A week ago, when the Atlanta Dream announced that they had acquired the rights to Chamique Holdsclaw from the L.A. Sparks, season tickets for the worst team in the league started flying out of the box office.
Chamique Holdsclaw’s relationship with the WNBA has been tempestuous. After winning three national championships at Tennessee and being named a Kodak All-American four times, she went to the Washington Mystics as the first pick in the 1999 WNBA draft. She won Rookie of the Year, started in the all-star game and helped lead the U.S. women’s basketball team to a gold medal in the 2000 Olympics.
Then her grandmother died.
Holdsclaw has struggled with depression her entire life, but after the death of the woman who raised her, who pushed her toward Tennessee because of Pat Summitt’s 100-percent graduation rate, who sat beside her when she was drafted, Holdsclaw closed herself off from everyone. Eventually she walked away from the Mystics in the middle of the season.
In 2005, after taking time away from the WNBA, she returned and was traded to the Sparks. Again, she was a superstar, and then again, without explanation, she quit in the middle of the season.
Over the last few years, Holdsclaw, who has always been one of the WNBA’s most private superstars, began slowly to open up about her depression.
"I didn’t know how to handle my emotions when [my grandmother] died," Holdsclaw says in a PSA about clinical depression. "At the time, it was like I was in a box and had closed myself in. It was the one time I needed help and I wasn’t letting anybody in."
When Holdsclaw is not playing professionally in Poland, she lives in Atlanta, where she trains with Dream coach and general manager Marynell Meadors. In a recent training session, Meadors mentioned that she thought Holdsclaw should return to the WNBA. When Holdsclaw didn’t immediately dismiss the idea, Meadors jumped, hoping that this time, for Holdsclaw, it would be different.
One huge factor that may mean success for Holdsclaw this time is that in Atlanta she will be surrounded by Tennessee fans who adore her, fans who cannot caravan to Knoxville to cheer on the Lady Vols without traveling down Chamique Holdsclaw Drive. No matter how many times she’s walked away, they welcome her back with open arms. I understand because I’m one of them.
Two pair of Dream season tickets landed in my Christmas stocking this year. (I peeked.)
What do you think about Holdsclaw’s return to the WNBA? Will she return to superstardom, or have the Dream been optimistic to the point of foolishness?