Q & A With Two-Time WNBA Champion Renee Montgomery

Renee Montgomery isn’t just working on being a champion (again) on the court.

She’s also working to be a champion for young people also.

Montgomery, who currently plays for the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, should be on a court right now. After the all, the 2020 WNBA season had a start date of May 15th. However with the coronavirus outbreak, she and many other athletes across the world have been forced to the sidelines.

So what is an athlete to do during these times?

In the case of Montgomery, she’s using this time to tackle a need. Schools across the country have been forced to alter their teaching strategy, moving their lessons to an online format. Unfortunately, every student does have access to a smart device or laptop to access these teaching.

Montgomery is trying to change that.

Through her organization, the Renee Montgomery Foundation, she is seeking funding and sponsorship opportunities in order to secure these devices for students in need. Additionally, her foundation is currently in the process of launching a tech space.

I was able to catch up with Renee on Monday during the middle of her busy schedule. In a special Q & A with me, she answered several questions from sports fans, and including a few of my own. She spoke on which NBA player she would give the business too, how the WNBA could increase fan visibility, and how fans can connect with her league in a city where there’s no team.

 

KW: Hey Renee, let’s get started. I have the questions pulled up right here from the fans, but first I have to ask mine. Now, when I posted that graphic about how many points Jordan would score with the digits based off the last two digits of your phone number and what not. We see yours is double zero. So everybody that got that? Her last two numbers is double zero.

RM: Yeah, yeah. I mean, the question was, “How many would Jordan score on you with your last two digits?” 00┬áis my last two digits so I said, “Oh, I’d hold him to a goose egg.”

KW: You are doing better than a lot of people in history.

RM: I can only imagine.

KW: But let’s kind of stay in that realm real quick because it kind of goes with one of the questions. We’ll go with Mark Anthony Dickson. He asked, “If there is any NBA player that you think you could beat in one-on-one, who would you think that would be?”

RM: Oh my goodness. I’m going to go with Kyle Lowry because I know him, so he won’t really care if I say that.

KW: Kyle Lowry? What about Kyle makes you think you can give him the business? Just asking.

RM: I tell Kyle all the time. I always say, “Kyle, can you shoot better than me?” He’s like, “Of course!” So this is me saying, “No, you can’t.”

KW: This is another question from Crystal Burks. She wants to know, “Is it more beneficial to play overseas or to play here? And why?”

RM: It depends on what you mean by beneficial. It’s very beneficial to play in the WNBA because then you can get sponsorship and things of that nature. Brands might not necessarily want a sponsor a person that only plays overseas. Playing overseas is beneficial in a way that you definitely get paid way more than you get paid for playing in the WNBA. So it’s kind of difficult cause it depends on what you value. Do you want your face to be everywhere in America? Then maybe not overseas is for you. I mean, for us though, the beauty for us is we don’t have to choose.

KW: That is a plus a huge plus. That’s a HUGE plus!

RM: Yeah.

KW: Now here is from one Deuce Price. He asked, “How would you go about increasing visibility and the fan base, especially with the young fans?”

RM: I think one of the main things is the actual visibility. You have to have brands that buy in that allow the games to be seen. If you don’t even get to see something, it’s hard to ask people to research anything. So if the games aren’t on TV, if people don’t see the WNBA players’ faces connected to brands like that do NBA, then they’re not going to follow it and buy in as much. So we have to get that sponsorship. We have to get that branding.

KW: All right. Now I got three more questions from the fan side.

RM: The fans are out here asking some real questions!

KW: Yeah, it was like I said, they have some questions out here that I was like, “Man, okay.”

RM: Oh, I’m impressed!

KW: Now, here is one that goes back into the overseas and playing over here market. Chris Bass asked “What is the major differences between overplaying overseas and playing in the WNBA?”

RM: I just think, when you’re overseas, you don’t feel as connected. You could have a great game and nobody knows. That kind of is the most difficult thing about overseas. It’s like you’re on your own. And the WNBA, I would say the most difficult thing is the traveling and how many games we play in as little as time. The season is condensed and it seems like we’re traveling half the time.

KW: “What suggestions do you have about balancing the NBA and the WNBA as far as the equity level?” That’s from Allan Washington.

RM: Wow. These people are really good. The thing about the leagues is, you can’t balance things whose age difference is so dramatic. So if you just start a job, you’re not going to want the same as your boss who’s been there for 25, 35 years. So I say that to say that the WNBA is about 20 something years old. And we all know how old NBA is. So you have to compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges. So I think in comparison, the WNBA actually is doing better than other professional leagues at this age.

He’s asking about equity. Those things come with time. Of course, I want it now. Cause people ask, “What about the payment disparity?” Of course, if I can get paid more, I want to get paid more, but I’m happy with the progression and the way that things are going. So it’s the same with equity. Of course, if we can get more, we want more.

KW: Okay. Now here goes into a couple of my questions. What do you think the league can do to grow attendance? Because I know that that has been an issue over time. What are some things that you feel that could help make the game more attractive to fans across the country? As far as a league, what do you think the. league should do to grow its presence?

RM: I think for us, we’ve already started to rebranding. So if people haven’t noticed a difference then they’re not paying attention in a sense that the WNBA has done a lot of different things as far as getting us involved in the culture. We’re all watching The Last Dance. And one of the reasons that Michael Jordan became the mega-star he is, is because he became one with not just scores but the culture. So I think that a way to get more engagement is getting the WNBA and the branding connected to the culture and different things of that nature.

KW: Now I’m from a city where we had a rich WNBA history when our team was here, the Detroit Shock.

RM: Oh yeah.

KW: So when they took the Shock away from here, that really did affect the city. So my question is, what things could be done for cities who don’t have that attraction or who don’t have a team anymore?

RM: Yeah. So the cities that don’t have a team, you need to be a free agent and you need to pick a team or you pick a player and you figure out who’s your favorite player and you serve for that team. It’s like, people that live in Philly root for LeBron James playing in Cleveland, they root for LeBron James playing in Los Angeles. So I think that if you want to watch and you want to be a fan, just pick a team, be a fan.

KW: Hey, I’m with it! I respect that all the way. Because this is just something that I know that me and my friends talk about. We’re like, “Man, I just remember when we had ‘the Shock’ here” and we had that sense of connection with it. Then when the team was moved to Tulsa, it just got ripped from us.

RM: Yeah, but that’s why I use the example. In the NBA, people don’t care if there’s not a team actually in their city. People actually travel to their team’s favorite city to watch them play. But with the WNBA, a lot of times it is like how you said. And it’s true, but they have to have a direct connection to the WNBA to support. Other sports, people would just support it because they love the sport of it. So that’s the problem with how it is for the WNBA, with what you just said yourself, actually.

KW: Most definitely. With this current COVID-19 situation, how has that affected you as a player? First off, how do you feel COVID right now has affected the WNBA?

RM: Yeah, so I mean, obviously affected. To this point right here, it hasn’t hurt our league in a sense. We were able to have a virtual draft and carry on business as usual. And our virtual draft numbers were through the roof. So in that aspect, we had all eyes on us because of the pandemic. The way it’s going to affect it obviously is, we should already be playing right now and we’re not.

KW: And I know with you being on this downtime, what has that been like, trying to keep yourself in shape? Are you going off of workouts that you already know? Are you communicating with your coaches and taking advantage of Zoom? How has that process been?

RM: Yeah. They send us work out every day. I live in a condo, so I haven’t actually been able to do any basketball workouts because I have been quarantined, like the real quarantine. I’ve been in the house. Not that some people, my sister’s an essential worker. So some people, I understand if you to leave, but because I don’t have to leave, I’m not going to. So I’ve been home, I’m doing just a lot of different home workouts. I’ve been an athlete for all my life, so I can do a workout every day easily.

KW: So to piggyback off of that, are you anticipating being able to get back into the gym to get back to your normal workouts?

RM: Oh yeah, for sure. I’m anticipating getting back to normal life in general. To the point where seeing friends and stuff, so that’s always going to be something that we’re all looking forward to, but I’m just erring on the side of caution for everything. I’m fine with staying home until everything is good.

KW: Now we do know that states are opening up at different times. I know that Georgia was one of the states that had opened up a little bit earlier than most, with some restrictions, of course. Now with you being safe and quarantining, will you have any apprehension of when they allow you ladies to get back on the court? Would you have any apprehension about playing your competitors with the current situation?

RM: I really do trust that the leagues, and particularly league, are going to do the right thing. So when thing that it’s safe and the time to play, then I’m going to still be very precautious. I’m going to take all the steps to be cautious, but I’m going to trust that they’re not going to put us in a situation of danger. So in that aspect, I’m not going to run around in fear, but I’m still going to be safe and practice all the different techniques that you need just to stay safe. I don’t know. I’m just hoping for the better, in a sense, but I just hope that they take the change for the better and that when it is time, we won’t play until it’s safe.

KW: Now when that season gets started up, getting ready for the first game, you and your teammates, all getting together. When you’re walking into the arena, what’s going to be on that playlist to get you hyped up for that first game back?

RM: Oh man. One of the songs has been at the top of my playlist, it’s ironic enough. It’s Angel McCoughtry song: “Never Let Go.” Usually I either go slow music or at most, Caribbean vibes. So yeah. I’m going to have “Never Let Go” by Angel McCoughtry.

KW: What kind of vibe does that puts you in? Where does that take your mind?

RM: Just a chill vibe. Before the games, I’m never too hype in a sense of, I just like to be really chill and calm. And then when it’s right before the game or while we’re warming up, obviously in the arena, the music is going to be turnt. So then that’s turnt. But behind the scenes, yeah, I like to be chill.

KW: Now during this quarantine, what have you been watching? I know you said we’re watching The Last Dance and I’ll touch on that in a second. But outside of that, what has been on that Netflix list?

RM: Little Fires Everywhere has been amazing. Right now I’m watching Hunters and it’s about…Amazon Prime has some good shows coming out right now. But, right now I’m watching Hunters. We had movie night the other night and we watched Scooby Doo. I have a 12 year old here. So I would say those shows.

KW: Now let’s go on that [The] Last Dance. It just wrapped up last night. What was your takeaway from it?

RM: I loved the tough love of it all. I know a lot of people were thought it was alarming, but I really enjoyed the grit of it, how the NBA used look. That was exciting and fun to watch. I would say my takeaway was that, they was out there and playing for pride, playing hard, it was exciting to watch.

KW: Do you think that is lacking from the NBA that you’re watching right now or is it just different eras?

RM: I think it’s different eras and honestly, it’s the rules. The NBA players can’t necessarily change the rules. So now, if you even politely chest bump somebody on the other team is going to be a technical. There’s not that leeway that they used to have. So it’s a different era.

KW: Now you’re a two-time WNBA champion.

RM: Yessir!

KW: Former WNBA Sixth Woman of the Year. How do you see the rest of your career playing out? Is there anything else that you would like to accomplish?

RM: I just think to keep going with what I want to be remembered by. When people talk about me, I hope they talk about my energy and my positivity. A lot of times we’ve done something for a while, you lose your drive for it, you lose your passion for it. I want people to, so I would say that I had passion all the way til the end. So for me, what I’m going to try to do is even though it’s going to be season 12, I’m still going to be the same energetic, passionate person I was for season one.

KW: And just as an athlete in general, how do you just carry that over each season? You’ve been playing for a long time. How do you just keep that passion rolling from game to game, season to season?

RM: I always just try to put things in perspective. Even though basketball is my job, sometimes I have to like stop myself and think, “Okay, at least my job, no matter how stressful it is, it’s a sport. And I get to play and part of my job is being healthy.” And so I kind of just take that approach every day. Like you said, that is a blessing to be able to play in the WNBA.

 

To learn more about Montgomery’s foundation, visit https://reneemontgomeryfoundation.org/ and and to donate you can visit https://www.paypal.me/RMFoundation. She can be followed on Instagram: @itsreneem.

Follow Kory Woods on Twitter: @koryewoods

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