Becky Hammon, coach of Las Vegas Aces, was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame Saturday because of her playing career, and for good reason: A six-time WNBA All-Star and two-time First Team selection, Hammon was the league’s assists leader in 2007 and her No. 25 was retired by the Aces.
But during her speech, Hammon took a moment to acknowledge Greg Popovich, who in 2014 hired her to be the first assistant coach in NBA history, jumpstarting her coaching career.
"I know you weren't trying to be courageous when you hired me, but you did do something in professional sports that nobody had ever done." 🗣️This moment between @BeckyHammon & Pop ❤️@Hoophall | #23HoopClass pic.twitter.com/G3gk51vLU5— NBA TV (@NBATV) August 13, 2023
"I know you weren't trying to be courageous when you hired me, but you did do something in professional sports that nobody had ever done." 🗣️This moment between @BeckyHammon & Pop ❤️@Hoophall | #23HoopClass pic.twitter.com/G3gk51vLU5
“Pop, I’m not going to look at you,” she said during the speech, pausing for several moments to hold back tears.The crowd applauded. “You’re a man of principle and excellence. I know you weren’t trying to be courageous when you hired me. But you did do something no one else in professional sports has ever done.”
Popovich, who has won five NBA titles over 27 seasons with the Spurs, was also inducted into the Hall of Fame on Saturday.
“I’m in love with her,” Popovich said of Hammon in an ESPN interview. “She is a fiery, competitive, take-no-prisoners gal. The first time I knew that was when I went to see the WNBA team for San Antonio. She was the point guard for that team and she reminded me of my youth. She was a wiseass out there on the court, chewing her gum, directing traffic, making everybody do what she wanted to do. And she just ruled the whole gym.”
The Aces (26-3) return to the court Sunday night against the Atlanta Dream (15-15). Hammon will be back on the sideline, likely with a message from Popovich in her head.
“I don’t even know if you know how many times you’ve actually texted me that, ‘Just be you,’” Hammon said to Popovich during her speech. “You’ve changed the trajectory of my life, and of so many other young girls and women. Thank you. I love you.”