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Imani Mcgee-Stafford Talks Stepping Away From the WNBA to Pursue Her Law Degree


Imani McGee-Stafford is a professional basketball player who recently announced her decision to take a two-year hiatus from the WNBA in order to pursue a law degree from Southwestern Law School in LA. A University of Texas graduate, McGee-Stafford was drafted 10th overall in the 2016 WNBA draft by the Chicago Sky. Named to the WNBA All-Rookie team, McGee-Stafford went on to play for both Atlanta Dream and the Dallas Wings. Below, she discusses what inspired her to return to school and how she handled her earlier transition from college to the pros.

When did you first become interested in pursuing a degree in law? 

I started thinking about law school after Dr. Ford’s testimony in the Brett Kavanaugh hearing a couple of years ago. The fact that we would feel comfortable putting someone accused of these things in the highest job in the land was just crazy to me. Then couple that with Trump’s sexual assault allegations, and it just showed me that we really don’t care about women as a country. And that’s when I started thinking, how can I help change that? The only route that made sense to me was being a lawyer.

Do you think that your basketball career is over or do you hope to return to the league after you graduate from law school?

We’ll see what life has. But my goal is to take a two-year hiatus, which will probably end up being one, because I don’t think we’re going to have a season this year, then come back and play for a couple of years and then retire and do law.

What kind of message do you think pursuing a degree in law sends to your fans who look up to you as an athlete?

I think that because athletes are notably great at their sport, people believe that we can only be great at one thing. It is really hard for people to picture athletes doing anything other than athletics, because that is usually what they’re best at. For me, I’m totally an idealistic child when it comes to the fact that I really want to see if I can have it all. I want to live like five lives, because I just want to do so much. Hopefully fans that look up to me understand that you can do whatever you really set your mind to. I mean, I got into law school with a full scholarship. I had to work really hard for it, but it’s possible.

Looking back, did you know that you wanted to pursue basketball professionally when you were playing at Texas?

Not until my last two years. It just became more tangible towards the end of my college career. For one, I always used basketball as a means to an end. I wanted a free education and to major in accounting, and Texas has the number one accounting program in the country. That was what I focused on when picking a school. Also, I didn’t really think I was good enough and I wasn’t a “sports-first” type of person. But then, my junior year, I started off the season with an injury and I pretty much spent the whole year on what felt like one leg. But I still did really well and won some Big 12 accolades. That’s when I was like, “Wow. Maybe I can keep hanging and go far with basketball.”

Did you follow the WNBA at that point and were there any teams that you were hoping to get drafted by?

I’m different because my mom played for the WNBA, so I’ve kind of been around it my entire life. I wanted to go to Dallas, ironically, or San Antonio, because I was already in Texas and at that time was married to my ex-husband who had also gone to Texas. So I wanted to just stay close. Then if that didn’t happen, which it didn’t, I wanted to go to Chicago because I knew Pokey [Chatman] really liked me — she was the head coach at Chicago at the time. I wanted to be with whoever really liked me.

Can you remember your reaction and your thoughts when you were drafted?

Relief, probably, because it’s a really scary, nerve-wracking kind of situation as you’re waiting for your name to get called. It feels like two minutes takes forever to pass. You’re not in control, and you really don’t know where you’re going. So when I finally got drafted, it was mostly just relief, and I was excited, because I got to go to Chicago. I knew that Pokey really wanted me on her team.

What made your transition from college ball to the league so successful?

I think I was just well-prepared. Shout-out to my college coach and my family and friends. When I was getting interviewed before the draft, I talked to Dan Hughes, who’s now the coach of Seattle, but he was San Antonio’s coach at the time. He asked me a question, and it was super simple. He said, “What do you bring to the game every time you step on the court?” I don’t remember how I answered in the moment, but it was something I really thought about and took with me as I entered the league. To play at the WNBA level, you have to do something great and you have to consistently do it great, every day. Maybe you’re a scorer or maybe you’re just a rebounder. Whatever it is, you have to leave the college mindset of being a “do-it-all player” and figure out what it is you do great every day.

Some people are special and they can be that same player they are in college. But most players have to transition based on the new team they are playing with, and I think I was able to do that. What I bring every day is energy. I talk. I’m loud. I’m locked in. I’m a defensive presence and a rebounder. Defense is what I enjoy doing, and it’s what I’m known for doing. I’m going to bring you great energy, and I’m going to know the scouting report, up and down, every day. Regardless of who steps up in front of me, I’m going to be ready every day.

You have a very athletic family. You mentioned that your mom played in the WNBA, and your brother plays in the NBA. How much has your family’s experience with professional basketball impacted you as a player? 

Heading into the league, it was helpful in terms of knowing what to expect. I had the benefit of asking some of the greats — Tina Thompson, Lisa Leslie, my mom — about what to expect and how to be successful. But ultimately, around my second year in the league, I figured out how to measure my own success. That helped alleviate a feeling of pressure, as I just acknowledged that I may never actually attain the success that my family has, but that doesn’t mean I’m failing.

What was it about your second year that helped you come to that realization? 

My rookie year, I was starting. I was on the All-Rookie team. I was playing in the semifinals as a rookie. Then, the next season, my coach got fired, and I did not mesh well with the new coach at all. I went from having a significant role to not playing at all, even though I felt as though I was better than the other people in my position. That was when I had to figure out what success looks like for me. How can I measure something when it’s not really in my control? How do I take inventory of what I think my success is and make small, tangible goals, even though my playing time is out of my control? That’s when I learned to be my own judge.

Looking ahead, do you have a specific interest in terms of what type of law you’d like to practice? 

I am interested in civil litigation and public interest law. I want to be a research lawyer and help change laws around women’s rights and sexual violence. We need more women in the field. The people who make laws and policy advocate for what they know and for people who look like them. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of people of color nor women of color in those positions. I want to get to that position so that I can help people like me.

Caitlin Clark dunks on Michael Che in surprise SNL appearance

(Julia Hansen/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Caitlin Clark made a surprise appearance on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend, which quickly went viral.

The Iowa star showed up on the show’s Weekend Update segment to playfully call out Michael Che’s history of making jabs at women’s sports.

It started when Che joked that Iowa should replace Clark’s retired No. 22 “with an apron.” 

When Clark entered, Che said that he was a fan. But Clark wasn’t convinced – especially not when co-host Colin Jost brought the receipts of Che’s jabs.

“Really, Michael? Because I heard that little apron joke you did,” she said, before making him read some jokes of her own in retaliation. Clark finished her segment by shouting out the WNBA greats that came before her. She then got in one final dig – bringing Che a signed apron as a souvenir. 

When Che promised to give it to his girlfriend, Clark delivered her last playful dig of the night.

“You don’t have a girlfriend, Michael,” she said.

Afterward, SNL castmember Bowen Yang told People that the 22-year-old and teammates Gabbie Marshall, Kate Martin and Jada Gyamfi – who joined her at Studio 8H – “were so cool.”

“She's so charming and witty,” Yang said. “They were just the most stunning, noble people.

“Athletes just have this air about them. They know they're amazing. I mean, these are people who have numeric attachments and values to their performance. That's something that comedians never have.”

Portland Thorns, in uncharted territory, start NWSL season winless

Portland has started the season winless through four games for the first time. (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)

The Portland Thorns continue to struggle to start the NWSL season, falling 2-0 to the North Carolina Courage over the weekend to remain winless through their first four games. 

It’s uncharted territory for Portland, who has never started the NWSL regular season without a win in four games before.

Following the loss, defender Becky Sauerbrunn voiced her frustrations with the start. 

“It’s hard to find a lot of encouraging things, but what I find encouraging is that people are frustrated,” she said. “People are pissed off that we’re not doing well. We care, and I think that’s really important.” 

She also added that while the team will reflect individually, “there’s going to be no finger pointing.”

“We’re going to look at ourselves and figure out what we should have done, or I should have done better,” she said. “There is a list of things that I could have done better, and I’m going to make sure I know every single thing and watch this game back.”

The Thorns currently sit at the bottom of the league table with just one point, having allowed 10 goals – tied for the worst in the league. They’ve yet to lead in a match. And as questions grow, attention turns to head coach Mike Norris. 

Norris is in his second year as head coach of the club after leading the team to a second-place finish in the regular season last year. When asked about the possibility of pressure growing after the unprecedented start, Norris said that the pressure has been there “from day one.”

“I cannot be driven by my day-to-day and the longer vision of the pressure of the job,” he said. “We’ve got a belief in how we want to play, how we operate. We’ve got to stick with the process of that. While we do it, we have to review and see what is working, what’s not working.

“I’ll be showing up for the team and being there for what they need from me as we approach getting back together as a group next week.”

Maria Sanchez reportedly requests trade from Houston Dash

Mar 23, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Dash forward Maria Sanchez (7) warms up before the match between Racing Louisville and Houston Dash at Shell Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Maria Sanchez, who signed one of the biggest deals in NWSL history just four months ago, has reportedly requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

ESPN was the first to report the news, which was confirmed by multiple sources.

In a statement to ESPN, the team said: “​​Maria Sanchez is under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the Dash worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. At the time, it was the largest contract in NWSL history – something that was eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

The winger was a restricted free agent in the offseason, meaning that Houston could match any offer from another team and retain her rights. Should the team trade Sanchez, her contract would remain as it has been signed with the league. That limits the number of teams that could take on her contract. 

In three starts with the Dash this season, Sanchez has zero goals and an assist. The Dash are 1-2-1 through four games and have allowed a league-worst 10 goals.

The team hired a new coach, Fran Alonso, in December. Earlier this year, former goalkeeper coach Matt Lampson was fired for violating the league’s Coach Code of Conduct and Anti-Fraternization policy. 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close at midnight ET on Friday.

Canada beats U.S. Hockey 6-5 in thrilling World Championship win

UTICA, NEW YORK - APRIL 14: Team Canada raises the Championship Trophy after winning The Gold by defeating The United States in OT during the 2024 IIHF Women's World Championship Gold Medal game at Adirondack Bank Center on April 14, 2024 in Utica, New York. (Photo by Troy Parla/Getty Images)

Canada got its revenge on Sunday, winning the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship and taking down the U.S. in a 6-5 overtime classic.

Marie-Philip Poulin, a longtime star for Canada, got her first two goals of the tournament, while Danielle Serdachny had the game-winner. 

"I hate to say you're not trying to rely on it, expect it, but I know I've grown to expect it," Canada coach Troy Ryan said of Philip-Poulin. "Tonight was just a whole other level. I could see in her eyes every time we called her name that she was ready to go. It's just special."

The win came after Canada lost 1-0 to the U.S. in the group stage of the tournament. On Sunday, the two teams met for the 22nd time in 23 tournaments in the gold medal game – and the action between the two teams delivered. 

Among those scoring for the U.S. were Megan Keller, Alex Carpenter, Hilary Knight, Laila Edwards and Caroline Harvey. Julia Gosling, Emily Clark and Erin Ambrose had the other three goals for Canada, giving them their 13th World title after falling to the U.S. in last year’s title game in Toronto. 

This year’s game was held in New York, and it was the second-highest scoring final between the two teams. The U.S. won a world championship 7-5 in 2015. 

"Oh man, that feels good to win it on U.S. soil," Canada goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens said after the game. "We owed it to them and owed it to ourselves to win that one."

Canada also denied Knight a record 10th World Championship win, although she did become the most decorated player in women’s world championship history with 14 medals. After the game, Poulin gave Knight a hug on the ice. 

"We just said 'that was unbelievable,'" Poulin said.

U.S. coach John Wroblewski echoed the sentiment that it was an outstanding game after being asked about ending the game on a power-play after leaving too many players on the ice. 

"Instead of talking about the isolated events of tonight's game, I think that normally that's an interesting storyline,” he said. “But I think the entity of an amazing 6-5 game is an amazing hockey game that took place."

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