Chamique Holdsclaw, A Dream Deferred

The first time I met Chamique Holdsclaw was after a Christ The King High School basketball game in Queens, NY back in 1993. She was anything but disappointing. My cousin also attended the school, and he was a pretty dope basketball player himself, eventually becoming a three-year starter for a mid-major.

With all of the male talent oozing from NY schools during that time, all he ever raved about was Holdsclaw. How she was better than Lisa Leslie,Teresa Edwards, Cheryl Miller or any woman to ever play the game. The fact that she was from Killer Queens made her super-official to us. That day, I saw her play against St. Francis Prep and she went for 25 and 15, without breaking a sweat. By the time her career was over, she had led CTK to four straight New York State Championships and was on her way to super stardom at the University of Tennessee.

She was tall and lanky, could shoot it like a young Rolando Blackman, had more ups than normal for a girl, played inspired D and floated through the air when she attacked the cup. Her silky smooth moves and effortless scoring prowess reminded me of a female George Gervin. Her game was like a dude’s game at a time when the difference between boys and girls basketball was huge and highly evident.

I left the gym that day sure as a Jordan score that she was going to be the best women’s college player ever. She didn’t disappoint.

Three consecutive titles at UT, four All-American selections, a bunch of scoring records, a Gold medal and a historical Slam Magazine cover, had the basketball world anticipating her entrance into the newly formed WNBA. She was the No. 1 overall pick of the Washington Mystics, won Rookie of The Year honors and became a face of the league.

But then Mother Nature took over in ‘06. Following illnesses to her father and stepfather and then the loss of her grandmother, Holdsclaw’s battle with clinical depression threw her off track a bit like crack did Dwight Gooden. She was still a hell of a baller, but her mentals weren’t right and she bounced in-and-out of the league, from one team to the next, constantly battling her condition – even attempted suicide. Through it all, however, she was still a basketball ambassador and stayed in the headlines.

The latest breaking news on Holdsclaw is her first true disappointment. She went from ‘90s player of the decade to a crazed, love-struck stalker facing 65 years in prison after being indicted for attacking her ex-shorty and teammate, Jennifer Lacy of the Tulsa Shock. Holdsclaw followed Lacy in her car, took a baseball bat to Lacy’s whip, poured petrol in it and then let off a shot into the vehicle in an attempt to blow the car up.

Now, Holdsclaw, who played 11 seasons in the WNBA and was a six-time all-star, is facing the challenge of her life against the unpredictable criminal justice system. She’s charged with two counts of aggravated assault, criminal damage in the first degree and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

I don’t know why she did it and don’t have enough information to paint a picture that brings sense to the situation. What I do know is that love hurts and it can be most people’s Achilles Heel. It seems to be that a Love Jones — not injuries or pressure defenses or the three-point shot she never perfected – will be Holdsclaw’s downfall.

This is a reinforcement of what we know too well, that love can take you out of character quicker than anything. Love inspires more passion than basketball. Jealousy can turn a champion into a chump with one emotionally jacked up decision. Holdsclaw mastered the craft of basketball, but fell victim to the toughest game in town – matters of the heart. It’s a disappointment to anyone who ever saw her brilliantly shoot a basketball, that she could lay a brick like this.

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