Published in Urban Tulsa Weekly, May 2013
Skylar Diggins could be a supermodel.
Actually, she could be a lot of things.
But Saturday she sat behind a small table, flanked by Tulsa Shock team president Steve Swetoha to her right and head coach Gary Kloppenburg to her left, and looked pensive.
It was a hectic couple of days for Diggins. A final week of classes at the University of Notre Dame ended with bidding farewell to family, friends and the town that helped create the basketball legend she’d become. And as if that weren’t enough, Diggins was still faced with the daunting task of packing up her apartment in South Bend, Indiana and heading to Tulsa.
By Saturday, Diggins looked exhausted and as if she had been sent to a new world, far from the comfort of the Notre Dame campus she’d spent a majority of the last four years.
As Swetoha began speaking to the crowd of more than 30 at Health Zone in south Tulsa, Diggins sat quietly, eyes mostly fixed on the table in front of her, looking up only to give an occasional smile to her mother, step-father and brother who were seated in the front row.
Swetoha spoke about the growth of the WNBA and the significance of this year’s draft, before alluding to the idea that Diggins was a rare find in the world of women’s professional basketball.
“The WNBA and Tulsa Shock get a chance to watch, in person, a player that will impact this league for a very long time,” Swetoha said.
Still, Diggins eyes remained fixed in front of her, seemingly humbled by Swetoha’s words.
“She is one of the most decorated women’s college basketball players to ever play the college game,” Swetoha said. “And we believe Skylar will bring a lot more interest to our league and the fine community of Tulsa, Oklahoma.”
As the conference shifted to coach Kloppenburg, Diggins remained silent, only rustling a slight bit to take a sip from the small bottle of water on the table in front of her.
Kloppenburg thanked Diggins’ parents and promised the Diggins family a quick shift from Saturday’s cold, rainy weather before prophesizing on the upcoming season with Diggins.
“All along I felt that (Diggins) could be the missing piece to get us to that next level,” Kloppenburg said. “With her toughness, with her leadership ability thrown into a young team, it’s going to be exciting to see how we can blend this team.”
And then it was Diggins’ time.
Like the world-class athlete she’d been throughout her amateur career, Diggins sprung into action, taking her new Shock jersey from Kloppenburg and holding it up with a radiant smile as cameras flashed and clicked.
“This is a dream come true to me,” Diggins said. “I’ve always dreamed of being in the league since I was younger.
“I think we have the opportunity here to do some good things. I’m excited about Tulsa and getting started.”
As questions began to pour from those in attendance, Diggins answered them with a mix of intelligence and grace, captivating the crowd with her charisma and charm. She spoke about the transition from the college ranks to the professional game and elaborated on her academic history at Notre Dame.
When asked about the state’s biggest hoops act, the Oklahoma City Thunder, Diggins said she was quite familiar with the team’s success and that she’d already made a friend.
“I talked to Kevin (Durant) before I came out here and I said ‘you might have to show me the ropes,’ and he was like ‘I got you.’
“Hopefully I can go there next week and check a game out — if we can hook that up,” Diggins said, flashing a cunning smile toward Kloppenburg.
And with that, Diggins had accomplished one of the most important duties of joining a new team — she’d won the initial press conference, dominating that metaphorical fourth quarter with style and poise.
The future seems limitless for Diggins. With a combination of charisma, intellect, athletic ability and looks, she is perhaps the most marketable star the WNBA has seen. Diggins is a new ambassador to the world of women’s professional basketball, and this year’s third overall pick has all the tools necessary to match the career of another one of basketball’s notable third picks, a standout guard from Wilmington, North Carolina by the name of Michael Jordan.
Like Jordan, Diggins possesses that rare combination of skill and personality. Already having inked deals with legendary rapper Jay Z’s Roc Nation sports management firm and sportswear mega-corporation Nike, Diggins has accomplished more in her first few professional months than Jordan did his entire first year in the NBA. Additionally, Diggins has been featured on ESPN and by TNT as part of the cable network’s NBA Playoffs coverage team and has a following on Twitter that surpasses most NBA stars.
As if her already monumental popularity wasn’t enough, Diggins’ resume includes a horde of accomplishments and accolades, including Notre Dame’s all-time scoring title among both men and women.
For a league that has been forced to resort to heavy corporate sponsorship and funding from its parent NBA since its inception in 1996, the addition of Diggins could ignite a renaissance similar to the one Jordan commanded in the late ‘80s and ‘90s.
On Saturday, the Tulsa Shock did more than announce the arrival of a 5-foot-9 guard from Indiana with a bright smile and a weakness for chocolate milk. What Swetoha proudly proclaimed was the dawning of new era for the Shock and the WNBA and a new role model for young female athletes throughout the city and across the nation.
Tulsans now have the opportunity to witness at ground level what could be the ascension of one of sports’ greatest female athletes. Long before people at Nesquick can come calling with a “Be Like Sky” advertising campaign, or Nike unveils its “Air Diggins” line of sneakers, fans of the Shock will have an opportunity to simply get to know the girl with the electric smile from South Bend.
But don’t hesitate. It won’t be long before the world wants what Tulsa now has.