Allen Iverson and Dawn Staley have a natural bond. The South Carolina coach is a Philadelphia native who spent her college career at Virginia, while the NBA legend is a Virginia native who made his name with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Iverson joins Staley on the season finale of the NetLife podcast, admitting to the South Carolina coach that he was nervous the first time the two met.

“All I remember was being so nervous because, first of all, you were always on my TV being from Virginia, and you played for Virginia. That’s how, ultimately, you became my favorite women’s basketball player of all time,” Allen tells Staley. “I just remember the first time I met you…trying not to look too excited, trying to keep my cool like the first time I met Mike.”

The feeling was certainly mutual, with Staley telling Iverson that the Philadelphia community “identified with” him.

Iverson also reveals that Michael Jordan was who he looked up to on the men’s side of the game.

“Michael Jordan is obviously my hero. He’s my guide, he’s my everything, he gave me the vision, he made me want to play basketball,” Iverson says. “I actually wanted to be like Mike.”

Derrick Coleman also served as a mentor to Iverson, who he played with as a rookie entering the NBA. “Derrick Coleman was it for me,” Iverson tells Staley. “I would be up under him just like a little brother. Anything that he did, I would do.”

After Coleman took Iverson under his wing, Iverson struck up a tight friendship with 76ers teammate Arron McKie.

“Aaron McKie is the best friend that I’ve ever had in the NBA,” Iverson says. “Aaron McKie was everything to me.”

Calling him the “big brother that I never had,” Iverson admits that coach Larry Brown would employ McKie to talk with him since he’d listen intently to his teammate on and off the court.

For more on Iverson’s time in the NBA, listen to the latest episode of the NetLife podcast.

Allen Iverson was a trendsetter and trailblazer in the NBA, titles that led the Philadelphia 76ers star to be viewed as a role model, especially by those growing up in Philadelphia.

“Everybody talked about the cornrows, and I was called a thug for the tattoos,” Iverson tells Dawn Staley on the latest NetLife podcast, revealing that he fielded a lot of judgment early on for the way he looked and dressed.

Staley, a Philadelphia native, remembers people in the city perceived Iverson differently, as an inspirational figure, celebrating his authenticity.

“We identified with you,” Staley says. “I think your power as a Philadelphia 76er helped a lot of young kids that grew up in the projects like I did. You gave us somebody to say, ‘If he can do it, I can do it too.’”

Iverson feels grateful to have touched the Philadelphia community and led the way for people to express themselves unapologetically.

“It’s a blessing, simple as that, to be able to have an impact on the culture the way I did,” Iverson says. “I was always in awe of the fact that kids, the way they related to me, the way they looked up to me, the way they wanted to be me.”

Iverson posits that a lot of the criticism he endured in his career was because he was something the public had never seen before.

“I had to juggle my relationship with the media,” Iverson recalls. “The negative story is always going to be the best story.”

While his personality and style were unique, Iverson says the notion, perpetuated by the media, that he was arrogant is a misconception.

“I think that came from my appearance, but I’ve never been cocky, I’ve never been arrogant, I’ve never been conceited,” Iverson says. “I’m just confident, but it comes off as cockiness because I was always taught if it’s me against you, it’s me.”

Listen to the full conversation with Iverson and Staley on the season finale of NetLife.

Lisa Leslie remembers friend Kobe Bryant as devotedly committed to his family and uniquely dedicated to the game of basketball.

The former Los Angeles Sparks star stopped by the new Just Women’s Sports Netlife podcast and talked with host Dawn Staley about the “void” Bryant left after his passing.

Leslie was first introduced to Bryant as the young star and his family was getting settled in Los Angeles.

“I just hit it off with the family,” recalls Leslie. “His mom reminded me of my mom.”

Shaya, Kobe’s sister, and Leslie quickly became friends.

“I am there talking basketball with Kobe and then I am over playing with Shaya and we’re going to the mall,” Leslie remembers of the early days at the Bryant home.

The basketball banter between Leslie and Bryant often centered on Michael Jordan, with Leslie remembering Bryant studiously watching Jordan games in his room.

The WNBA and NBA stars bonded over their work ethic, both being steadfast about their gym routine. “What meshed was that tenacity, that hard work, that passion.”

Training at the same facility, Leslie would periodically get updates from Bryant on his life as he evolved as a player and person. She recalls when the legendary Laker met his wife Vanessa Bryant, which was originally “tough for the family” as Bryant was young when they decided to marry.

“Nobody knew Vanessa was gonna be so amazing, she’s awesome,” says Leslie. “She was the right one and it was amazing.”

As the years went on, Leslie and Bryant would continue to keep in touch.

“I knew that Kobe was happy,” remembers Leslie. “It really was just about family.”

Hear more from Staley and Leslie on Bryant’s legacy on the latest episode of NETLIFE.

Opposites attract when it comes to former roommates, teammates and longtime friends Lisa Leslie and Dawn Staley.

The WNBA legend stopped by Dawn Staley’s new podcast Netlife to reminisce about her illustrious career, including her time on the court with Staley.

The teammates first met when Staley was a freshman in college and Leslie was just a junior in high school. With Leslie projecting a laidback California demeanor and Staley sporting an east-coast toughness, the two couldn’t have been more different. What bonded the friends, however, was their shared commitment to the game of basketball.

“What we have always had in common is our work ethic,” says Leslie, “and our work ethic was like, it does not matter who is in front of us, we are going after it, we are going one hundred percent.”

The former Team USA and Los Angeles Sparks star reveals that fighting for her teammates is what kept her passion for the game alive. Staley shared in that same mentality.

“We were of the same cloth,” Leslie tells Staley.

Playing on the 1996 Olympic team together, Leslie remembers the entire squad sharing their grit and resilience.

“It wasn’t the best players in the country, the 12,” recalls Leslie, “but we had the best chemistry and the best understanding of sacrificing self for the team.”

The 1996 USA Basketball team went on to win the Atlanta Summer Games, capturing national attention and elevating the profile of women’s basketball.

With the exposure and connectedness that comes with social media, Leslie isn’t sure if the hunger of the 1996 group could be replicated by players today.

“I don’t know that their level of passion and work ethic is the same,” says Leslie. “They want the glitz and the glamor, they want the deals already, but who is in the gym at six in the morning?”

Despite the grind, It wasn’t all work and no play with Team USA. Staley and Leslie remember getting their laughs in while playing for multiple Olympic teams.

One memory in particular still makes the two laugh, reminiscing about a failed “circle the wagon” drill. In order to complete the game, each player had to net a layup and collect a rebound in succession without letting the ball hit the floor, or else the drill would start over.

“Of course, we are professionals, so you should make layups. But unfortunately on this day, Tina Thompson has missed two layups so the drill keeps starting over,” Leslie recalls.

The first time Thompson missed the team was understanding. By the second, people started to lose their patience, and then the third was simply too much for some teammates to take.

Upon whiffing her third attempt, teammate Sheryl Swoopes yelled out, “Damnit, Tina!” The moment instantly became an inside joke for the team and is still referenced to this day.

Listen to more behind-the-scenes Team USA stories with Staley and Leslie here.

WTA chairman and CEO Steve Simon announced on Wednesday that the WTA has decided to suspend all tournaments in China over concerns about the safety of Chinese player Peng Shuai.

It’s the strongest public stand a sports body has taken against China.

The Grand Slam doubles champion, who accused a former government official of sexual assault, disappeared from the public eye following a Nov. 2 post to social media. She has since been seen attending a youth tennis event and spoke with IOC officials.

But the appearances have not convinced other public entities that Peng is safe. On Tuesday, the European Union requested “verifiable proof” that the 35-year-old is safe.

“Her recent public reappearance does not ease concerns about her safety and freedom,” an EU spokesperson said.

The WTA has taken a continuously hard stance, making repeated calls for a “full and transparent investigation — without censorship” into Peng’s accusations.

“Unfortunately, the leadership in China has not addressed this very serious issue in any credible way,” Simon wrote in a statement. “While we now know where Peng is, I have serious doubts that she is free, safe, and not subject to censorship, coercion, and intimidation.”

According to Simon, the move to halt tour play in China comes “with the full support of the WTA Board of Directors.”

“In good conscience, I don’t see how I can ask our athletes to compete there when Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely and has seemingly been pressured to contradict her allegation of sexual assault,” Simon said. “Given the current state of affairs, I am also greatly concerned about the risks that all of our players and staff could face if we were to hold events in China in 2022.”

Next year, China is supposed to host several of the WTA’s tournaments, including the season-ending WTA Finals — scheduled to be held there until 2030.

Tennis icon Billie Jean King threw her support behind the measure, writing that she applauds Simon and WTA leadership for “taking a strong stand on defending human rights in China & around the world.”

“The WTA is on the right side of history in supporting our players.”

Candace Parker sat down with Bleacher Report’s Taylor Rooks on Tuesday, speaking candidly about her non-relationship with USA Basketball and Geno Auriemma after the program famously cut Parker from the 2016 Olympic team.

“I’m happy for them,” Parker said of the Tokyo squad, singling out Napheesa Collier and Chelsea Gray for their success this past summer as they helped Team USA win Olympic gold in Tokyo. Parker said she wishes Team USA the best, but was also candid in critiquing the program’s evolution.

“When you evolve with time, that’s when you’re at your best. And I don’t know if USA Basketball has continually evolved with time.”

Parker, who played very little in 2012 and was snubbed from the team in 2016, added that she wished that USA Basketball had been more upfront about the process. Parker highlights a camp in which she excelled on the court, alluding to the idea that it was about who she was off of the court that made the difference.

“I got a triple-double at the camp, was first or second in scoring,” she said. “Like, it wasn’t on the court.

“So if it’s me as an individual, as a person… I’m spending time away from my daughter to come and do these camps that I’m not even being judged off of how I’m playing.”

She added that she didn’t think she personally fit in with the team, which was then coached by UConn’s Geno Auriemma.

“I don’t think Geno wanted me on the team,” she said, adding that she wished that Auriemma and USA Basketball had just been upfront rather than beating around the bush.

“As soon as he was named coach again, I was like ‘ah well, this is gonna be interesting,’” Parker said in reference to 2016. When pressed for as to why Auriemma didn’t want her on the team, Parker said: “He doesn’t like me, I don’t like him.”

Parker also alluded to the fact that during her time at Tennessee, UConn failed to win a national championship and couldn’t beat the Lady Vols.

“We don’t like each other… But I’m of the mindset that I don’t have to like you to play with you. I don’t have to like you to work with you. And it’s fine, it’s cool. They made their decision.”

Parker then added that she’s still upset about Nneka Ogwumike being left off of the USA Basketball team that won gold in Tokyo.

“I get more angry at the people that I love getting hurt, and what they did to Nneka was unbelievable,” she said. “It’s one of those things where it’s like, I’m more angry at that. Because you have somebody that arguably, maybe in 2016 but definitely in 2020 [should have been included]. She’s the only MVP of the league [that hasn’t been named to an Olympic team]. She went and got MVP of the World Games and then you leave her off the team? I think that there’s certain grace for certain people, and there’s certain things that aren’t, that you don’t get grace.”

Parker also complimented UConn’s success as a college program while seeming to insinuate that the team and Geno have had too much influence over Team USA, a claim Seimone Augustus also recently made.

Lindsey Horan discussed the recent allegations of abuse against former Chicago Red Stars coach Rory Dames ahead of the USWNT’s two friendlies against Australia.

“You can sit here and you just want some positivity,” she said, when asked about the news. “I think the positive you can take out of it is that these coaches are being released or fired or resigning themselves because they know what’s about to come.”

It’s been a tumultuous year for the NWSL off the field, with five out of the league’s 10 coaches resigning or being fired due to abuse allegations. Dames is the latest, with Christen Press, Jen Hoy and Samantha Johnson all coming forward and sharing their experiences with the Washington Post.

“I think the bravery from these women coming out and speaking about it is incredible,” Horan said.

Horan then added that it’s “really hard” to wake up to more news about coaches who are abusing players, adding that she’s also “had a personal experience.”

The forward played under Farid Benstiti with Paris Saint-Germain from 2012 until 2016. Benstiti resigned from the head coaching role with OL Reign in July, reportedly over abuse allegations. Horan has publicly spoken out in the past about her experiences with Benstiti, saying he body shamed her to the point that she considered quitting soccer altogether.

The USWNT will face off against Australia in the first of two friendlies on Friday at 11 p.m. ET on FS2.

Chicago Red Stars majority owner Arnim Whisler has apologized to players over text message, former Red Star Sam Johnson revealed Tuesday.

According to a screenshot posted to Johnson’s Instagram stories, Whisler texted her saying he is “so sorry for what happened to you at the Red Stars and for not knowing or having procedures that could uncover it.

“If it’s helpful I’m happy to speak or help further,” he continued.

On the screenshot, Johnson wrote “Calculated…”


She later added that she was “happy to discuss publicly honey, pick a platform” tagging the Chicago Red Stars as well as multiple national media outlets.

Johnson then revealed a text that was sent to Jen Hoy, another player quoted publicly in the Post, that read similar to what she received.

“….that was kinda like a mass text,” she wrote.

A screenshot showing a similar message to the one sent to Johnson that was sent to Jen Hoy.

Johnson had 68 appearances for the Red Stars from 2014 through 2018 before being traded to the Utah Royals. She was then sent on loan to Australia’s W-League where she played with Sydney FC and the Melbourne Victory. She then returned to Utah where she appeared in 14 games for the team before announcing her retirement from professional soccer.

In 2020, she made her return to Australia’s W-League with Melbourne City before making her way to Soyaux in France.

The defender was quoted multiple times in The Washington Post story published Monday, which featured multiple current and former NWSL players accusing former Red Stars coach Rory Dames of verbal and emotional abuse.

Johnson discussed being witness to an incident in which Dames yelled at a player, who is a mother, “If you can’t even talk on the field, what kind of mother are you?”

“Something happens to [Dames] when he comes to work, because he’s a completely different person, and he does not have to be that way,” Johnson said of Dames and the incident. “It’s extremely demoralizing and definitely verbally abusive. Is verbal abuse against the rules? I don’t know, but I just know I wasn’t comfortable with him challenging my teammate like that.”

“It affects people’s individual confidence, individual everything,” she later added. “For some players, you question everything you do, everything you are.”

According to reporting by Post, Whisler had knowledge of allegations of abuse against Dames since at least 2018 when he was made aware of an investigation that was being conducted by U.S. Soccer. Whisler has a long history with U.S. Soccer, having worked with the federation to help found the NWSL in 2012.

The first time allegations of abuse were brought to U.S. Soccer was in 2014, when USWNT and former Red Star Christen Press brought her concerns to U.S. Soccer officials.

In addition to the allegations, the article details the failures of U.S. Soccer to respond to the allegations. In the article, Johnson said it is a sign that there needs to be an independent and unbiased governing body that overlooks the league, its owners and U.S. Soccer.

“There’s no one looking over the higher-ups,” she said.

On Tuesday, Red Stars’ ownership issued a statement, walking back their previous statement on Dames and apologizing to players.

A new women’s sports podcast has hit the scene, with Kate Fagan and Jessica Smetana bringing a magazine-style podcast that enters sports “through the side doors of pop culture and comedy.”

The podcast offers up a mix of interviews, skits and discussions that offer up a different viewpoint on women’s sports and “those who have critiqued them.”

First up as a guest on the podcast is none other than four-time WNBA champion and current Los Angeles Sparks’ assistant coach Seimone Augustus. At roughly the 14:30 mark of the podcast, Fagan and Augustus get to talking about the Team USA basketball process, the protection players are under as part of the team and the Olympics snub of Nneka Ogwumike, which was hotly contested amongst basketball circles.

“Once you’re under that USA Basketball shield, they’re celebrating you more than anything,” Augustus said on the podcast.

“Everybody heard the buzzing about Nneka and what happened,” she continued. “But you didn’t hear it at the Olympics, you didn’t hear it during the exhibition games. You didn’t hear it throughout that time. It was just like, let’s focus on celebrating the women more than anything.”

Still Augustus says that more of those hard discussions need to happen in regards to USA Basketball.

“Nneka isn’t the first and she probably won’t be the last in those situations,” she said, adding that as a former player she wants to see the process improve and for the basketball talent to have a greater say.

“Everybody can agree that Nneka was a player that, her talent is definitely there, has been there and will always be there. But for whatever reason, that particular situation didn’t allow for her to be a part of that team.”

Fagan then gets into how, while there is plenty of scrutiny on the men’s side of the game, not enough people understood on the women’s side why Ogwumike did not make the team. At times, Fagan feels as though this can be attributed to UConn’s influence on the women’s game.

“I don’t know that there’s another program in any sport that has as much influence at every level of a sport,” Fagan said. “I don’t think Alabama football has an outsized influence in the NFL. Yeah, they’ve got a lot of players, but I look at UConn and I’m like, the power of UConn at every different level and where it gets you? I don’t think there’s another model like that across sports.”

“Haven’t seen it,” Augustus said. “Like you said, there’s a lot of [Alabama] players in the NFL, but not to the point where it’s kind of controlling the system and the flow in which certain organizations or entities operate. UConn has definitely had a stronghold on those situations.”

Still, Augustus asserts she wants to see the whole process leading up to Olympic selection addressed — not just UConn’s so-called stronghold on the game of basketball.

“The issue that needs to be addressed is the process,” she said. “What is the process? Why does it vary or change for certain players at certain times in certain moments?

“Because this is the second time that Nneka’s going through this, [2016] was the first time in which, same identical thing: didn’t miss a camp, didn’t miss any assignment, showed up for every event. Everything that is always asked of us was done.

“So, what am I supposed to do when the line is moved and it’s like, ‘oh well you didn’t do that much, you wasn’t popular enough.’ I didn’t know popularity was a part of the thing. I thought it was talent. I thought we were basing it on what I was able to bring to the team. But, you know, depending on the player. Depending on who, when, where, it’s your personality. It’s your hair. It’s your attitude.”

You can listen to more of the podcast, and the discussion about Team USA and UConn, here.

After missing the NWSL semifinals on Sunday due to COVID-19 protocol, NWSL MVP runner-up and Chicago Red Stars forward Mallory Pugh could also miss the championship game based on NWSL policy.

Both Pugh and defender Kayla Sharples entered COVID-19 protocol prior to the team’s semifinal game against the Portland Thorns, a 2-0 Red Stars win.

In accordance with the NWSL’s COVID-19 protocols, a player who tests positive for COVID-19 must clear a 10-day isolation period before returning to play. During this time, they must be isolated from the team and are not allowed to exercise. The player must also be symptom-free for at least seven days before returning to play.

That means that if Pugh tested positive last Friday, she would not have cleared the 10-day isolation period by Saturday, when the championship game will be played in Louisville.

However, if Pugh did not test positive, and was only placed in protocol due to exposure to COVID-19, she could return to play if she produces a series of negative tests on days 5 and 7 of her quarantine.

The NWSL does note in their policies in regards to COVID-19 exposure that “each case will be evaluated and may present unique circumstances not covered by these protocols.”

As of Monday, Red Stars head coach Rory Dames was uncertain about the status of both Pugh and Sharples. Dames did not explicitly say whether either player had tested positive, only that they were both symptom-free while in protocol, he was unsure of their timeline and he hoped to have them back for the championship game.

There is wide speculation within NWSL circles that Pugh is unvaccinated against COVID-19. Earlier this month, she opted out of the latest U.S. women’s national team camp, to be held in Australia later this month with a pair of friendlies against the Australian national team. Australia requires everyone entering the country to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski has confirmed that, per Australia’s mandates, “everybody that travels to Australia will be fully vaccinated.”

After entering COVID-19 protocol, Sharples tweeted that she was fully vaccinated and had gotten the booster shot.

When reached for comment, a Red Stars spokesperson told Just Women’s Sports: “At this time the club has no comment on the status of Mal or Kayla and would rather wait until the injury report is released by the league to provide any updates.” The NWSL did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Forward Kealia Watt’s status is also unknown after she exited Sunday’s semifinal early with a knee injury.