WNBA players’ hobbies might surprise you. For one thing, how do they ever — between holding it down during a regular season and playing overseas — make time for hobbies? And secondly, the eclectic range of activities they participate in off the court, from anime to creating with LEGOs, is fascinating.
Players in the WNBA are much more than just athletes. They’re also artists, collectors, gamers, performers, and so much more. These hobbies and passions, more than just a way to occupy their downtime, contribute to keeping them happy and sharp. Because devoting regular time to a hobby or special interest outside of your career has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, depression, and increase job performance.
So today, we take a look at how some of your favorite WNBA players unwind. Here we hone in on their biggest passions off the court, that help keep them focused on the court. From dancing to collecting sneakers, you’re sure to discover some of the most interesting WNBA players hobbies. Perhaps they’ll even inspire to invest in yourself in a new way!
The artificial dichotomy between “jocks” and “nerds” has never been more artificial. From video games to anime, nerd culture is mainstream now, to quote Parks and Rec. And that goes for athletes as much as anyone. Here are a few WNBA players who you may not have known have a bit of a nerdy side:
Gabby Williams is a self-proclaimed ‘weeb’, or weeaboo: a huge fan of anime. In between games for the Chicago Sky and her Hungarian squad Sopron Basket, Gabby Williams loves to unwind with anime.
Gabby frequently Tweets about anime over on her Twitter, @gabbywilliams15. Some of Gabby’s favorite animes are Attack on Titan and Jujutsu Kaisen. As well as timeless classics like Sailor Moon and Naruto. Gabby has even been known to cosplay occasionally! In December of 2020, the Chicago Sky’s social media team celebrated Gabby’s love of Japanese cartoons with a drawing done in the style of Attack on Titan!
Recently-inked Minnesota Lynx wing Aerial Powers has been a lover of video games as long as she can remember:
“Video games have been in my life forever,” says Aerial. “I started as a young girl, playing Nintendo 64. One of the first people I saw playing was a woman: It was my mother. She played GoldenEye 007. [Women playing video games] was obviously normal for me. As I grew up, my mom stopped, but I just kept gaming.”
Aerial has taken her passion for video games to the next level over the past few years, elevating it from a hobby to a full-fledged second career. Back in September 2019, Aerial joined Twitch, a platform primarily for live streaming video games for an audience. Aerial streams on Twitch under the handle powerzsurge, mostly playing first person shooters like Call of Duty: Warzone and Apex Legends. But also, of course, taking time to dominate in NBA2K games.
“When I learned about Twitch, I learned about how massive it was. I didn’t think people would watch me play video games,” Aerial told USA Today, “But I started and fell in love with it and it was a great way to connect with my fans…I first launched my channel to connect with my fans beyond my on-court performance.”
‘Powerzsurge’ has gone above and beyond connecting with her fans. Now a popular Twitch streamer with almost six thousand followers as of the writing of this article. Aerial Powers has found a full second career in streaming, now represented by Ford Model’s Esports and Gaming Division.
She also signed with ‘Team Liquid’ this past January, an Esports team: “I’m a streamer, a brand ambassador, and now I also lead their diversity inclusion task force,” Aerial said, explaining her role with Team Liquid.
Aerial has long been an advocate for diversity in gaming. Using her platform to assert that women, and women of color specifically, have a place at the table in the world of video games and streaming. Last July, Aerial Powers hosted ‘Powerz Up’, a woman-only NBA 2K Tournament. Which garnered more than 26 thousand views on Twitch.
“This gave the participants a safe community not only to be visible in front of a large audience to show that they are gamers as well and was a great opportunity to include women, especially women of color.”
“More than 40 percent of gamers are women,” Aerial Powers told USA Today, “But women in gaming still face some serious cyberbullying. I want to do whatever I can to stop that.”
Teammates over in Turkey with Fenerbahce SK, Kiah Stokes and Satou Sabally have become fast friends with their shared sense of humor. They’ve taken to video sharing app TikTok to pass the time between games, over at their shared account @Satouandkiah. From coordinated ‘TikTok’ dances with their whole Fenerbahce squad, to videos of them getting swole in the weightroom, and videos featuring their other main pastime: puzzles, there’s a little something for everyone.
While the account had been on hiatus from late January 2021, with Fenerbahce on pause, the pair just released a new TikTok celebrating their reunion as they begin practices for the Turkish postseason. It’s clear that Satou Sabally and Kiah Stokes have bonded a lot over their love of making Tik Toks. And it is a sure thing that that friendship translates to chemistry on the court.
Since the early days of YouTube, users have shared slice-of-life updates in the form of ‘vlogs’, or video blogs. The WNBA has its own ‘vlogger’ in the form of Isabelle Harrison, who plays center for the Dallas Wings.
Isabelle uploads a variety of videos to her YouTube channel, which is simply titled IsabelleHarrison. Harrison started the channel with skincare and make-up tutorials, a popular genre of YouTube video, where she explores a variety of subjects from her morning skincare routine to product reviews.
During the 2020 season, however, Izzy Harrison turned to vlogging, sharing what she and her teammates were up to in the WNBA’s ‘Wubble’. This is when her YouTube channel really began to take off, with Harrison’s first ‘Wubble’ vlog, featuring a tour of the IMG Academy bubble site, garnering over 50,000 views
Vlogging is a great way for Izzy Harrison to give viewers insight into the life of a WNBA player beyond what fans see on the court. By sharing this kind of content, Isabelle is able to connect with her fans while giving herself a space to candidly discuss her career, and her life outside of it.
Collecting is one of the most common hobbies in the world. From stamps to state quarters, we’ve all felt the urge to collect something or other before. These WNBA players take their love of collecting to the next level, however. Here are the biggest magpies in the WNBA.
How has Stef Dolson been keeping sane during quarantine? Simple answer: LEGOs! The classic Danish building toy is a great time-filler for kids of all ages, including big kids like Stefanie Dolson.
Stefanie took to her Instagram right before the ‘Wubble’ season in June of 2020 to show off the two huge LEGO sets she had constructed in quarantine: A model of the Taj Mahal, as well as a replica of Hogwarts Castle from the Harry Potter series. An important building block of her Chicago Sky, it’s only appropriate that Stefanie spends her off-time building blocks as well.
In addition to her impressive collection of 4 championship rings, Sue Bird has a humongous sneaker collection in her closet. From Yeezy’s to custom ‘Vote Warnock’ Nikes, Sue Bird’s collection is filled with rare and unique sneakers she rocks both on the court and off.
A highlight of Sue’s extraordinary collection is a pair of limited edition Nike Kyrie 5s, her preferred on court basketball sneaker. The sneaker, the Kyrie 5 ‘Keep Sue Fresh’, is one of several sneaker designs commissioned over the years specifically by Kyrie Irving as a tribute to Sue Bird, a friend of his, and one of his favorite basketball players.
To give you an idea of the sheer massiveness of Sue’s shoe collection: While packing up to leave the ‘Wubble’, Sue took to Instagram live to show off her shoe closet. The video took nine minutes all in all. And that’s just the sneakers Sue Bird brought to the Wubble.
One could argue that all professional athletes are performers in a sense, playing sports for a large audience and carefully curating their public image. These WNBA players, however, are performers in a more traditional sense as well.
Playing for a city like Chicago, it is only fitting that Sky guard Sydney Colson is, like so many other denizens of the second city, an aspiring comedian. Sydney has previously been noted by The Next Hoops’ Jackie Powell for her ability to tie a locker room together using her sense of humor. Notably, creating the earworm “Lady Aces” chant that united the 2019 Las Vegas Aces.
Recently, however, Sydney Colson has made it clear that her interest in comedy goes beyond her amazing locker room antics. It’s a full fledged passion in its own right. In her downtime, Sydney has been working on her chops as a sketch and stand-up comedy performer. And it’s clear she’s particularly talented in the “front facing character” video genre that’s popular on Twitter and TikTok. Check her out here.
For more of Sydney’s hilarious videos, check out this definitive collection from the DownLow with Robocoko.
After leading her college team Notre Dame to an NCAA championship in 2018, Arike Ogunbowale was ready for a new challenge. Few could predict that that challenge would come from being a contestant on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars. Where she found herself competing in the long-running show’s special Athletes season. Alongside legends like Adam Rippon, Tonya Harding, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Arike Ogunbowale never had much of an interest in dancing growing up. When she was first approached by Dancing With The Stars about being a contestant, Arike “thought they were joking,” she told ACC Network talk show All ACC. “At first I was hesitant because [dancing is] not something I’m used to. But it’s definitely a once in a lifetime chance. So, you know, I did it.”
Arike worked hard with her dancing partner, Gleb Sachenko, to prepare for the season, practicing for four hours every day. “I have such great memories of Gleb,” Arike Ogunbowale said in a draft night interview, “He’s a great teacher, great mentor, and you know, helped a lot with my dancing skills. If I ever want to dust off my dancing shoes, I know who to call.”
Beyond clips of Arike’s Dancing with the Stars appearances, you can see the dancing training she put in with Gleb Sachenko in play on the basketball court. When Arike’s handling the ball in isolation, she can make opponent defenses dance with her precise, quick, and deft footwork.
Sometimes a player’s hobby is one of their biggest passions. They just haven’t figured out how to make a full-time career out of it yet. For example, while playing in the league Essence Carson released music as the recording artist Pr3pe (pronounced “Preppy”), including an album in 2013 titled “Broken Diary,” which she described as her “way of opening up to the world.”
“I was drawn to the game for the same reasons I was drawn to music, actually. I believe sports is how a lot of kids in the inner city get their creativity. We gotta create something out of nothing all the time. All of the time,” she explained in a piece written for the Players’ Tribune. “When you have less, you create more.”
And after elbow surgery in 2017 left her unable to play professionally overseas, a program put on by the Women’s National Basketball Players Association (WNBPA) helped her secure an internship with Capitol Music Group under the ARTium Records label. Which propelled her into her current music career.
Creating visual art is a great practice for clearing your mind of other things. And focusing on the piece you are creating. These multi-talented WNBA players spend their downtime moonlighting as visual artists!
One of the WNBA’s most skilled post players, Emma Meesseman is just as effective in the paint with a brush in her hand as she is with a ball in her hands. Much like her fellow Lowlander Vincent Van Gogh, Emma Meesseman is a talented painter. Emma expresses herself on canvas. During her downtime between games for the Washington Mystics, and for UMMC Ekaterinburg, her squad in Russia.
Notably, Emma Meeseman paid tribute to Kobe and Gianna Bryant last year after their passing. With this painting portraying and honoring the father and daughter pair:
Ever since two-time MVP Elena Delle Donne was a child, she has enjoyed working with her hands. “I just have always been really into making things,” the Washington Mystics forward told the Washington City Paper, “It even started when I was young. I loved K’Nex and LEGOs, and just loved building. It was something my dad and I would do together.”
Elena Delle Donne’s love of building would be revived years later. This time, with components a bit bigger and more complicated than K’nex. It all started when Elena Delle Donne and her wife, Amanda Delle Donne, went shopping for a new coffee table a few years ago.
“A lot of the stuff we were seeing, we thought that we could make it ourselves,” Amanda recapped, “It was super expensive in stores. So, we decided to go home and make the coffee table.”
A few weeks and YouTube tutorials later, the Delle Donnes had a gorgeous, original coffee table. One made exactly to their specifications. The couple continued their newfound hobby, and in 2016, they founded their own woodworking business: Deldon Designs.
The company – comprised essentially exclusively of Amanda and Elena Delle Donne – has moved away from tables. And now specializes in wooden wall art. A highlight of the Deldon collection are the couple’s decorative basketball hoops. Including this sold out “Demand Justice” hoop, created to raise money for the NAACP.
Aside from being a second career, Elena Delle Donne says that woodworking is therapeutic for her. The process of crafting a piece grants her peace of mind.
“I feel like I get into the shop, and it’s just me and the piece,” she says, “and then to be able to be doing it alongside Amanda and then also our shop dogs, like it’s the perfect thing.”
Elena Delle Donne’s therapeutic relationship with woodworking is an excellent example of why it’s important for WNBA players to have passions, hobbies, and ambitions outside of their basketball life. Woodworking gives Elena an opportunity to take mental breaks from the emotional toll of being a professional athlete. All while deepening her relationship with her loved ones, and with herself.
Having hobbies outside of basketball is a vital facet of self-care for WNBA players. And an important reminder that these players are more than athletes.
As Essence Carson so eloquently puts it: “There are many athletes that know that they are not only an athlete, they’re a human being that happens to play sports. Now it’s about how are you going to make an impact on the world? You can’t do that just by sitting back and letting everything happen in front of you.”
Up next, indulge more in your own hobby: your love for the WNBA! Catch some of the greatest WNBA podcasts to brush up on the latest news and hear from athletes. Or learn more about the WNBA’s top scorers (many of whom are in this article).
Written by Dani Bar-Lavi, a sports writer focused on the WNBA and LGBTQ inclusion in sports. You can find Dani on their Twitter. And read more of their WNBA work at Winsidr, Sports Are From Venus, Nets Republic, or here at Queen Ballers Club.
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