Teresa Weatherspoon
(AP Photo/John Harrell, File)

An accomplished name at multiple levels of basketball, Teresa Weatherspoon was one of the charter members of the New York Liberty.

Geoff Magliocchetti

A basketball story that began in Pineland, Texas and took a lengthy detour in Manhattan will climax in Springfield.

Teresa Weatherspoon, one of the charter members of the WNBA’s New York Liberty, has been named to the 2019 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class. The team confirmed her election on their social media accounts.

Weatherspoon, 53, joined the Liberty, one of the WNBA’s original franchises, in their 1997 debut. Her dynamic efforts on the court, as well as a strong personality, made her not only the face of Liberty basketball but one of the faces of the newborn league. She became the league’s first Defensive Player of the Year after the season, one that ended with the Liberty partaking in the single-game WNBA Championship against the Houston Comets. Weatherspoon would also be the original league leader in assists, averaging 6.4 per game.

She would retain her defensive title in 1998. In that season, she became the first (and thus far only) WNBA player to record triple digits in steals with 100.

Weatherspoon’s most famous New York moment came in the 1999 WNBA Finals, also against Houston. Though the Comets earned the title in the three-game set, Weatherspoon sank perhaps the most famous shot in WNBA history. Down 67-65 with 2.4 seconds remaining and facing elimination in Game 2, the Liberty were faced with a full-court journey to stay alive.

Taking the inbound pass from Kym Hampton, Weatherspoon took a couple of dribbles to the cusp of half-court and launched a desperation triple from about 50 feet out. Her heave bounced off the backboard and through the net, giving the Liberty the 68-67 win. It was commonly referred to in WNBA circles as “The Shot”.

In the 1999 postseason, Weatherspoon led all participants in assists again (7.5 per game), duplicating the feat in the ensuing playoff session (7.0).

After seven seasons with the Liberty, which included two Finals appearances in 2000 and 2002, Weatherspoon played a final season with the Los Angeles Sparks before retiring in 2004. Her professional career ended with four All-Star appearances (1999-2002). In 2011, she was named one of the WNBA’s Top 15 Players of All-Time, as well as one of the WNBA 20@20, each part of a respective anniversary season.

Today, Weatherspoon, affectionately referred to as “T-Spoon” by fans, remains a constant presence at Liberty games as the team’s Director of Player and Franchise Development, having worked with the front office since 2014. She remains the franchise’s leader in assists (1,306) and steals (453). Weatherspoon also maintains a strong prescience in the Liberty’s community, including the Liberty Basketball Academy’s youth basketball outreach.

Weatherspoon’s basketball impact was felt long before she entered Manhattan. In her college years at Louisiana Tech, she earned a pair of All-American nomination and led the Lady Techsters won the 1988 NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship in her senior year. During the National Championship against Auburn in Tacoma, Weatherspoon helped erase a 12-point halftime deficit, holding Auburn’s star scorer Ruthie Bolton scoreless in the second half to earn a 56-54 victory.

She would return to Ruston in 2008 as an assistant women’s basketball coach, taking over full-time duties in 2009. Her college coaching ledger stands at 99-71 over six seasons, including a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances. Before her return, Weatherspoon was also the head coach of the Westchester Phantoms of the American Basketball Association.

After college, Weatherspoon played several years overseas in Italy, France, and Russia prior to the WNBA’s founding. Other international exploits include a gold medal earned with the American squad in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.

This marks the second consecutive year that a member of Liberty management has earned her call to Springfield. Head coach Katie Smith, who enters her second year at the New York helm, was last year’s nominee.

Other confirmed members of the 2019 class include Vlade Divac, Jack Sikma, and Paul Westphal, as well as the Wayland Baptist Flying Queens, an NAIA program that stands as the winningest program in women’s college basketball history.

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