March 13, 2023 

Week 3 of Athletes Unlimited Basketball was filled with celebration and recognition

Odyssey Sims remains atop the leaderboard.

Athletes Unlimited (AU) Basketball celebrated, International Women’s Day, the early 2000s and Special Olympics Texas in Week 3. One thing that has stood out the most during this season of AU interaction between the players and the fans.

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During halftime of the matchup between Team Smith and Team Mitchell on early 2000s night on March 10, a fan asked an AU staff member if Sheryl Swoopes could sign her magazine. It was not just any magazine. It was the Sports Illustrated for Women edition from 1997 where a pregnant Swoopes was featured on the cover.

The fan waits patiently and Swoopes lets her know that she will sign it in just a minute. As soon as she was free, the Hall of Famer and four-time WNBA champion signs the iconic magazine. Although there was apprehension from the staff, rightly so, all the fan had to do was wait a minute. This is one of many things that separates Athletes Unlimited from other leagues.

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There are two matchups on game days. Members of the second matchup can be seen watching the first game in the audience up until halftime and members of the first matchup usually stay to watch the second matchup. After Team Hillmon beat Team Mitchell 101-96 in their final game of Week 3, Allisha Gray, Hillmon and Veronica Burton joined their friends and family in attendance to watch Team Sims beat Team Smith 91-85.

Three fans ask the arena staff if they could just go say hello to Gray and they allowed it. Gray then signs autographs and takes pictures with them. Burton thanks fans as they congratulate her on playing a good game as she makes her way to her seat.

Shortly after that, guard Natasha Cloud upgrades the seats for a family of three. The fan interaction has been top notch and it is especially true for fans with courtside, floor seats and members of the Unlimited Club Gold members.

Athletes Unlimited celebrates Special Olympics Texas

Special Olympic Texas athletes with Hall of Famer Debbie Antonelli. Credit: Jade Hewitt Athletes Unlimited

AU has an ‘Athletes Causes’ program that allows the players to donate funds equal to 100% of their season win bonus to support the causes they love. Guard Kelsey Mitchell and forward Theresa Plaisance are both playing for Special Olympics Texas. The athletes of Special Olympics Texas were on full display during halftime of each matchup to showcase their skills.

Athlete sightings in Week 3

WNBPA President and Los Angeles Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike at the Fair Park Coliseum in Dallas, TX. Credit: Arie Graham
Basketball Player Executive Committee member Ty Young and Hall of Famer and four-time WNBA champion Tina Thompson at Fair Park Coliseum in Dallas, TX. Credit: Arie Graham

There have been many athletes attending the AU games in the first three weeks. Most recently, WNBPA President Nneka Ogwumike and four-time WNBA champion Tina Thompson. They were in attendance for games 17 and 18 in the third week of the season.

All squads beat up on each other leaving each team with a loss. Sims has been No. 1 on the leaderboard for the third consecutive week. She now has 4,347 points. No. 2 is forward NaLyssa Smith with 4,062 points. With just two weeks left, she is likely to remain No. 1 if she can continue to lead her teams to victory. As a captain, she has been 2-1.

Team Williams in week one has been the only team to go 3-0 so far this season. Guard Kierstan Bell will be a captain for the first time. Sims, Smith and Hillmon return as captains for Week 4. Games resume March 15 and they can be found on the CBS Sports Network.

Written by Arie Graham

Arie Graham joined 'The Next' in May 2021 as the beat writer for the Dallas Wings.

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