November 27, 2021 

Seimone Augustus wants to be the role model she never had

The WNBA legend is enjoying her transition into coaching and being a visible mentor to young basketball players

The strangest place Seimone Augustus ever played basketball was in a funeral home.

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Growing up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, there weren’t many opportunities for basketball and exposure, and she had to go wherever she could to play. The funeral home happened to have a gym, and they simply moved the caskets out of the way.

In this particular game, Augustus played against rapper Lil’ Boosie, whom she grew up with, and his team. They initially thought she was a boy, but as she was dominating the game, they gradually realized that this was a girl they couldn’t guard.

While opportunities in Louisiana may have been scarce, there was no denying her talent. She was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated and earned a scholarship to Louisiana State University. She was the No. 1 pick in the 2006 WNBA Draft and just recently retired as one of the most decorated players in league history.

Augustus recently appeared alongside fellow WNBA legend Lisa Leslie at the famous Venice Beach basketball courts for a basketball clinic, hosted by Nike and Dick’s Sporting Goods for girls ages 8-18.

Leslie spoke about immersing herself within the Los Angeles basketball culture, playing at famous parks and getting mentorship from Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson. Augustus never had anything like that. Instead, she became the one aspiring players back home look up to.

“I wish I came up in LA and I got a chance to have a story like Lisa[‘s], where she met Magic and went to these different courts and did these different things,” Augustus told The Next. “But we didn’t have that set-up; we didn’t have anybody that could come back and just talk to us and tell us how to get to this point or motivate us. A lot of what we had to do was on our own. So if I can be that for someone else, I definitely want to step into those shoes and fulfill that role.”

The 2021 WNBA season marked 25 years that the league has been in existence. As part of the recognition for hitting that milestone, the WNBA released a list of its all-time top 25 players. With four championships under her belt, including one Finals MVP award in 2011, and eight All-Star nods, Augustus was one of the players chosen. The list was voted on by a panel of media members and important figures in the women’s basketball community, and it’s an honor that Augustus didn’t always think was possible for her.

“I was dreaming of something that didn’t exist. I was working hard towards something, but I never knew what it was going to pay off to be,” Augustus said. “To be able to play in the league and actually make a mark to the point that people put me on that list that has legends, Hall of Famers, people I grew up watching, that means a lot. Coming from Louisiana, there’s not a lot of us that make it this far. To be able to make it this far gives inspiration to young ladies all around, but especially in Louisiana, to hopefully achieve what I achieved or exceed that.”

Augustus was drafted by the Minnesota Lynx in 2006 and became part of one of the league’s greatest dynasties playing alongside other Hall-of-Fame players in Maya Moore, Lindsay Whalen, Rebekkah Brunson and Sylvia Fowles.

In what was an emotional 2020 offseason, Augustus made the decision to part ways with the only franchise she’d ever known and join the Los Angeles Sparks. She played a year with the Sparks and became one of their most dependable players, moving to the small-ball power forward position, before retiring and joining the team’s coaching staff.

In the 15 years that Augustus played in the league, she saw a lot of changes. For one, viewership and public support have grown tremendously. The 2021 WNBA Finals hit record ratings. Social media has also become a big influence in the way people view women’s basketball. But social media was something that didn’t exist when Augustus was coming up.

“You watch social media and you’re like, ‘I didn’t see her play in high school. I should probably start following these people and learning a lot more.’ That pushes [organizations] like ESPN and other networks to put us on TV a little bit more,” Augustus said. “The pandemic sucked for everybody, but it gave us an opportunity to sit down and feen for sports no matter what gender. That opened up a door for us to be able to kind of push through and get more viewership based on that.”

And part of being able to draw in more fans and get people paying attention to women’s basketball is connecting with communities and being visible and accessible for young children and fans. That’s exactly what Augustus did during the clinic titled It’s Her Shot.

The kids were able to participate in various basketball skills sessions along with Augustus and Leslie, snap pictures and speak with the WNBA legends. For Augustus, this type of community involvement is something she wishes she had growing up. With many young girls dropping out of sports, she believes this type of engagement can help them pursue a career path in sports.

“You need to be very visible. Black and Brown kids need it, all females need it because statistically at their age, about 50% of young ladies stop playing sports. I don’t know if it’s just that they aren’t interested or [there] isn’t a role model like myself and Lisa and others coming back to show them the way,” Augustus said. “We feel like this is the best way to keep them engaged and keep them motivated into either playing sports or just following their dreams and goals, whatever that may be in whatever career path.”

Although Augustus is retired, there are still times when she feels that itch to get on the court. With all the injuries the Sparks suffered this season, it was tough for her to watch them struggle while she was on the sidelines thinking in the back of her mind that she could be out there helping them.

“As I watched games, I’m like, ‘Man, I could have been out there for that jumper right there. I could have made this play for them.’ You want to be out there and help in some way,” Augustus said. “It was a little tough at the beginning of the season because I was in training camp with the same girls I ended up coaching,”

But Augustus is content with her new role and hopeful for the team’s future.

“I was able to coach them through some of the tough moments,” Augustus said. “We had a lot of injuries and a lot of changes going on. Though our record didn’t show it, we saw a lot of growth and a lot of improvement in players that we hope to build with in the future.”

David has been with The Next team since the High Post Hoops days when he joined the staff in 2018. He is based in Los Angeles and covers the LA Sparks, Pac-12 Conference, Big West Conference and some high school as well.

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