Six-time All-Star Holdsclaw hangs it up, retires midseason

LOS ANGELES -- Chamique Holdsclaw, a six-time WNBA All-Star who re-signed with the Los Angeles Sparks in February, stunned the team by retiring Monday.
The 29-year-old forward had played in the Sparks' first five games this season, averaging 15.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 3.0 assists.

Holdsclaw did not give a reason for ending her pro basketball career.

"This was not an easy decision," she said in a statement released by the team. "I put a lot of thought into it."

Kathy Goodman said she and Carla Christofferson, the team's new owners, were surprised.

"This is not what we wanted," Goodman told the Associated Press by phone. "She said she'd given it a lot of thought and decided she didn't want to play anymore."

Goodman said Holdsclaw didn't give a reason and the owners didn't ask for one.

"We decided to respect her decision," she said. "I'm not sure how long she had been thinking about it. The first we heard about it was over the weekend. I'm not sure what all led into her decision."

Chamique Holdsclaw was the No. 1 draft pick in 1999. (Getty Images)
The owners, along with coach Michael Cooper and general manager Penny Toler, tried unsuccessfully to persuade Holdsclaw to stay. She was playing on a one-year contract.

"We're relatively new, so we don't have a long relationship with her," Goodman said.

Before joining the Sparks two years ago, Holdsclaw played seven seasons with the Washington Mystics, who made her the league's top draft pick in 1999. She was the WNBA Rookie of the Year that season after leading Tennessee to three consecutive NCAA championships and twice winning National Player of the Year honors.

But the Mystics had only one winning season during Holdsclaw's stint, losing in the Eastern Conference finals in 2002.

She asked to be traded after dealing with depression. Holdsclaw didn't talk publicly about that time, which came after the death of her grandmother who raised her.
She left the Mystics in July 2004 and played basketball in Spain before the Sparks went after her. Holdsclaw later said she was happy to be in Los Angeles, where the laid-back nature of things appealed to her.

She retired without winning a WNBA championship.

"I have a lot of other interests, things I can be as good at as I am in basketball," she told the AP in July 2005, declining to elaborate. "I like to keep things to myself."

Cooper said the team would miss Holdsclaw, adding, "It won't be easy, but we will go on without her and wish her all the best."

The news was a jolt to the Sparks (3-2), who had already lost star center Lisa Leslie to pregnancy this season. Point guard Temeka Johnson has yet to play while recovering from offseason knee surgery. Cooper rejoined the team this season after coaching stints in the NBA and its Development League.

"We have a great team and our goal is still the same, to win a championship," Goodman said. "It'll be little harder."

The Sparks host Houston on Wednesday night.

The Associated Press News Service