I was the oldest player on the team and it was great helping them out and leading them because I didn’t have that when I first came into the league. I didn’t have that player that really tried to be an example for me. My goal was to help people out on and off the court, so when you get some backlash, which I expected to get, I didn’t really care because I know what the deal is. All that stuff that people say is comical because they don’t know.”
“The people that know are me and Marynell, it’s between us and it really sucked because I live in Atlanta and lived there before the team even came there. You’d expect if I came back that would be a big reason why since I live there and I have a big fanbase there, being close to Tennessee. I have a lot of support in that area with friends from college. It’s just disappointing and really hurt to make the decision to ask for a trade, but I realized I have to be happy at the end of the day.”
SL: You’ve mentioned it some, but you’re saying that this had absolutely nothing to do with your depression issues in the past?
CH: “None of it. That was my main concern when I called my agent and told him about this. I said, ‘First and foremost, I want you to let these other teams know there’s nothing the matter with me as far as my depression.’ In the past when I’ve gone through stuff, it’s like Chamique is here and then Chamique leaves the team and you don’t hear from her. This was a similar situation because we weren’t making any comments. They were like, ‘Stay away from your Facebook, stay away from all the social network things and don’t say anything. Let us handle this.’”
“Of course if I were a person who knew this person had gone through this before and disappeared, I’d probably say the same thing. ‘She’s probably going through another depression spell.’ Blah, blah, blah. In this case, I wasn’t, man. I’m the happiest I’ve been, I’m just enjoying what I do and I’m enjoying the experience. That’s the thing I didn’t want people to throw out there because it’s not something you just toy with, you know?”
SL: So, since we are discussing the depression issue, how are you doing with that lately?
CH: “I’ve been doing really well. I think me stepping away from basketball and having time to really learn Chamique, to learn to use my friends as support, just understanding how to work through things and coping, I’ve been doing pretty well. I’m just blessed because it’s a lot of hard work. Even when I was going through these tough three weeks, not knowing where I was going to end up, there were times when I got really, really frustrated. Honestly, I just used my faith and prayed on it. I said, ‘It’s out of my hands and something I can’t control.’ I knew I didn’t want to be in the situation I was in and, hopefully, God has something better planned for me.”
“Basically, I’ve used to learn coping mechanisms, learning to calm down and talk to my friends and other people close to me. When I was going through it before, I shut everybody out. It was just me and nobody knew what I was thinking, nobody knew what I was doing. It wasn’t fair because a lot of my friends were hurt by it, as well as my family. Now, I’m a lot more open.”
“My friends and family always call me to make sure I’m ok, especially when they heard about this because I didn’t tell my Mom until I knew I was going to sign with San Antonio. She kept wondering, ‘Why aren’t you playing in Atlanta? They have a preseason game. What’s the matter? Are you ok?’ I’m like, ‘I’m fine’ and she’s like, ‘Are you sure? You need me to come to Atlanta? You know if you need me, I’ll be there.’ Everyone was concerned because I’m not the type to be like, ‘This is what’s going on.’ Just the fact of knowing they cared and were all concerned just gave me that much more strength.”
SL: Do you believe Atlanta treated you fairly after you requested the trade?
CH: “Honestly, I didn’t really have any contact with anyone, so it’s not a matter of being treated fairly. I knew what I wanted, I knew the situation and don’t lie to me. Don’t treat me like I’m stupid. Someone tells you something to get you there, then you get there and it’s like this. I think if I was younger, it wouldn’t really bothered me. After all the stuff I’ve been through, life is about principle to me. I was fine not playing in the WNBA because that was my path at that time. You courted me, you got me back there, so we have a relationship. If you look at all the articles last year, she said, ‘Me and Chamique have great communication.’ If you don’t communicate with me, it makes me feel like there’s a lack of trust. That was the main issue there, but as far as being treated fairly, who cares? I don’t care if they treated me like crap, to be honest. I didn’t have any contact with them. I told my agent and that was it.”
“Right now, I play to spread my ministry of hope. This is the reason why I play. It’s the reason that I came back because the stuff that I went through, I want people to know that you can fight and you can overcome things.”