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James Wade explains how he went from Memphis basketball player to WNBA Champion

The Chicago Sky head coach talks about his time in Memphis growing up and how basketball has taken him to places he never thought possible.

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — For the first time as a head coach for the Chicago Sky, James Wade won the WNBA national championship in 2021.

However, his basketball journey started in the "bluff city".

“Either I hung with them and played basketball or I was by myself,” said Wade.

Wade grew up following his older cousins around playing basketball. 

Outside of ball, he said his childhood in Memphis was about survival at times.

“I stayed with my grandma in Hurt Village. It’s not open anymore. It was tough, it was just tough,” said Wade.

Wade spent his time on the court at Northside High, grooming his game to take him to the next level.

Wade went on to play at Middle Tennessee State, UT Chattanooga, and Kennesaw State in Georgia before he landed overseas playing in France, where he met his wife and fell more in love with women’s basketball. 

“Never thought that, you know, it was never my intention to coach women. I just wanted to coach basketball,” said Wade.

From there, Wade went from an intern with the San Antonio Silver Stars in 2012 to a WNBA Champion as an assistant coach with the Minnesota Lynx in 2017.

Two years later, Wade was named WNBA Coach of the Year leading the Chicago Sky to their first playoff appearance in three seasons.

Finally, in 2021, he and Candace Parker won their first-ever WNBA championship in Chicago for the first time in franchise history.

“You feel like if I can conquer the things I did growing up, I can conquer anything,” said Wade.

He said the recipe to his success is that he learned from failing to become the player he wanted to be. Wade said placing an expectation on yourself can be counterproductive.

“Think, if I would’ve been putting expectations on myself then I would’ve been cheating myself. I would’ve been short-changing myself. Because I never would’ve thought by the end of my tenth year, I’d have two championships in the WNBA, seven championships in Europe, I would’ve cheated myself,” said Wade.

Wade said as he prepares for WNBA training camp tipping off later this month, he wants to be an example to the youth in Memphis, with fewer expectations come fewer limitations.

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