May 2, 2017

The 2017 WNBA Draft was held last month in New York City where 36 future stars took the next step in their basketball careers, including #1 overall pick Kelsey Plum.

This past season at University of Washington, Plum broke WNBA great and NBRPA member Jackie Stiles’ women’s basketball career scoring record in NCAA Division I. Though records are meant to be broken, players are always competitive by nature and prideful and protective of their legacies. But in talking to Stiles, the former NCAA legend was extremely supportive of Plum.

“I was very happy for Kelsey because of the type of person she is on and off the court,” she said. “She has worked very hard to do what she did and has brought a lot of positive attention to women's basketball.”

Stiles of course has followed Plum closely throughout her career and though it is obvious to all that Plum is a star on the court, it is her off the court activities that have impressed Stiles the most: “She will be not only be a great role model, but she will empower young girls showing them that they too can possibly play in the WNBA one day. Her story is relatable because she is not very big or a ‘freak athlete’. It just shows that if you believe in yourself and you are willing to work, dreams do come true.”

Stiles was a former first round pick herself. In the 2001 WNBA Draft, she went #4 overall to the Portland Fire.
She sees the delight, happiness, and anticipation in the young rookies’ faces every year watching the WNBA Draft and always recollects what the moment meant to her.

“I remember I told my second grade teacher I would play professional basketball when I grew up and to be able to actually realize my ultimate dream was very special,” she said. “In fact, I told my teacher this when the WNBA didn’t even exist! So to have that opportunity was truly amazing. To get paid to play basketball…wow! A lot of people did not think it was possible with me being so small and being from a small town of 600 people in Claflin, Kansas but I did it!”

She most certainly did. In her rookie season, she was named to the WNBA All-Star team and also named Rookie of the Year. Unfortunately, due to injuries, the unforeseen folding of the Portland Fire franchise, and multiple surgeries, Stiles had to retire in 2006.

Stiles hopes her career inspires many women over the world, like it did with Plum. Even in retirement, she has dedicated herself to helping young athletes around the country achieve their dreams. Her advice to the newest class of WNBA players is simple: treasure it.

“I hope they realize how special it is to have this opportunity and that they make the most of it,” she said. “I would tell them to stay confident in their abilities as they adjust to professional basketball, to truly enjoy every moment on the court, and most importantly, to take care of their bodies as it is now their corporation.”

Stiles currently serves as an assistant coach at Missouri State University and travels the world hosting basketball camps, personal training sessions, motivational speaking engagements, and personal appearances. More on her endeavors can be found here.

About the National Basketball Retired Players Association
The National Basketball Retired Players Association (NBRPA) is comprised of former professional basketball players from the NBA, ABA, WNBA and Harlem Globetrotters. It is a 501(c) 3 organization with a mission to develop, implement and advocate a wide array of programs to benefit its members, supporters and the community. The NBRPA was founded in 1992 by basketball legends Dave DeBusschere, Dave Bing, Archie Clark, Dave Cowens and Oscar Robertson. The NBRPA works in direct partnerships with the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association. Arnie D. Fielkow is the President and CEO, and the NBRPA Board of Directors includes Chairman of the Board Dwight Davis, Vice Chairman Mike Glenn, Treasurer Casey Shaw, Secretary Nancy Lieberman, Rick Barry, James Donaldson, Spencer Haywood, LaRue Martin Jr., David Naves, Johnny Newman, and Eldridge Recasner.