A Very American Coup By Michael – Louis Ingram, Editor-in-Chief...
SAN ANTONIO — The Silver Stars had wrapped up practice on Monday morning, having finished preparation for their next game, a Wednesday-morning contest at Washington.
As the players dispersed, a few remained on the court for a pickup game.
Near one of the sidelines, veterans Vickie Johnson and Becky Hammon prepared to tape a special segment for the WNBA’s Web site. As they took part in a game in which they tried to answer questions about one another, they laughed and giggled like a pair of teenagers.
It was a far cry from their first meeting a decade ago.
Back then, all Johnson knew about Hammon was that Hammon was from South Dakota, was an undrafted free agent trying to earn a spot in the WNBA with the New York Liberty – and could take a hit.
“She kept getting up,” Johnson recalled, reminiscing about the Liberty’s 1999 preseason training camp. “That made a statement.”
It was a statement that sparked a friendship that has spanned a decade, two teams, two cities – and a league-record 272 games.
With the Silver Stars’ 79-78 victory at Washington on Wednesday, Johnson and Hammon have played in more games together than any other two players, breaking a mark they shared with Lisa Leslie and Mwadi Mabika, who played together in 271 games with Los Angeles between June 1997 and August 2006.
“It’s kind of amazing to look back and see how many games, and practices, and shootarounds, and everything that we’ve gone through with each other,” Hammon said. “We’ve been in a lot of battles.
We’ve been through good times, bad times, and every kind of time in between.
“We have a great respect for each other.”
That respect held firm even as Johnson left New York to play for the Silver Stars in 2006.
“When she came to San Antonio, I was very upset,” Hammon said. “When she left, I felt like my steady-eddy just left. The sense of consistency, of stability, a comfort level, walked out the door when she left.
Things just didn’t seem right without her there.”
A year later, in a draft-day trade, Hammon was reunited as teammates. They helped lead the Silver Stars to the Western Conference finals that season, and in 2008, guided the team to the league finals.
“Things always have a way of working out for the best,” Hammon said. “It’s best that she’s here. It’s best that I’m here. We did a lot of great things in New York, and we want to do a lot of great things here.”