WNBA: Interview with Diamond DeShields of the Phoenix Mercury

Heroic, humble, and human can best describe the spirit of Diamond DeShields. The fifth-year pro, All Star, and champion has become a venerable presence in the sport, known for her energetic style of play and vibrant athleticism.

From the time she started in 2018 with the Chicago Sky, she has lived up to her own attributes. She showed what she was made of when she made the All-Rookie Team that year. In 2019, she not only made the All-Star team, but was the Skills Challenge champion and made the All-WNBA Second Team. Then in 2021, she helped the Sky on their remarkable title run.

This past year, DeShields took her talents to Phoenix, took on a starting role, and played alongside Diana Taurisi, Skylar Diggins-Smith, and Tina Charles in what was truly a trying time for one of the league’s original teams. The noticeable absence of Brittney Griner due to her wrongful detention in Russia was felt throughout the year. As a result, a void had to be filled and DeShields helped to close it when necessary. Even among such high profile personalities, she wasn’t to be overshadowed. She averaged 13.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and one steal and was part of a team that got to the playoffs as the eighth seed before losing to the eventual champion Las Vegas Aces.

The most remarkable achievement though was that DeSheilds was able to step back onto the court period. In December of 2019, she suffered a back injury while playing overseas in Turkey. An MRI would reveal that she had a grapefruit-sized tumor in her spine, which posed a risk of permanent paralysis. In other words, there was a chance that she wouldn’t be able to walk again let alone play basketball.

After the surgery to remove the tumor, she endured involuntary spasms that made her lose control over her ability to feel and her body movement. She endured grueling months of rehabilitation during which she had to learn how to walk again with an uncertain future ahead of her. All the while keeping her condition out of the public eye.

Yet she remained determined to overcome and did whatever it took to regain control of her body and her destiny. She eventually made it back to the court for the 2020 season in Bradenton, Fla. bubble. She persevered as much as she could, playing 13 games and averaging 6.8 points in 17.2 minutes played. But she injured her quadriceps during a game on Aug. 21 and missed the remainder of the season.

She went back to taking care of her body and during the 2021 season was back to her old self. Her 11 points per game and an average of 26 minutes played were nothing short of inspiring.

In May of 2022, right at the beginning of the season, she came forward with her story ESPN‘s Outside the Lines. Later in July, she was nominated for an ESPY for Comeback Athlete of the Year.

DeShields recently spoke to Swish Appeal about her remarkable journey, her transition from Chicago to Phoenix, and how others can learn from her extraordinary example. Here is that interview:

Zachary Draves: Given all that you had to overcome, what did it mean for you to play out this season and to be trying out for Team USA for the FIBA World Cup?

Diamond DeShields: It was really nice to get through this season and to be healthy. That was the biggest accomplishment for me. As far as being here with Team USA it’s always an honor.

ZD: I read that you said that playing for Team USA was a dream come true, why is that?

DD: As a little kid, you strive to be on that podium at an Olympic Games first, but the World Cup is the first step to get there. Just being a national team member is something that we all are striving to do. It is something that I have dreamed of since I was a little kid.

ZD: With all the talent on this team, what do you hope to contribute?

DD: Just being myself. The speed, athleticism, and energy. I really would see myself contributing more in those aspects as far as tempo, playing an up tempo style of game, which is what Cheryl has asked of us. Also just building that chemistry off the court being somebody that is just joking and enjoying Australia.

ZD: During this season, what was it like transitioning from Chicago to Phoenix?

DD: It was different. Obviously two totally different locations climate wise and just the organizations themselves, going from one franchise that was not NBA affiliated to another. The resources we had in Phoenix we didn’t necessarily have in Chicago. A lot of things were different but it wasn’t a challenging transition.

ZD: What do you hope others can learn from you in terms of overcoming incredible odds?

DD: I think the lesson is that life happens to everybody. No matter what it is that you are going through and no matter how bad you think it is, there is always life at the end of the tunnel. There are always opportunities for growth and to cherish every moment you have because they really are precious.

ZD: Where does your resilience come from?

DD: I think there is so much more life that I want to live. So whenever there is an obstacle in my way or something that feels like it is pulling me in the opposite direction, I just try to keep my sights set forward and all the things that I want to do in my life. There is so much possibility in that direction than in whatever it is that is holding me back.

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