April 1, 2021
Diamond DeShields shines best when she’s having fun
'I have joy every time I get to play basketball'
Welcome to The Next: A basketball newsroom brought to you by The IX. 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage, written, edited, and photographed by our young, diverse staff, dedicated to breaking news, analysis, historical deep dives, and projections about the game we love.
Subscribe to make sure this vital work, creating a pipeline of young, diverse media professionals to write, edit and photograph the great game, continues and grows. Paid subscriptions include some exclusive content, but the reason for subscriptions is a simple one: making sure our writers and editors creating 24/7/365 women’s basketball coverage get paid to do it.
It’s easy to have fun watching Diamond DeShields play basketball. She puts on a stellar display of athleticism, exudes confidence, isn’t afraid to show off and always looks like she’s having the time of her life doing it.
“I just love to play basketball,” DeShields said in a Zoom interview with reporters this week.
DeShields is currently on-site with the USA Basketball Women’s National Team at the USA’s second minicamp of the year in San Antonio, Texas. And it wasn’t hard to notice the word she used to describe the experience.
“It’s always fun to be here,” DeShields said. “You know, you get to put USA on your chest and be with all your friends and opponents. Just, just great competition all around, it’s always a good time.”
DeShields was the Chicago Sky’s leading scorer in 2019, averaging 16.2 points per game and starting all games that season. She was also the winner of the 2019 WNBA Skills Challenge — and clearly, she had a ridiculous amount of fun doing it.
Going into the 2020 season, it was anticipated that Diamond DeShields was on the cusp of having her best season to date and the energy surrounding her and the Chicago Sky was palpable. The Sky were one of the teams to watch as they made a run for a 2020 WNBA Championship and they were going to have the most fun doing it. The Sky players entertained themselves, and fans, with plenty of TikTok videos while inside the “wubble.”
So what went wrong for Diamond DeShields last season?
“As we all know Covid took a pretty heavy hit on everybody,” she said. “So speaking to the challenges, it was just really a lot of that. A lot of quarantines, a lot of protocols, a lot of testing like all of that was really, really challenging.”
DeShields also suffered knee and thigh injuries that kept her out of the starting lineup (she didn’t start a single game while in the bubble). Plagued with these persistent injuries, she averaged only 6.8 points per game.
DeShields also just didn’t appear to be having fun like fans were used to seeing, something she acknowledged.
“I mean you do kind of disconnect a little bit, right, like especially in the bubble, like you use basketball as an escape,” she said. “But when we were in the bubble, I found we were trying to escape basketball.”
DeShields departed the WNBA bubble at the end of August, citing personal reasons. She exited the same time as Azurá Stevens, who suffered a season-ending injury to her left knee. Diamond’s departure felt sudden, but DeShields was far from alone among those for whom a combination of physical ailments and mental challenges were taking their toll.
But the upcoming 2021 season could be the opportunity for DeShields to shine and give fans the next level game play they’d hoped to see last year. DeShields has been hard at work in the gym and finding ways to reconnect to the sport that gives her so much joy.
When asked about what has helped DeShields reconnect to the game of basketball, “Honestly when we got Candace [Parker] in free agency.”
Understandable! Signing last year’s Defensive Player of the Year and two-time WNBA MVP, Candace Parker, in January has energized many around the Sky, not just someone who will share the court with her. For DeShields, it is also a sign of the franchise’s health.
“It says a lot about the way we’ve turned things around in Chicago. The way that [coach] James [Wade] has implemented the culture there and what we’ve done as players to make that an ideal location for someone like Candace. I was just excited, man.”
The combination of reps in the gym, a huge free agency signing and the competitive, fun environment of USA Basketball minicamps are all positive signs that should excite fans about what’s to come for Diamond DeShields this season.
“I have joy every time I get to play basketball,” DeShields said. “The [last] year really put a lot into perspective for me. Just being able to get up and walk into the gym and tie my shoes and play the game of basketball is just one of the most fulfilling things that I can do and that I get to do.” said DeShields during a USA Basketball presser.
WNBA fans should look forward to seeing Diamond DeShields’ joy on display this coming season.