Cappie Pondexter has done it all. A two-time WNBA champion, seven-time All-Star, Olympic Gold Medalist, and one of the greatest players in WNBA history, the recently retired Pondexter has maintained an active public presence in her post-playing career. Pondexter was a regular fixture at games during the 2019 season and continues to be involved with basketball in some form or another after an illustrious playing career.
Dime spoke with Pondexter on the phone before Glam Day, a Foot Locker initiative at Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School in Brooklyn. The high school basketball team was styled for a professional photo shoot before a discussion with Pondexter, Cassy Athena, and Taylor Rooks. Pondexter believes part of her purpose is to give her time to the youth so that they have successful examples to follow.
“I believe the young ladies deserve an opportunity to have mentors to talk to and listen to,” Pondexter told Dime. “Growing up, it wasn’t often that we had female role models that we could actually have as mentors, and now they have the opportunity. For me, I always want to be a part of giving back to the culture.
“I think they’re the window to the future, and if we can give them the lessons that we learned at an early age, then they won’t have to make the same mistakes, and then they can really move forward and help the universe.”
Those lessons include dreaming big and setting high goals, even if the surrounding world attempts to put limits on them.
“In society today, there are a lot of people that don’t like the idea of being successful or are even scared of being successful,” Pondexter said. “But if we can actually help the next generation know that it’s possible and see people that are actually winning, I feel like it’s a no-brainer.”
Part of the reason Pondexter is so intent on helping younger girls is because she was blessed with numerous role models. Even though her mom originally didn’t want her to play basketball because she believed it was a male-dominated sport, eventually her family support was crucial to her career success. Pondexter also had the opportunity to connect with basketball luminaries at a young age.
“Sheryl Swoopes was a very impactful person early in my career. I think I met her when I was 10 years old and she told me that I was going to play in the WNBA, but it kind of went over my head at the time,” Pondexter said. “Nike was very influential in my life at an early age, so I had Michael Jordan, you know, come to my high school and empower the men and women’s basketball teams growing up in Chicago, so it was a lot of key people.”
Basketball gave Pondexter the ability to travel around the world and build a life for herself, in addition to growing her confidence and self-awareness, but she doesn’t see herself settling down as a coach or an analyst, though she’ll occasionally give private coaching for a couple hours at a time. Instead, Pondexter started a clothing company that she recently put in the hands of her business partner and has future plans in the entertainment industry, either in music or movies. She stressed how part of her message to young girls who play basketball is that’s good to have another passion beyond sports; Pondexter has something to look forward to, even after her first career has ended.
Even though she doesn’t plan on being formally involved with the WNBA, Pondexter is firmly invested in the league’s success. Her primary hope for the league moving forward is that more money is invested in marketing so that the general public can become aware of just how cool the league’s athletes are.
“Adam Silver knows exactly what we need to get people interested in women’s basketball, particularly the WNBA,” Pondexter said. “I think we know that we should spend more marketing dollars on helping improve the league and the visibility, and for me, that’s why I enjoy going back to the games, because people look at me as like not only is she a basketball player, but she has kind of navigated her way through music and fashion, and I think that’s cool for our culture. We have to keep our culture cool, and I think that’s the bottom line, is just making it cool and appealing, where people realize there’s a lot of unique individuals in the WNBA that not only are just basketball players but they’re just more than athletes.
“We should spend more money on marketing. Now that the WNBA season is over, [Elena] Delle Donne is doing a great job for Washington. You see her at the games like throwing the first pitch for the champions and that’s good visibility, but we need that in every state where there are women’s basketball teams, because once the girls go overseas, the league is kind of forgotten about.”
Cappie Pondexter may be retired now but she certainly hasn’t been forgotten about, and her work with the next generation will ensure that her legacy remains.