When readers get their hands on the new book basketball legend Seimone Augustus and longtime sports journalist Kate Fagan are creating, they will open it to find a colorful encyclopedia of sorts about the world of women’s basketball and pop culture.
“Hoop Muses,” the title credited to Augustus and anticipated to release in Spring 2023, will be a compilation of mini chapters with subjects ranging from landmark historic events, like the first intercollegiate women’s game ever played, to infamous moments of lore, like when Diana Taurasi kissed Augustus on the cheek during a heated play in a WNBA game.
As our society slowly wakes from the coma of defining sports as male, there are massive gaps to be filled in telling the stories of women’s sports. Augustus and Fagan (and their publishers at Twelve) are motivated to fill that gap with “Hoop Muses” in a way that is fun and exciting, and that is a true representation of the joy and drama athletes and fans feel in their love for the game.
In a recent interview with Just Women’s Sports about the book, Fagan put it simply, “We don’t want it to feel like a dissertation on Title IX.”
With Fagan doing the writing and Augustus curating the content, they needed a stellar illustrator to complete the team and were beyond pleased to bring artist Sophia Chang on board. A talented and young multimedia designer, Chang has made a name for herself in the streetwear and sneaker industries.
“She gave you that feel, she gave you that funk that you were expecting,” Augustus says of the artist. “To tell the stories on the inside, you actually have to have that visual effect to really have that profound feeling of intensity of the story and of the movements you’re reading about.”
An illustrated medium also allows Augustus and Fagan the freedom to get creative in not only telling the real-life stories of the game, but also re-imagining history and what it could have been. Like the forthcoming chapter where they recreate an iconic SLAM Magazine cover to feature Chamique Holdsclaw alongside the words “She Got Game.” Or the planned (W)NBA Jam chapter, where they bring to life the “top 10 dynamic duos that would have ruled the ’90s.”
“We want to build out cool, not anachronistic, but almost multiverse-level stuff. Like in a different world, here’s what NBA Jam would’ve looked like and here’s who you would have played,” Fagan explains. “Things that should have existed but didn’t. We want to build out that world, too.”
With the increased attention the WNBA garnered during its 2020 Wubble season, primarily due to the social activism and magnetism of the players, Augustus and Fagan feel the timing of their vision for this book is right on track with the demand from fans.
“It was becoming so clear over the last few years how many ways we’ve celebrated, mythologized, told the history of, created cultural value around men’s sports,” Fagan says. “We know the current logo of so many men’s teams and we know the previous seven logos. And we can trace the iteration of how the 1890s New York Yankees became the current New York Yankees. Women’s sports has never had that. Mythologizing women in sports is a crucial piece of building the cultural value around the game. We want this book to fill that gap.”
For Augustus, who lives by the “learn something new every day” adage, the opportunity to help educate current generations about those who paved the way has been one of the most rewarding aspects of the project.
“When you start reaching back in time and finding those moments where women had to go through certain things or certain eras for us to get here, it’s a beautiful thing to see,” Augustus says. “We want to give those players their flowers for what they’ve done to help us get where we’re going.”
While Fagan is a seasoned author of several books, including the national bestseller “What Made Maddy Run,” this is Augustus’ first foray into the world of publishing. When she decided to retire from professional basketball and transition into an assistant coaching role for the Los Angeles Sparks just before the start of the 2021 season last May, the move was more sudden than she (and many of her fans) expected. Now, getting this experience in the world of publishing may be a stepping stone to writing her own book eventually.
“It kind of helps me put together a bigger idea of, if I were to put out a book of my own personal life at some point of basketball, what would that be like? But it’s all about having a great team,” Augustus says.
Fagan herself has recently chosen a new team. After many years at ESPN, she left the sports media conglomerate to care for her father in the final months of his life. Reflecting upon her career during that time, Fagan realized that although ESPN was a great experience for her in so many ways, she wanted more. She wanted her presence and content to be a more complete picture of who she is and what women’s sports are like.
“At ESPN, you’re so boxed in,” she recalls. “It’s hard to be funny. It’s hard to avoid being the person who just comes in when there’s a domestic violence claim in football. People start to see you in only one way.”
Now with Meadowlark Media, Fagan has teamed up with producer and co-host Jessica Smetana to create the extremely entertaining podcast “Off the Looking Glass.” She credits “Hoop Muses” with igniting many of the ideas and stories they cover on the pod. With both projects, Fagan has been able to incorporate much more of her natural humor and joy into what she wants to say about sports and society.
“You can try to get your point across for decades in a really earnest way, like, ‘You should care about this! Look at what those dudes are saying! Isn’t that ridiculous!’ And people don’t get it. Then you write a [comedy] sketch about it and you just let them come to their own conclusions,” she says. “It’s a different way to try to get the same point across. And I don’t think it has been one that has really been used very often in trying to explain the world of media and sports and women.”
Similarly, you can write a dissertation on Title IX and explain all the reasons women’s sports are important, fun, entertaining and valuable for an endless number of pages. Or you can put together a trio of one passionate basketball legend, one charismatic writer, and one cutting-edge artist, and show the world what it’s been missing.
Tessa Nichols is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports.