Women’s History Month Interview Series: Former Liberty Star, Kym Hampton, Continuing Stardom
For Kym Hampton, making the transition from a star basketball player to a star on stage wasn’t an easy process. Overcoming her shyness to sing in public because as she put it: “Are you going to die with your song in your heart because of fear?” was a monumental feat. There was clearly no trace of fear in her performance at Ashford and Simpson’s Sugar Bar, where I had the pleasure of hearing her sing. She owned the stage, captivating the audience with her presence and her beautiful powerful sultry soulful voice. In an interview she spoke candidly about her life since she left the WNBA.
The Louisville, Kentucky native started playing basketball in the 9th grade under the guidance of her high school coach Marshall Abstain. She always dreamed of a singing career and becoming a model. Always very shy since being taller made her stand out, she never sang in public opting instead to sing for family and friends. All that changed for the shy 9th grader as sports opened up a whole new world and took her life in another direction: attending Arizona State University on a full athletic scholarship, majoring in Theatre and then Europe after graduation to play professional basketball. There were no professional leagues for women in the US at that time. Playing aboard for a number of years (Spain, Italy, France and Japan) gave her the opportunity see other cultures and learn new languages. In 1996 while she was still overseas, the WNBA was established and in 1997 she was the number four pick in the first round of the WNBA elite draft to the New York Liberty. On June 21st 1997 the New York Liberty and the Los Angeles Sparks played the WNBA’s inaugural game at the Los Angeles Western Forum.
After successfully playing for the New York Liberty from 1997-1999, severely worn cartilage in her right knee forced her to retire and exit the limelight of basketball as a player – it was a devastating blow. Kym says she became a “functioning depressed person” full of doubts and uncertainty, not sure what the next step would be. Never one to burden any one with her problems, often times no one really knew what she was going through as she made the difficult transition into a regular day to day life. As a professional athlete she lived a scheduled life for many years and part of the difficulty transitioning was how to spend her day. After much soul searching Kym took the next step to seriously pursue her dream to sing. Starting with open mic nights at local venues, she pushed herself to overcome her shyness and sing in public on a regular basis. She credits singing the national anthem for the first time in 1997 before a sell-out crowd; at a NY Knicks play-off game as the fuel that boosted her confidence to perform. Since then in what has become annual tradition for the last 17 years, she sings the National Anthem for the New York Liberty on fan appreciation night, the last regular season home game of the year.
Last year Kym sang the national anthem at the NCAA Women Basketball National Championship game in New Orleans, before a sold out crowd of 21,000+ people and, live on ESPN. Kym admits having to sing in front thousands as well as live camera’s was nerve racking but once she closed her eyes and started to sing, the fear subsided.
Kym like everyone has had to adjust to life’s bumps. She said once she began to challenge the doubts and fears associated with her childhood dreams to sing, other dreams like modeling, acting and becoming a sought after motivational speaker have come to pass. She has been the key note speaker at numerous events, such as the Merrill Lynch Tri-State Women’s Symposium. She credits her ability to bounce back and find balance needed to achieve her goals in life with playing basketball, where discipline, focus and confidence are keys to success. One of her great passions is motivating the next generation of youths as well as adults. She travels around the country speaking to young girls, sharing with them the wonderful things she’s accomplished how playing sports forever changed her life. She encourages them to realize they can achieve things beyond their imagination with a plan, hard work, perseverance and belief.
What’s next for Kym? She’s currently working on her first CD, writing and recording. She is also a regular cast member on the new reality television show “Mom’s Got Game” that debuted in January 2014 on the Oprah Winfrey Network. The show chronicles the lives of former WNBA basketball star Pamela McGee and her son Denver Nuggets player JaVale McGee.
Latest posts by Elizabeth Francois (see all)
- Strong Family Bond Paved Way to Success For Boxing’s Serrano Sisters - April 1, 2014
- Women’s History Month Interviews: Brooklyn’s Heather Hardy Found Herself in the Boxing Ring - March 25, 2014
- Women’s History Month Interview Series: Former Liberty Star, Kym Hampton, Continuing Stardom - March 11, 2014
- Love Majewski’s Birthday Bash - December 21, 2013
- Recapping The Road to Sochi 100 Day Countdown Event - November 4, 2013