The Women’s Basketball Association (WNBA) has never been known as the financial come up like its sibling league the National Basketball Association (NBA). The league itself has yet to make any millionaires based on the salary it pays alone. As a rookie, even a heralded superstar can command no more than $49,400, and the league’s maximum salary sits at only $107,000 for veteran players (five or more years). Compared to the NBA, these numbers really are nothing more than peanuts. As this Buzzfeed article points out, the pay discrepancy betwixt the two leagues is more than staggering.
As a result of the lower pay in the league, a majority of WNBA players spend their offseason overseas playing for international teams in order to subsidize their incomes. The league’s top players can make up to 12x more than their WNBA salary overseas. But the year round play eventually takes a toll on the athletes and wears most of them down not only physically but mentally as well. Los Angeles Sparks point guard Kristi Tolliver told her exhausting story to the Washington Post, revealing that she had temporarily lost her love for the game due to the need to play to keep the lights on. Love for the game is certainly one thing that is never in question for WNBA players but having the burden of playing constantly to keep the lights on will no doubt have an effect on even the greatest of passions. WNBA players have long recognized this and, now more than ever, have begun making major moves off the court. While superstar Diana Taurasi is taking a bolder approach by opting to sit out this upcoming 2015 season at the request of her Russian team; others have been game planning for the day when their best playing days are behind them.
Here are a few players who are showing that they have got game off the court as well.
Cappie Pondexter may have known what she wanted to do with her life by the age of 10 and cemented that dream with a tattoo in high school but one cannot proclaim herself as the best dressed player in the WNBA without having some serious passion for fashion. The two-time WNBA Champion made the most of her trade from the Phoenix Mercury to the New York Liberty in 2010 as soon as she touched down in town. She started her image and consulting company 4Season Style Management and has steadily been building her clientele with fellow WNBA players and other celebrities as well as everyday people who just want to look good. Pondexter and her 4Style crew recently styled BET’s 106 & Park host Keshia Chante.
Swin Cash knows how to win; from beating cancer to winning at every level of basketball competition. The 13-year old WNBA veteran is now setting herself up to continue that streak of success after she hangs up her sneakers professionally. During the off seasons from the WNBA, Cash has been putting to good use her degree in Communications from the University of Connecticut. Cash appeared as an analyst for ESPN’s NBA Fastbreak and many other shows sharing her insight on the sports world. Those appearances helped to display Cash’s vast knowledge of the game and no doubt helped to lead to her placement on the new historic sports show, “We Need to Talk.” The show is the first ever all-female sports show that premiered on September 30 2014 and runs every Tuesday at 10PM /ET on CBS Sports Network. Cash also has her own companies, Swin Cash Enterprises, LLC which holds basketball camps and clinics amongst other things.
Cash isn’t the only prominent baller who shares her knowledge on the historic “We Need To Talk;” basketball legend Lisa Leslie also reports next to her former USA teammate. Before the first player to ever dunk in a WNBA game retired, she had already begun to expand her off court skills. With her 6’5 frame Leslie signed to the Wilhelmina Modeling Agency early into her professional playing career and has appeared in Vogue Magazine amongst other publications. While her physique helped her in front of one camera, her personality landed her several acting roles in front of another. She has continued both in retirement as well as joining the ownership of her former team, the Los Angeles Sparks.
When Michael Jordan takes notice of your game to the point where he wants to make you one of the faces of his brand, you must have some serious game. After being selected number one overall in the 2011 draft, Maya Moore became the first ever woman signed by Nike’s Jordan brand. She also appeared in the Kyrie Irving led “Uncle Drew” commercials for Pepsi Max. Moore also started the Maya Moore Academy which teaches campers the fundamentals of basketball and focuses on leadership, service, and character.
As a heralded rookie, Brittney Griner could not command more than a rookie in the NBA who never leaves the bench for action the entire season. Just recently while overseas playing, Griner and her Chinese teammates where chased by a strange man with a knife all the way back to their team bus (they were all safe.) Luckily for Griner, her lucrative opportunities off the court in the states could possibly put an end to that ever happening again, if she plays her cards right. Griner currently has a multi-year deal with Nike and has already released a book. As an openly proud gay athlete, she is also a vocal advocate for the LGBT community.
Skylar Diggins finished her collegiate career as one of the most decorated athletes in Notre Dame history. She led the Fighting Irish on two National Championship runs during her sophomore and junior years and although they came up short both times, Skylar Diggins became a superstar. Some attribute that newfound status to the fact that she had people like Lil’ Wayne enamored with her as they sat courtside at her games. And since moving on to the professional ranks she has had to deal with the likes of Drake professing his love for her constantly. But those hollers are the last things on the Tulsa Shock point guard and the WNBA’s 2014 Most Improved Player’s mind. When she’s not in the gym working on her game, she’s somewhere extending her brand. The first woman to sign to Jay Z’s Roc Nation has deals with Nike and Sprint and has been profiled by several mainstream publications such as: Essence, Vogue, New York Times, and Sports Illustrated. She’s coming up on only her third year in the league and her future is looking pretty bright, on and off the court.