We’ve mentioned Minnesota coach Jennifer Gillom and no one could forget former Houston star Cynthia Cooper-Dyke. But it’s guard Jennifer Azzi who has touched the Storm team. Both traditional point guards Sue Bird and Shannon Johnson credit Azzi for their game.
Today Azzi, Cooper-Dyke, and Gillom will be part of the six inductees into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. Festivities are already underway in Knoxville, Tenn.
“It’s a wonderful thing,” said Johnson, who began WNBA play in Orlando in 1999 and also played for Connecticut, San Antonio, Detroit, and the defunct Houston. “These women have definitely paved the way for us to be able to play the way we do now — being able to become professionals and go out there and make money. They’re pioneers of the game and we’re very appreciative. Them being inducted into the Hall of Fame is great for all of us.”
Ask Bird to reflect back on her rookie season in 2002 and it’s Azzi who immediately comes to mind. Then a star for Utah, which relocated to San Antonio, Azzi gave the former Connecticut star fits. Seattle was 1-2 against the Starzz during Bird’s rookie season.
“She was the hardest to play against,” Bird said. “She was really tough and never got tired.”
Johnson agrees, working on conditioning and weight training in her 10 seasons in the league to have a similar stamina.
“She paved the way for all the point guards,” Johnson said of Azzi. “She’s played on different teams and differently countries and went out there and played well.”
Azzi rolled through Seattle the opening week of the Storm season, helping the organization unveil a renovated Reading and Learning Center at the First A.M.E. Child and Family Center. A funny moment happened when she was set to introduce the vice president of Pitney Bowes. As Azzi uttered the word “president,” a student shouted “OBAMA?” There was a minor letdown melted by laughter.
The former WNBA guard is currently a motivational speaker and USANA Rugby Director. You can read more about Azzi’s whereabouts here.