Napheesa Collier is entering her prime as a WNBA star and a voice of women’s basketball. After a season away from her Minnesota Lynx in 2022 following the birth of her first child, Collier returned in 2023 and made the All-WNBA First Team for the first time in her career.
Off the court, Collier continues to be a driving force for the game. Rather than playing overseas like some WNBA athletes, she stays home in the winter on one of the WNBA’s player marketing agreements, advocating for the league and her team during the offseason. Collier also recently announced a touring 3-on-3 women’s pro league called Unrivaled alongside reigning WNBA MVP (and fellow UConn alum) Breanna Stewart that is expected to launch next offseason.
This winter, Collier is working with U.S. Bank, a recent addition to the WNBA Changemakers group as the league’s official bank, to help develop personalized resources for WNBA players to develop greater financial literacy and plan for their futures as athletes. U.S. Bank not only is a league sponsor but a partner to players finding their footing with new income streams and a major lifestyle change in the W.
“As part of the Changemakers platform, U.S. Bank has championed the efforts of WNBA players beyond the court and has demonstrated their support by providing diverse opportunities and platforms to empower these athletes,” says Colie Edison, chief growth officer at the WNBA.
Collier spoke with Dime about her work with Changemakers, her career year in Minnesota, and how she continues to improve on and off the court heading into her fifth season.
What did it look like for you to get involved with this partnership and be a little bit more personalized and use your experience to craft resources for WNBA players and kind of make it something that might be used more? What was your mindset and how did you work with U.S. Bank to get it done?
Yeah, it was awesome. What I really liked about U.S. Bank as a Changemaker is that they weren’t just you know, like, giving us money. And just saying that, we support the W, we support women’s sports, they’re actually making a change.
So they interviewed a bunch of us asking what our individual needs were, because, I mean, the way that we deal with finances is a little bit different than the average person. First of all, you’re coming into like a lot of money at one time. It’s the first job for many people, and they’re doing it even earlier, but we don’t learn about financial anything really in school, like through mandatory classes in your major or something.
So a lot of us are coming in blind. So they talked to us one on one asking what specifically we need. So, for example, we have to pay taxes in every state that we play in, how to deal with the money that you get overseas and what to do with the taxes there, things like that, that average non-professional athletes don’t have to deal with.
And they created this microsite with just basic financial information, like to learn about that and then about our individual needs, and then they also set up where you can talk to someone on a one-on-one basis, if you have further questions, so it was just really in depth and really personalized, and I thought it was awesome.
I don’t want to ask the question in a way that throws UConn or anything else under the bus, but it does surprise me to hear that even at a big program like that, that there weren’t more of those resources. I mean, I guess it probably has changed with NIL, but what did you have available to you in college to kind of get prepared?
Honestly I don’t remember anything. Again, we didn’t have NIL so it’s not even like we had this money but yeah, we were preparing to be athletes. So we knew that was coming one day. But I honestly think it needs to start even earlier, in like middle school and then high school, learning how to manage your money. Because what percentage of people become professional athletes, even if you go to UConn? Not everyone becomes a professional athlete. So you still have to learn how to manage your money no matter how much it is. So I think we need to start in schools way earlier than when you get to college.
I know part of what U.S. Bank is doing here involves some orientation sessions at the Draft. What have you heard about or seen from players who have the experience with NIL, whether that’s your connection still with the players still at UConn, or rookies and young players coming into the league now, and how is that changing things from your point of view? What do you think the W can do to kind of bridge that gap?
I have talked to a couple players and it’s honestly just like such a different world. It’s crazy. I mean, they’re getting offered like $100,000 to go to the school and that’s just baseline. That isn’t included in the other endorsements or anything when they get there.
So it’s just like a crazy amount of money for kids so young, and especially if you’ve never seen anything like that before, which most people haven’t. But I think education is just so important. Like I think it should be mandatory for all student athletes, especially with all these NIL deals, that they have to take a financial literacy course. So many people come in, we’ve had rookies before that come in that didn’t even know you had to pay taxes. So it’s just like, things that just a basic baseline I think needs to be taught to these kids that are coming in and they’re getting money earlier. So it needs to really begin like our freshman year in college at the very latest hopefully it would be done earlier, but for NIL (athletes), first year in college.
We’ve seen some cities back down on the idea of bringing a W franchise in and we don’t know what’s true and what’s not with all that. But what would your message be to a potential investor or local leader who is thinking about bringing an expansion franchise to the place that they live or the place that they lead? What’s the case? Why do you think it should be done when we’re seeing some people think maybe it shouldn’t?
Well, I mean, setting aside you know, all the amazing things and opportunities that women’s sports provides and growing the game and all that stuff, you’re talking to business people. This is a great business investment.
Women’s sports is on the rise, and even in the past five years, like the value and the valuation of our teams has gone up millions of dollars. And so, in my opinion, you’re able to get in for cheap right now. I mean, the NBA teams are going for like a billion dollars, so get in on the ground. I think it’s a really sound business investment.
And I hope that they start to recognize that because the train is moving really fast. I mean, like I said, the growth that we’ve even had the last couple years, the prices going up millions and millions of dollars. So get in while you can would be my suggestion.
If we can go on the court for a couple of questions — it was cool to see your development this season, obviously, especially coming back from having a child and being away from the court and everything else, but even just continuing to develop as a player, high usage, high level of efficiency and you we didn’t see the turnovers go up much at all. What are you unlocking in your game that has kind of allowed you to do more without sacrificing efficiency or you know, caring for the ball and being able to handle so much for your offense and defense on a nightly basis?
I think just the mentality that I’m the leader on the team now and especially on the court. I knew that it was my job and I had to perform otherwise we weren’t going to have a chance to win the game. So picking up that responsibility and being there for my team and wanting to do my job within the team, I think really pushed me to do that.
It forced me to work really hard this offseason, come back after having my daughter because I knew that I was going to have this responsibility and I didn’t want to let my team or myself down.
I’m sure this is something you’ve been asked before but especially just as do create more offense for your team more consistently, are there players you model your game after? I know I’ve seen (Collier’s husband and trainer) Alex (Bazzell) on Twitter pumping up your inside the arc, one on one, face up game and those fallaway jumpers and some of that stuff and driving to the basket.
Yeah, I’ve always kind of modeled my game after how Kobe was in the mid-post game. And so that was kind of the foundation for myself as a player. You know, I love being in close. I love that area. And then just growing from there.
I feel like I take things from a lot of different players. I really like the things that Stewie does, and I think we have similar body types. We’re both really long, obviously she’s longer than me still. But I’ve taken stuff from her.
I like the things that Elena Delle Donne does, that KD does. I feel like I try to find people in my position that have a similar body type and skill sets for what I do and see what I like, see what is hard for me to play against when I’m playing them, and what works and then you know, take it and model it and you know just be myself.
Alright, last thing would just be what surprised you the most or impressed you the most about the season that (2023 No. 2 overall pick) Diamond Miller had this year with the Lynx? What stood out what do you what do you think people maybe didn’t notice about her season that you would want to shine a light on?
Diamond was awesome. I mean, first of all, she’s just so fun to be around, so coachable. And I think her confidence in herself is just unmatched, and so rare to see in any player but let alone a rookie. It didn’t matter, as always with rookies in your rookie year she had ups and downs and she got frustrated of course, but he was always super confident in herself and took the adjustment to whatever coach was saying or any of us were saying, anything. She took it in stride, she tried to be better, she never let it get her down. So just the resilience I think was really impressive to watch and see.