This story appears in the first-ever WSLAM Magazine, an entire issue dedicated to women’s basketball.
The New York Liberty despatched a shock wave throughout the WNBA earlier this season once they waived level guard Layshia Clarendon after three video games. An integral half to the Liberty’s 2020 season, Clarendon stepped into the beginning place after the lack of Sabrina Ionescu and averaged profession highs in subject objective proportion (46.5) and factors (11.5). Many followers thought that they might stay with the crew.
No want to fret about Clarendon touchdown on their ft although. They went from a crew seeking to win its first championship to the Lynx, a crew that isn’t solely tied for probably the most championships within the League (4) but additionally has received extra Western Convention championships than another franchise within the convention. In addition they at the moment maintain the League document with 10 consecutive playoff appearances. Stroke of luck? Perhaps. A case of fine issues occurring to good folks? Presumably. Or is it simply merely one other instance of the resiliency, religion and motivation of Clarendon, and why it’s so troublesome to ever rely them out?
Some of the highly effective and well-respected voices within the W, Clarendon isn’t your typical participant. It’s not solely as a result of they’re the primary non-binary and transgender individual within the League (utilizing the she/her, he/him, they usually/them pronouns interchangeably), but additionally as a result of they perceive the distinctiveness they carry to the sport and to the purpose guard place, stemming again to their days within the NCAA.
“Alexis Grey-Lawson was a tremendous participant at Cal. Folks had been like Oh you’re the subsequent Alexis Grey-Lawson, and I’m like No, I’m the primary Layshia Clarendon,” the guard shares with WSLAM. “I feel the best way I play in W, I’m probably the most bodily level guards. I feel I’ve the savvy of among the legendary level guards…however, like, the dribble maintain, and among the strikes that I do, nobody does that within the WNBA and particularly to not the extent that I do. Nobody performs with the physicality on the level guard place that I do. And in order that’s one of many issues I like concerning the uniqueness of my sport; I don’t attempt to emulate anybody.”
Arriving in Minnesota after initially signing a hardship contract in late Might, Clarendon’s presence was instantly felt. Making an attempt to dam out of their thoughts the difficulties that come together with choosing up your loved ones and relocating with a new child, as she and her spouse lately celebrated the delivery of their youngster “Child C,” the All-Star level guard targeted on the brand new alternative forward of them and offered the fireplace the Lynx wanted to cost towards the crew’s first win of the season. And that spark wasn’t short-term. Clarendon’s influence continued, and Minnesota received seven straight video games heading into the Olympic break. The mix of Clarendon’s high-level contributions plus the return of key gamers from damage helped make the Lynx the most popular crew within the League in mid-July.
Impactfulness has turn out to be a sample for Clarendon. The identical effort taken with every dribble and every move to make sure precision and effectivity throughout sport play is similar effort put forth in each dialog and assembly by which they’re standing on the precise aspect of social justice and LGBTQ+ rights. It was Clarendon’s thought to dedicate the 2020 WNBA season to the Say Her Title marketing campaign. It was Clarendon standing entrance and middle when the WNBA and WNBPA launched the Social Justice Council to drive the gamers’ activism efforts. It was Clarendon standing along with different main voices of the League—Nneka Ogwumike, Elizabeth Williams, Sue Fowl, Natalie Achonwa, Chiney Ogwumike and Satou Sabally— as the chief council of the WNBPA, making certain the expressions of the varied group of people that make up the WNBA are represented pretty, adequately and equitably. It was additionally Clarendon who performed a vital half in serving to to barter the WNBA’s acclaimed new CBA, a course of they credit score for aiding their understanding of true management, democracy and governance.
“The issues that got here out of that deal had been phenomenal, however the inside course of that all of us went via as leaders, it stretched us in ways in which helped put together us for Bradenton,” Clarendon says.
“Management is lots of listening. And that’s actually exhausting and really humbling when you may have so many various folks with completely different needs. You simply need to hear and maintain one of the best curiosity of everybody. You may have your opinions, and you’ve got your emotions, however it’s a must to test your ego.”
Clarendon flawlessly handles the stress: the stress that comes with taking part in for probably the most demanding coaches within the sport, the stress that’s connected with inspiring so many younger trans and queer folks to dwell their lives in openness, the stress that comes together with being a brand new mother or father, and the stress that builds from inside from wanting to perform each objective set.
“I hope anybody who’s ever performed with me felt seen. I hope I modify the best way we view gender ceaselessly. That might be superb if I helped sluggish up the binary in sports activities. That I fought for the liberation of all folks, the identical manner I fought for social justice and the world, but additionally for this League. Particularly within the CBA. I hope we glance again and have a look at that as a stepping stone for the one which’s actually going to blow it out of the water.”
When it’s all stated and completed, Clarendon needs to depart the League in a greater place than they discovered it, so the legacy of impactful and intentional development can proceed for an additional 25 years and past. Inspiring and influential, the WNBA is a greater place as a result of gamers like Clarendon have graced its courts.
Photographs through Getty Photographs.