Chamique Holdsclaw is a world-renowned athlete, advocate, and author. Her powerful story is one that speaks to all that have faced adversity. Holdsclaw’s vision is to raise awareness for mental health issues and to educate and advocate for those that feel like they are suffering alone or that there voice is too small to effect change with her concept of living “Mentally Driven: Mind, Body, & Spirit.” Holdsclaw has been traveling the country to speak on behalf of her recent documentary “Mind/Game: The Unquiet Journey of Chamique Holdsclaw” (2015). This poignant film gives an intimate look into the “female Michael Jordan’s” rise to fame as collegiate and professional athlete and when her career was derailed by depression and near suicide. She portrays an exemplary bravery and forthrightness, through scenes of remarkable intimacy and struggle as she seeks redemption, not just by saving herself, but also by educating and encouraging others at risk.
Chamique Holdsclaw has been a public speaker and powerful mental health advocate since 2007. Her passion is to shine a national spotlight on mental health issues – especially in sports, among African-Americans and underrepresented populations, and youth. Holdsclaw has also spoken on topics such as overcoming obstacles, adversity, and leadership. Holdsclaw is also a published author, “Chamique Holdsclaw: My Story (2001),” and “Breaking Through: Beating the Odds One Shot at a Time” (2012).
Professional sports career (1999-2010)
Chamique Holdsclaw has led one of the most storied in careers in women’s basketball history. After winning three national titles at the University of Tennessee, the most decorated women’s college basketball player ever became the first pick in the 1999 WNBA Draft. Despite numerous injuries and ailments, she has led a successful professional career, becoming a mainstream sports icon and helping push the WNBA to unprecedented popularity. Holdsclaw grew up in Queens, New York and attended Christ the King Regional High School where she won four straight New York state championships. In the fall of 1995, Holdsclaw enrolled at national power the University of Tennessee, where she played under legendary coach Pat Summit. During the 1995-1996 season Holdsclaw appeared in 36 games, averaged 16.2 points, 9.1 rebounds and shot 47 percent in helping the Lady Volunteers to the national title. She was named 1996 SEC Freshman of the Year, was named to the All-SEC first team, the All-SEC Tournament Team and was named a third team All-American by the Associated Press. The USBWA also named her 1996 Rookie of the Year. Due to her stellar play in the NCAA tournament, she was named to the All-East Region Team as well as the All-Tournament team.
The following season Holdsclaw averaged 20.6 points and 9.4 rebounds a game while shooting 50% from the field. She was also named a first team All-American by numerous publications, was a finalist for the Women’s Sports Foundation Sportswoman of the Year and a finalist for the James E. Sullivan Award for the top amateur athlete in the United States. Holdsclaw also won the 1997 ESPY award for Women’s College Basketball Player of the Year. Tennessee dominated in the tournament, collecting their second consecutive national title while Holdsclaw was named to the All-Tournament team, Midwest Regional MVP, and 1997 NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player.
During her junior year in 1997-1998, Holdsclaw averaged 23.5 points and 8.4 rebounds while shooting 54% from the field in leading the Lady Volunteers to a perfect 39-0 record (14-0) SEC and their third straight national championship. That year she won the Sullivan Award becoming the first women’s basketball player to do so, was a first team All-American, the SEC Player and Female Athlete of the Year and the A.P Player of the Year. Holdsclaw was also a recipient of the 1998 Honda-Broderick Cup Award which is presented to the Outstanding Female Athlete of the Year. Finally, she won the 1998 ESPY awards for Best Female Athlete and Women’s College Basketball Performer of the Year. Holdsclaw was also one of 12 female athletes selected as inspirational role models by Women’s Sport and Fitness magazine in 1998. Coming into her senior year Holdsclaw had won every imaginable individual honor as well as three straight NCAA titles. She averaged 21.3 points and 8.1 rebounds a game while shooting 52% from the field in leading the Lady Volunteers to 28-2 record and a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament. In the first three rounds Tennessee routed 16th seeded Appalachian State, 8th seeded Boston College and 4th seeded Virginia Tech. In the Elite Eight, the Lady Volunteers met the 3rd seeded Duke Blue Devils where they were upset 69-63. It was the first tournament loss of Holdsclaw’s career. Despite ending her career without her fourth national title, Holdsclaw still garnered much national praise. She was named the SEC Player of the Year, MVP of the 1999 SEC Tournament, a 1999 All-American, the 1999 Naismith Player of the Year, the 1999 U.S. Basketball Writers Association Player of the Year and the 1999 A.P Player of the Year; becoming the first player to win the honor in back-to-back years. During her four years at Tennessee, the Lady Volunteers went 131-17 and won two SEC regular season titles, three SEC tournaments and three NCAA titles. Tennessee also went 21-1 in the NCAA tournament during her career. She remains the SEC’s all-time leading scorer (3,025 career points) and career rebound leader (1, 295 career rebounds) and is third all-time in the NCAA in career points.
Holdsclaw was also a member of the USA Basketball team that won the silver medal at the 1997 Olympic qualifying tournament. She led the team in scoring with 13.1 points and 6.5 rebounds a game while shooting 55.2 percent from the field. That year she was named the 1997 USA Basketball Female Athlete of the Year, the youngest player to win since Cheryl Miller in 1984. Holdsclaw was also a member of the USA team that won the 1998 world championship. The team went 9-0 and was helped by Holdsclaw’s 20 points and 13 rebounds in a quarterfinal win over Slovakia. In 1999, Holdsclaw was part of the U.S. Olympic Cup gold medalist team and in 2000 won a gold medal at the Sydney Olympics.
In 1999 WNBA draft Holdsclaw was selected with the No. 1 overall pick by the Washington Mystics. Holdsclaw was named the 1999 Rookie of the Year after starting 30 games and averaging 16.9 points and 7.9 rebounds a game and starting for the Eastern Conference in the inaugural WNBA All-Star Game. She was also twice named WNBA Player of the Week in 1999 and was named to the All-WNBA second team. The Mystics ended the season 12-20 after finishing 3-27 the season before Holdsclaw arrived.
The next season Holdsclaw started all 32 games while posting averages of 17.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game (both of which were the 7th highest in the WNBA, respectively.) She also became the first player in Mystics history to score 30 points in a game against Indiana when she scored 30 points and blocked 8 shots. Holdsclaw was the leading Eastern Conference vote getter for the 2000 All-Star game which she started. The Mystics finished fourth in the Eastern Conference with a 14-18 record and were swept by the top seeded New York Liberty in the first round.
During the 2001 season Holdsclaw missed three games with a foot injury but still started 29 games and averaged 16.8 points (5th in the WNBA) and 8.8 rebounds a game (4th in the WNBA). Holdsclaw was the leading vote getter for the WNBA All-Star game and was named 2nd team All-WNBA. Despite Holdsclaw’s individual heroics, the Mystics struggled to 9-21 record and missed the playoffs.
In 2002, Holdsclaw missed 12 games with an ankle injury but still averaged a double-double for the first time in her career with 19.9 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. Holdsclaw was named to the All-Star team but did not play because her injury. Despite her injury, Holdsclaw finished first in the WNBA in points per game, rebounds per game, defensive rebounds, double doubles, points per 40 minutes, and second in defensive rebounds per 40 minutes and was named to the All-WNBA second team. Holdsclaw’s career season helped the Mystics to a 17-15 record and the third seed in the WNBA Playoffs. In the first round, Holdsclaw averaged 20.5 points and 12 rebounds as the Mystics upset the second seeded Charlotte Sting 2-0. In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Mystics lost 2-1 after taking the first game from the top seeded New York Liberty.
Holdsclaw followed her career best 2002 season with a stellar one in 2003. She posted a career high 20.5 points per game and also averaged 10.9 rebounds per game, which led the league. She finished the regular season ranked first in rebounds per game, first in points per 40 minutes, second in double-doubles, third in total rebounds, third in defensive rebounds and was named an All-Star starter for the fifth time in her career. Despite Holdsclaw’s solid year, the Mystics struggled to a 9-25 record and finished last in the Eastern Conference.
During the 2004 season, Holdsclaw started 22 games for the Mystics averaging 19.0 points 8.3 rebounds a game before leaving the team mid-season because of an “undisclosed medical condition.” Despite Holdsclaw’s absence the Mystics continued to play well, finishing with an 18-16 record, clinching the 4th seed in the WNBA Playoffs. In the first round the Mystics faced off against top seeded Connecticut, winning the first game before being eliminated 2-1. After a period of time, Holdsclaw revealed she battled depression during the 2004 season. In the winter of 2004, Holdsclaw went overseas to regain her enthusiasm for basketball. She joined Ros Casares Valencia of the EuroLeague and realized she still loved to play the game. After returning to the WNBA, Holdsclaw asked to be traded.
Holdsclaw knew a lot of Washington Mystics fans wouldn’t understand her request to be traded, but she felt that she needed a change. She recognized that she would be leaving her comfort zone of Washington, DC, but she was not afraid of change – in fact she embraced it. She believed that the change would bring about new challenges and she wanted to take the chance. Holdsclaw’s wish was granted when she was traded from the Washington Mystics to the Los Angeles Sparks on March 22nd, 2005 for DeLisha Milton-Jones.
A rejuvenated Holdsclaw started 33 games during the 2005 season, averaging 17.0 points (3rd in the league) and 6.8 rebounds a game while shooting a career best 48% from the field. She was voted into the All-Star game for the 6th time. Holdsclaw passed the 3,000 career point mark on May 26th when she scored 27 points in her return to Washington. Teamed with perennial All-Star Lisa Leslie the Sparks finished 17-17 and finished fourth in the Western Conference standings. In the first round, the Sparks lost 2-0 to the eventual champion Sacramento Monarchs.
During the 2006 season, Holdsclaw played in 25 games, averaging 15.0 points and 6.1 rebounds while coming off the bench. The Sparks finished 25-9 and clinched the first seed in the Western Conference Playoffs. After dispatching the Seattle Storm 2-1 in the first round, the Sparks were swept out of the playoffs by the defending champion Monarchs in the conference Holdsclaw spent two full seasons with the Sparks before announcing her retirement from the WNBA in June 2007. At the time, Holdsclaw was averaging 15.8 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. After her retirement from the WNBA, she continued to play professional basketball overseas.
In 2008, Holdsclaw played for Poland’s Lotos Gdynia in the Euroleague. This season, she is averaging 17.6 points per game for TS Wisla Can-Pack Krakow in the Euroleague. After spending the 2008 season in the Euroleague,
Holdsclaw returned to the WNBA for the 2009 season with the Atlanta Dream. The Dream seemed to be a great fit for Holdsclaw; unfortunately the season was complicated by a knee injury that prevented Holdsclaw from finishing the regular season and missing the playoffs.
Prior to the 2010 training camp, Holdsclaw was signed by the San Antonio Silver Stars. During the season, Holdsclaw averaged 13.6 PPG and 5.3 rebounds before ending her season early with a torn Achilles tendon.
Holdsclaw has admitted that she has battled depression and since has served as inspiration for kids throughout the country who are battling the same problems.
In October 1998, Holdsclaw became the only women’s player ever to be featured on the cover of Slam magazine, one of the most widely read basketball publications in the world. She also has released her own basketball shoe, the Nike BBMiqueShox and published a book in 2001 titled Chamique: On Family, Focus and Basketball. She also has her #23 jersey retired at the University of Tennessee where she also has a street named after her. Holdsclaw credits her grandmother as her hero, for teaching her blind faith and sacrifice.
Despite the many obstacles that have faced her throughout her professional career, Holdsclaw’s resiliency and courage have helped her lead a very successful career. Her hard work and team oriented play helped her become one of the most popular players in the league.