The Power of Belief
Like Steve Nash, Becky Hammon’s career has been defined by beating the odds.
by Ben York/@bjyork
By the time she retires, could Becky Hammon be known as the greatest point guard in WNBA history?
As amazing as it would be, it could very well happen.
Currently, Hammon ranks 10th all-time in total points (4,145), seventh in total assists (1,059), 12th in total free-throws made (877), seventh in FT percentage (at 89 percent, she’s the only player in the top 10 who has shot more than 500 free-throws), and second in 3-pt FG’s made (566). If Hammon plays just two to three more seasons in the WNBA, she could easily find herself in the top 5 of every one of the aforementioned categories.
Additionally, she’s a five-time WNBA All-Star, made the All-WNBA First Team twice and the All-WNBA Second Team twice. Hammon has a career FG percentage of 44.0 percent and a blistering 37 percent career 3-pt percentage. She also had one of the best seasons in WNBA history in 2007 where she averaged 19 points and 5 assists per game while eclipsing the unprecedented 40-40-90 plateau–40 percent or higher from the floor (45 percent), 40 percent or higher from 3-pt (40 percent), and 90 percent or more from the free-throw line (93 percent).
All this…and she still is fully capable of playing the game at this high of a level for the next three to five years.
“I’ve just been blessed to stay relatively healthy,” Hammon told SLAMonline. “I have to go back and give credit to the people that originally gave me an opportunity in the league like Richie Adubato. It is kind of amazing when I look back on it. I mean, I wasn’t drafted and not many people gave me much of a chance to make it in the league. I’m very fortunate to stay healthy and not have my body breakdown as quickly.”
Sound like anyone you might know? How about Steve Nash?
Even though a case could be made for Hammon to be the best point guard ever, it’s not something that really matters to her. In fact, it’s not even remotely close to what Hammon wants to be remembered for.
Like Steve Nash, Hammon’s rise to prominence has been attained through hard work, dedication and a profound belief in herself. Nobody thought Steve Nash would be as effective as he has been in the NBA and certainly there weren’t very many individuals who thought Hammon would be as successful as she has. In her 12th year in the WNBA, Hammon can identify with a quote by Steve Nash that states, “If everyone worked as hard as I did, I wouldn’t have a job.”
“Yeah, I can relate to that,” Hammon said with a smile. “There have been times where I look across the isle and think what I could do if I had that athleticism other players had. But I think it also gives me more of an appreciation for things.”
Like Nash, Hammon has been the last player on the bench. She’s been forced to bide her time, continue to work hard, and make the most out of any chance she was given. As improbable as Nash’s rise to super-stardom has been, it could be argued that Becky Hammon’s has been even more unlikely.
“I don’t think there is another person out there with my story,” Hammon said. “I mean, I’m only 5’6”, I wasn’t drafted, and there wasn’t a lot of people who believed in me. I can identify with people on my team like Crystal Kelly; people who come in and work their tails off with a smile, every single day and might not see much playing time. I’ve been there.”
It’s scary to think what Hammon’s stats might be had she played more than 20 minutes per game in her first four years in the league. Still, during that time, Hammon was grateful for even being in the WNBA in the first place. All the while, working on her game and improving every year.
“I’ve learned to have a very discerning ear,” Hammon said. “I am very careful who I listen to and who I don’t listen to. If I listened to the people who said I wouldn’t make it in the league, we wouldn’t be having this conversation today.”
The parallels to Nash’s career are remarkable. Like Nash under Jason Kidd, Hammon learned from an already-established superstar in Teresa Weatherspoon. Hammon would eventually get playing time through sheer hard-work, effort, and hustle. And like Nash, Hammon used every opportunity she was given and made the most of it.
“I always tell kids that you have to do the most with what you’re given,” said Hammon. “There are always going to be people who are way more talented and much more athletic. For example, maybe you’re given only five skills and they’re given 10; you need to develop those five skills to the utmost of your ability. They might have been blessed with more, but if they don’t develop those 10 skills to their fullest, you’ll have an opportunity to step up.”
Perhaps there is no better testimony to that statement than Hammon’s basketball career. Rather than try to be a player she’s not, Hammon focused on perfecting the skills she was given and working to improve everything else as much as possible to add to her repertoire. Hammon isn’t the fastest or most athletic player on the court, but like Nash, she uses angles and a high basketball IQ to continually perform at an elite level.
“I still feel great,” Hammon said after 11 years in the league. “I’ve always tried to be around the game. Not necessarily doing drill after drill, because I think players can get sort of mechanical that way. I just try to be a basketball player. We play almost all year long so the more actual basketball you play, the better you get in my opinion. I don’t want to be a mechanical player. I’ve always wanted to get my timing better, my rhythm right, and be more fluid. Look at Diana Taurasi–she isn’t mechanical, she’s probably the most fluid player in the game.”
After the Suns missed the playoffs in the 2008-2009 season, Steve Nash stated that getting a championship wasn’t as important as playing with teammates who come to work everyday with a great attitude and have an indelible desire to compete. In a similar way, Hammon realizes that if a championship doesn’t come, it shouldn’t define her career.
“Don’t get me wrong, I still want to win a championship,” Hammon said bluntly. “I’m very excited about our team and our chances this year. While a championship would be a fairytale ending, as I’ve gotten older, what’s more important to me is treating people well.”
So, how many more years does Hammon want to play?
“I’m a very in-the-moment type of person,” Hammon said. “But I do think about that stuff. I’d say maybe another two, three years it might be time to hang it up.”
When she does, there should be little doubt she is one of the greatest point guards (if not the best) in WNBA history. But her legacy, like Nash’s, will be one of altruism and philanthropy.
“I’d like to write a book,” said Hammon about her future plans. “I really don’t know of another person with my story. I think people can identify with my underdog type of story. Maybe I’d like to coach, but I’d at least like to be around the game as much as possible. I just love basketball. I think I’ve laid the groundwork that when I’m done playing, I can still reach and impact people.”
More important than being known as the best point guard of all-time, or cementing her legacy through statistics, Hammon just wants to be known as a good person and teammate. Simple, yet profound.
“At the end of the day, when I look back, I just want to be someone who treated everyone the same,” said a humble Hammon. “From my teammates to the person who turns the lights on in the gym, I want to be known as someone who respects others and treated them well. Someone will come along who breaks records and things like that, but giving back and being a good steward is forever.”