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WNBA Athletes Highlighted in SI Swimsuit 2022

Unprecedented. History-making. Radical.
WNBA athletes were photographed by Laretta Houston in St. Thomas.

WNBA athletes were photographed by Laretta Houston in St. Thomas.

Unprecedented. History-making. Radical. The same words that describe SI Swimsuit also describe this set of models—the players of the WNBA. They’re a diverse group, like the W itself. “This is who we are; this is the makeup of our league,” says Storm guard Sue Bird. “We represent a variety of things: of course women, women of color, members of the LGBTQIA2+ community and much more. . . . The [Swimsuit] issue for so many years has been iconic and has represented a lot for women. Now you are seeing an evolution in what that can mean and what that can look like, and I think the WNBA players being a part of that is what makes it special. There is no better group of women to showcase that evolution.”

Fresh off its 25th anniversary and two years of high-profile advocacy of racial justice, human rights, mental health and more, the WNBA remains at the forefront of societal change. It continues to evolve and stand for respect, equal pay, recognition for sacrifices made and the right to be complex, multifaceted and have aspirations—all with a table tilted against them. Says Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike, “I love the differences we celebrate and moving them forward.” Dorothy J. Gentry

Sue Bird

Sue Bird was photographed by Laretta Houston in St. Thomas.
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A four-time WNBA champion and a 12-time All-Star, Sue Bird has been in the league for 20 years, but she’s still learning. “I’m a passionate athlete and basketball player and am becoming more educated and passionate about other things like discussing the inequalities and inequities in our lives - not just for athletes but for all women, all people of color.”

The Seattle Storm guard is also moving into the space of content creation. With three other athletes she cofounded the digital production platform TOGETHXR, which uplifts women in sports. Says Bird, “It’s been pretty cool to grow up and see what speaks to me and that's what more than an athlete means: everyone is more than what they do.”

Te’a Cooper

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When she was younger, Te’a Cooper would see the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue on the newsstands and think how pretty the women looked. “It says ‘sports’ but they always looked like models, so I would have never thought one day I would be one,” she says. “It was very empowering to be a part of this because of the people I did it with. Everybody's story was different and just spending time with them, us all being in the WNBA as professionals was overwhelming.”

Cooper, a point guard, has broken into modeling and fashion, Cooper greatly admires the players who came before her, while hoping to carry on their work. “They worked hard to get us to where we are now,” Cooper says. “It’s still growing and it’s come far—bigger platform and stage, more support, and viewership. But there are so many more windows to break.

“And the fact that some players are mothers—just being able to do all of that and be one of the top athletes is an amazing accomplishment. And for people to be able to see it is empowering.”

Breanna Stewart

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“The WNBA has always been at the forefront of social issues,” says Breanna Stewart. “And we continue to be leaders in this space because we always have fought for more—and we don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.”

The most important role she currently enjoys is that of mom. In August 2021 the Seattle Storm forward won an Olympic gold medal. Two days later she and her wife, Marta Xargay, welcomed their daughter. “I want to be the best role model I can for Ruby,” Stewart says. “I want her to see the impact women play in society—in sports and outside of sports.”

Nneka Ogwumike

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Sparks forward Nneka Ogwumike is a six-time All-Star, but some of her biggest contributions have come in her role as president of the players union. “Women don’t leave people behind,” she says. “It’s intrinsic. I am so happy to work in a career where I experience that every day.”

Inhabiting a multitude of spaces is nothing new to Ogwumike. “I’m very much a creative person,” she says. “I love music, food, I’m Nigerian American, I’m a Stanford graduate…there is so much about me that makes me me, and I’m hoping it's exuded in this issue especially for women who are trying to find their own individual confidence.”

She praises the W and the union’s evolution in representing the diversity of its players. “It’s all so amazing to see and understand we are living in history. I love the differences we celebrate and moving them forward.”

DiDi Richards

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DiDi Richards remembers being in middle school, showing her mother pictures of the Swimsuit Issue and promising she’d be in it one day. “It’s been a dream my entire life so it’s crazy to be featured, especially after my first year in the WNBA, and to be a part with the other players” Richards says. “It was very humbling. My emotions were all over the place. I was like ‘Am I even supposed to be here?’”

When not excelling on the court as guard for the New York Liberty, Richards is laying the foundation for forays into modeling, design and fashion—possibly even a clothing line— as she maintains who fans see on the court. She’s been impressed by the way the W and the players union support and encourage its members to pursue other interests off the courts. “I think they are doing a great job of encouraging us to tap into different spaces,” she says. “It’s all empowering. I am happy to be able to tap into different spaces in the world and succeed in them like I do on the court.”