AD missed the 2020 and 2021 seasons due to long-haul COVID-19. (Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images)

New York Liberty player AD, who previously went by the name Asia Durr, is making their return to the court this season after spending the past two years dealing with long-haul symptoms of COVID-19.

AD contracted the virus in June 2020. In the first month after getting the virus, they said that they lost 32 pounds. In early July, they were admitted to the hospital, where they were diagnosed with bronchitis.

Almost two years later, they are navigating their return to the WNBA.

“I didn’t know it would turn into two years of being sick,” AD told Sports Illustrated. “I really thought I’d be good after two weeks. But I had no idea what was about to take place.”

They added that they thought they might die from the virus “five or six times” in the last two years.

“I was literally suffering every day. I felt I was dying,” AD told Sports Illustrated.

Older sister Genesis Durr added, “Just to see the way COVID grabbed a hold of AD and [would] not let go, it was very heartbreaking.”

The experience led to internal reflection, as they figured out who they were and wanted to be. They now go by AD and use they/them pronouns. They choose not to use the terms nonbinary or transgender; rather, they said, “I just view myself as AD.”

AD is believed to be just the second current WNBA player to use pronouns other than she/her publicly, joining free agent Layshia Clarendon.

“I never had the time to sit down and figure out self,” they told Sports Illustrated. “So I feel like this was God’s way of sitting me down and saying these things need to be addressed.

“I realized I was trying to hide who I was to make other people happy. As I did the work, I realized it’s OK to be who you want to be and who you are. It’s OK if some people don’t like it…Because it feels good to be who I truly am.”

Coming back to basketball hasn’t been easy, but first-year Liberty coach Sandy Brondello has been impressed with AD’s return and recognizes the magnitude of the comeback.

“[AD is] really good with the ball in [their] hand,” she says. “Great going downhill, has a midrange, is improving in their outside shot as well.”

Still, there are times when they still experience flare-ups, and they are careful not to push too much.

“I have to be realistic and realize I’m coming off a severe sickness,” they said. “I do understand that this is still a process. Just being out there, just being available for my teammates to play, that’s success to me.”

There’s also success in returning to the court, fully embracing who they are and being open about the journey.

“It feels like I’m starting over,” AD says. “Everything with my life definitely feels so different now.”