DALLAS — At approximately 12:30 p.m. on January 7, Stella Faye Adams walked inside what was an empty FedExForum.
What she witnessed shortly thereafter is something she admittedly will cherish for the rest of her life.
An avid San Antonio Spurs fan, Adams got to meet future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, whom she deems her “favorite athlete of all time.”
As Adams recalls, meeting Duncan, a 14-time All-Star, for the first time following the team’s shootaround is something she had envisioned for quite some time. A native Memphian who has supported the Grizzlies since their move from Vancouver to Memphis, Adams has had a greater admiration for the Spurs, in large because the team has proven to be what she labels the “model organization of the NBA.”
“When I met Tim Duncan, my favorite player of a time and the Spurs, I felt like I was on top of the world,” Adams said in a telephone interview from Memphis. “I couldn't wait to show off my pictures. I remember saying to him that it was nice meeting you. Tim said to me that it was nice meeting you also, and I couldn't contain myself. He is such a humble person. I will never forget that moment.”
Adams became an even bigger fan of the NBA world champions when the team on Tuesday announced the hiring of 37-year-old Becky Hammon as an assistant. A veteran point guard for the WNBA’s San Antonio Stars, Hammon has become the first, full-time paid female assistant on an NBA coaching staff.
The news of Hammon’s hiring was inspiring to Adams, a special education teacher at Kate Bond Elementary and cheerleading coach at the nearby middle school in the outskirts of Memphis. According to Adams, Hammon’s unprecedented hiring has provided her and other women with lofty hopes of working their way through the ranks in their respective fields.
“This is definitely a sign of things to come,” Adams after learning of Hammon’s hiring. “You will see more females stepping out and trying something different whether it be in sports or something that is not expected of a female.
"She has inspired me to think outside the box. I will be exploring options whether it be in administration or in the community making a difference. I am going to use my education and experience to make myself even more marketable.”
A six-time WNBA All-Star, Hammon currently ranks fourth on the league’s all-time assist list. Once the 16-year veteran point guard retires from the WNBA at season’s end, she is expected to immediately join Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s staff, working with the longtime San Antonio coach on scouting, game-planning and the day-to-day happenings in practice.
Like many women—whether sports fans or not—Adams, 42, will be among those tracking Hammon’s every move as she becomes acclimated in her new endeavor, one she believes undoubtedly has grasped the attention of other professional franchises.
“I think that the Spurs as an organization is a trendsetter,” said Adams, when asked what was her initial reaction to Hammon’s hiring. “The things that they have done throughout the years makes them stand out. Allowing a female to come into the organization and share her expertise to males shows that it's about the ability, not what you look like.”
As the Spurs, who open training camp in late September, look to defend their world title this upcoming season, Adams said the organization once again has given her and others a reason to support it, let alone some newfound enthusiasm, particularly with regards to the support and equality of women in corporate America.
“I was excited that they chose a female,” Adams said. “I believe she will bring some skills that will make the veteran players even better as a team. It's makes me feel like I can step out and do something as unique as this.”
Having gone undrafted as a rookie following an All-American career at Colorado State, Hammon is in her 16th season and with her second WNBA team. She was signed by the New York Liberty in May 1999, enjoying a stellar rookie campaign while backing up starting point guard Teresa Weatherspoon. Hammon spent seven seasons with the Liberty before being traded to the San Antonio Stars in April 2007.
En route to winning their fifth world championship in franchise history, the Spurs produced an NBA-best 60-20 record during the regular season and clinched the top seed in the postseason. San Antonio defeated the Miami Heat in five games in the NBA Finals.
This story was originally posted at MemphiSport.com. Andre Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.