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DiDi Richards Became the Woman She Needed When She was Younger

The WNBA guard understands the value in stepping out of her comfort zone.

When DiDi Richards was growing up in Houston, she was shy and studious, preferring to stay in and do her homework instead of going out to play basketball. Her father changed that. “One day, my dad was like, ‘You have to play sports. You have to do something. You're not supposed to sit around the house and do homework.’ He forced me to play basketball,” says the New York Liberty guard. “I hated every second of it, every single second. It forced me to sweat (something I hated), work out (something I hated), and also talk to people (I don’t want to talk to anybody). I was really shy and I think basketball was what I needed in life to become who I am.’”

Soon, Richards found she not only loved the sport, but she was good at it, too. She received her first college scholarship offer in eighth grade and said to herself, “This is what I do. This is me.” But Richards found it difficult to find a role model who embodied everything she wanted to become as a woman. “Unfortunately it's still something that we're working on with diversity with women and men,” she says. “It's important to see. Someone like you, where you wanna go. I think that’s my biggest quote in life, ‘Be the woman you needed as a little girl.’ It was kind of hard when I was younger because, you know, representation was hard to find.”

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She needn’t have looked very far. Today Richards fully appreciates the sacrifices her mother, Ungeanetta, made for her family. “To watch her struggle when I was growing up or put food on a plate for me and my brother, I didn't appreciate it at a young age,” says Richards. “It took some time for me to realize what all she did. But once I realized that, it was like, ‘You are like the best person on Earth.’ Mom, I don't know how you did all that.”

Having had the experience of being pushed out of her comfort zone to play basketball as a kid, Richards was up for the new challenge of participating in an SI Swimsuit shoot, joining fellow WNBA players Breanna Stewart, Sue Bird, Nneka Ogwumike and Te’a Cooper in St. Thomas. “I think it was empowering to do something like this, to step so far out of my comfort zone,” says Richard. “The [SI Swimsuit team] accepted me and so why can’t I accept me? Why can’t I love my body as much as whatever they are seeing. If they’re getting this excited about this, then why am I not excited about this? It was really empowering.”