TSL has continued to bring much deserved attention to the accomplishments of game-changing women in sports, entertainment and pop culture. Here are 10 of my top stories featuring the conquests, culturally- impactful swag and historic achievements of various women in 2015.
1. The Williams Sisters Wimbledon Face Off Has A Familiar Ending
Williams Sisters saga and brand has defined, saved and sold US tennis for almost two decades. Their dominant and long-reigning existence in a traditionally white sport has changed the narrative about African-Americans and tennis. With every victory they introduced the world to the Compton-bred, sculptured and strong, yet graceful execution of the black female athletes body in motion, while influencing fashion and perceptions, changing social standards, attitudes and breaking down barriers.
There have been no more anticipated or celebrated battles in Womens Tennis over the past decade and a half as the on-court meetings between the Williams Sisters.
The sisters showdown at Wimbledon in July of 2015 was special because it might be the last time it happens. At Wimbledon’s Centre Court in England, in the 26th all-Williams contest, No.1-seeded Serena (a five-time Wimbledon champ) beat No. 16 Venus (a five-time Wimbledon champ) 6-4, 6-3 and reached the Wimbledon quarterfinals, before completing her Serena Slam with her fourth Wimbledon title.
It was Serena’s sixth win in the last seven matches against her 35-year-old big sis and 15th win overall against Venus.
2. Michele Roberts And The NBPA Is Taking No Shorts…Period
In 2014, Michele Roberts, a distinguished Washington, D.C. attorney was voted in as the new executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, making her the first woman to head up a major North American sports union. In 2015, she established her presence and provided her platform moving forward.
Unlike her ousted predecessor Billy Hunter who was playing both sides of the fence, Roberts has made it clear that she is about player empowerment and went head up with new commissioner Adam Silver in March of 2015 when she publicly and emphatically put fire to the commissioners suggestion that the NBA age limit should be raised to 20.
She told the commish to be happy with (the current) one-and-done system.
3. TSL Leadership Series: The Diary of Jemele Hill, Part I
Part I of my three-part in-depth interview with ESPN personality and celebrity Jemele Juice Hill entails personal information never before revealed and chronicles her humble beginnings in Detroit and her rise to becoming one of the most respected and recognized faces in sports.
4. Our Game 2: Hope Solo Is The Pugnacious, Pessimistic, Prideful Princess
From domestic violence disputes to battles with former US soccer greats to tension with coaches and teammates, the one thing Hope Solo always does well is hold down the goalie position like Bumpy Johnson did Harlem back in the days. Despite her wild life, Solo was able to shake off the negative publicity and lead the United States women to the 2015 World Cup. It was US Womens third WC title and Solos biggest accomplishment since helping the US beat Japan 2-1 to win gold in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
5. Our Game 2: Lia Neal Is A 20-Year-Old Olympic Medal Winning Pioneer
In late March of 2015 I wrote a piece for TSLs Our Game 2 series entitled The Pool Panthers Takeover, which highlighted three African-American swimmers who made NCAA history by sweeping the podium in the 100 yard freestyle at the recent Women’s Division-1 NCAA Championship.
Freshman phenom Simone Manuel of Stanford and her Cardinals teammate Lia Neal (2012 Olympic Bronze Medalist in 4×100 free relay) finished 1-2 on the podium. The University of Florida’s Natalie Hinds was third. Together they changed the swim game and broke some personal, NCAA and American records in the process.
I spoke with Neal, who was raised in the Fort Greene section of BK by her parents Jerome and Siu Neal, who are of African-American and Chinese-American descent and delivered what she called the most unique interview shes ever done.
6. Kenny And Gwendolyn Smith of Meet The Smith’s
Holding down every great man is an equally great woman who does her thing to bring bread to the table as well. Believe it or not, TNT analyst Kenny The Jet Smiths life consists of much more than announcing games and providing basketball analysis. And hes far from the most interesting person in his family, which consists of his bombshell wife Gwendolyn-Osborn-Smith (an actress and The current Price Is Right model) and their five talented kids. TBS new reality show Meet The Smiths, debuted in April of 2015 and I did a live satellite interview with one of the NBAs royal families
7. WNBA Not Free From Domestic Violence Plague
Brittney Griner, a 24-year-old WNBA superstar and WNBA player Glory Johnson were collared for their involvement in a domestic violence incident inside a Phoenix, Arizona home they recently purchased. The case didnt get as much PR as Floyd Mayweathers domestic violence issues or the Ray Rice elevator tapes, but it was a moment of enlightenment. It taught us that domestic violence in same sex relationships is an issue as well and the WNBA suffers from the same social plagues as any professional mens league. Several people inside the home tried to break up the fight before police were called and eventually took them in on suspicion of assault and disorderly conduct owing to an alleged domestic violence incident.
8. Our Game 2: Leigh Provisor Is About Her Country, Her Wrestling And Her Resilience
I interviewed Team USA wrestler and military service woman Leigh Jaynes Provisor. She’s representing a new wave of resoundingly resilient women who wrestle and serve in America’s military forces. In March 2015 she became the first women to ever compete in the Armed Forces Wrestling Championship.
We kicked it about her patriotism, her pioneering spirit and her desire to finally make good at the Olympic Trials and represent Team USA in the Olympics.
9. Our Game 2: Olympic Champion Carmelita Jeter
When we break down the fastest women in the history of the modern world, Carmelita Jeter stands a shameless second to the legendary and culturally-iconic Florence Griffith-Joyner (RIP) who holds down the Top 3 spots for the fastest 100m times ever run by a woman in competition. Jeter holds three of the top 10 fastest 100m times ever run in competition. IAAF World Championship
I spoke with the 35-year-old medical marvel two weeks before the IAAF World Championship in Beijing, China. Jeter, who was nursing an injury and didn’t compete at the event had some extra time to reflect on her career, her lifestyle, her future endeavors and the Olympic drive that still burns inside her.
10. Our Game 2: Meet Heather “Heat” Hardy, Boxing’s Ronda Rousey
Since I first interviewed Heather “Heat” Hardy in 2015, MMA Goddess Ronda Rousey has been knocked off of her lofty perch. Hardy, however, is still undefeated, doing undercards on big bills at Barclays Center, voicing her opinions about the limited financial opportunities and biases towards women boxers and slowly building her legacy. Like many boxers, Hardy came up in a hard-edged, Irish, Brooklyn neighborhood and experienced some rough times as a kid. As a single mother, shes had to fight and claw for every opportunity, but that struggle or bitterness is not reflected in her interaction with people. She keeps a smile on her face and exudes optimism. The Blond Bomber was definitely one of my most enjoyable interviews of 2015.
Happy New Year !