Why you should care
Because these women are getting creative when it comes to their careers, beyond hoops.
As the WNBA season tips off with more fanfare than we’ve seen in a while, its players still lack the pay and perks of their male professional athlete counterparts. Most of them solve this by playing overseas in the offseason, where they can often earn more. But it’s also helped inspire a legion of creative side hustles from the women in a variety of fields you wouldn’t necessarily expect from a basketball star.
Read on and find out how these women are shooting their shot.
We know that male ballers make a lot more. But did you know that the guys in stripes do too? It turns out that the minimum salary these days for an NBA referee is around $150,000. That’s highest paid WNBA player makes about $120,000. Sure, the refs take a lot of abuse for their labor, but the disparity underscores the labor tensions within the WNBA — which is owned by the NBA. And it shows why these women have to get creative about how to earn a buck.
Jessica Breland battled cancer while in college at UNC, and her professional hoops career struggled as she fought against its lingering effects. It turned out to be the perfect prep for the ups and downs of running a small spa business in addition to playing for the Atlanta Dream. Breland is bringing treatments from the West Coast to Durham, North Carolina, and she’s developed quite a following — including from Duke basketball players, despite her Tar Heel roots.
Now beginning her 14th WNBA season, the Los Angeles Sparks’ Alana Beard has proven to be a relentless defensive stalwart. Her strong mental game had many pegging her as a coach when she’s done playing. But she spends her last offseason prepping for a different kind of future: in San Francisco, interning with a venture capital firm and a startup. The former Duke star is preparing fast for a life in the investment world when the hoop dreams are done, where she’s hoping to pool investments for female-led startups.
Essence Carson’s first turn in the spotlight wasn’t one she wanted. When radio host Don Imus referred to the Rutgers women’s basketball team as “nappy-headed hoes,” Carson became the polished face of a team that immediately was under a microscope. She shone back in 2007, and she’s now seeking stardom again. Not just as she continues a successful WNBA career, but in the music studio as well. Carson, of the Phoenix Mercury, has released her own music as Pr3pe (pronounced “Preppy”) but also is holding down a full-time job at a record company to learn front-end production — while still playing hoops.
A former star at UConn, Renee Montgomery has had a successful and well-traveled WNBA career. But rather than going overseas for more money like so many of her colleagues, she’s caught the acting bug. This past year she appeared in an Amazon short film called Not My Favorite Christmas, and she’s determined to turn this side hustle into a regular gig — while still plying her trade on the professional hardwood every summer. Because who doesn’t love a good cheesy Christmas movie?
Last year, Chiney Ogwumike signed a multiyear contract with ESPN to become a full-time analyst. Her exact role is still evolving, but at 27, Ogwumike is one of the youngest national sports analysts on network television and one of the only professional athletes to pull double duty in the mainstream media. Recently traded to the Los Angeles Sparks, she’ll continue her dual career in Southern California.