Synonymous with beauty and luxury, while being the hardest natural stone on earth, diamonds are formed under extreme heat and high temperatures. Carbon atoms go through a violent process and yield a clear substance that is valued all over the world.
Diamond DeShields believes her name fits her well. As a 26-year-old, the Chicago Sky Guard has had her share of highs, lows and criticisms – most of which she is not quite ready to discuss.
“Honestly, if I were to sit here and talk to you about it, we would be on the phone for a few hours. So it has been, it has been a lot. But for me, just being on the floor right now playing basketball is the most joyful thing I could have ever experienced, ”DeShields told WSLAM.
What she is willing to share is her basketball team list for the next five years:
1) Be a WNBA MVP competitor
2) Be an Olympian
3) Win a WNBA Championship
And so is a journey to uncover Diamond DeShield’s rare talent.
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There is no particular story behind her name. Although it was the eldest daughter of Tisha and Delino DeShields Sr., it was a guarantee that her first name would start with a “D.”
“All my siblings’ names start with the letter D, so that’s a real thing in my family.”
Delino Jr. is the oldest, followed by Diamond two years later. D’Angelo, Denim and Delaney round out the other DeShields siblings. Although her name may not have any particular significance for her and her family, it evokes certain thoughts, feelings, and even lyrics.
“I love hearing it!” DeShields exclaims. “Only when you hear the word ‘diamond’ do you hear it so often. It’s cool to have it as a reference to so many different things. I have embraced it, the different meanings of the word and what it can represent. ”
“I think it fits me perfectly because of all the things a diamond has to go through. All obstacles and pressures and the process it has to go through. I think it’s very much in line with my life story and all the things that have happened so far. ”
Athletes raised DeShields. Her mother was an all-American seven-year-old in Tennessee, and her father played 13 seasons in the MLB and is currently the Cincinnati Red’s first base coach. Sport is the family business. It would not be hard to imagine that coming from such a pedigree causes a lot of pressure. However, that’s not how DeShields describes it.
Being in a home for professionals took her to the next step, elite NCAA basketball. DeShields played at the University of North Carolina and won Rookie of the Year this year, earning All-ACC First Team and ACC All-Freshman Team honors in the 2013-14 season. Wearing No. 23 in baby blue, she had an average of almost 18 ppg for the tar heels and helped UNC to Elite Eight.
Her star-studded rookie season would be the last she played at UNC before moving to her mother’s alma mater, Tennessee. DeShields was humble and gracious, but also vague about her decision, which made her vulnerable to criticism. She expressed that she was dissatisfied in UNC, but kept other details to herself.
The move to Tennessee cost DeShields a year of eligibility, but it was the right decision back then, as she took the time to have surgery to relieve severe pain from a stress fracture in her left shin. In Tennessee, DeShields added the SEC All-Tournament Team (2016), the AP All-SEC Second Team (2015-16) and the WBCA Honorable Mention All-American (2016-17) to her list of accomplishments before concluding her final year of eligibility . But once again, DeShields came up with criticism for its decision.
DeShields told ESPNW she was “pleased with every decision I made. I know my heart and I have never done anything wrong by anyone. ”
She said goodbye to what she called a mediocre college career, and went to Turkey to get her first taste of professional women’s basketball. In the middle of her next professional season, DeShields was in New York City for the 2018 WNBA Draft, with Chicago Sky picking its third overall.
DeShields shone brightly in her rookie season, averaging 14.4 ppg and 4.9 rpg, making the All-Rookie Team. She followed that year with a standout season, averaging a career-high 16.2 ppg and bringing 5.5 rpg down while starting all 34 games. She received her first All-Star bid and ended the weekend by winning the All-Star Skills Competition. And best of all, she helped Sky capture their first playoff berth since 2016.
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As was the case for many people, DeShields’ progress in 2020 emptied toward her three goals. To start with, her departure from Bradenton -wubble again sparked a conversation about her fitness, commitment and the like. So “bullshit,” as Diamond calls it, had some impact on her, but she’s still not ready to reveal to what extent. Not quite, not yet.
“I have a story and I’m waiting for a moment. I wait a moment to tell when I feel comfortable. But right now it’s still being printed. So I’m very much still going. ”
At the time of writing, DeShields has started all 22 games for Sky after only playing 13 games last season that came off the bench.
“I think her intensity level has been at an all-time high … She’s probably not 100 percent, but she’s close to it,” Sky head coach James Wade told the media on August 13. “She finds a rhythm and you will continue to see growth in her as time goes on.”
Halfway through the 2021 season, DeShields is getting closer to her stat line in 2019. But how close is she best to this season’s MVP pace?
If we look at the last three WNBA MVPs – A’ja Wilson, Elena Delle Donne and Breanna Stewart – the DeShields are a few percentage points from their MVP season numbers. Wilson averaged 20.5 points last season, about 4 more than DeShields in 2019 (16.2). In addition, the three most recent MVPs shot at least 46 percent off the floor; DeShields is currently averaging 40 percent.
Achieving the WNBA MVP has historically meant a trip to the Olympics. DeShields has won gold medals with USA Basketball on several occasions, including FIBA AmeriCup 2019, World University Games 2015 and FIBA 3 × 3 U18 World Cup 2012. All indications are that she is on her way to making an Olympic list sooner or later.
While the omission of former WNBA MVP Nneka Ogwumike called into question the transparency of the USAB selection system, DeShields says she knows where she stands.
“I heard many good things about my chances, as far as being on this former team. Of course, that did not happen. But I get good feedback from all the coaches, so I plan to do everything I can to enable myself to have it so obvious that you have to have me on the team that you can not refuse to have me. ”
DeShield’s third and final goal is to win a WNBA Championship. Chicago Sky has not reached the conference semifinals since 2016, and therefore never since the new playoff format was introduced in 2017. In two games after the season, DeShields and Sky are 0-2. However, each year the team grows more experienced, and experience matters in the WNBA.
Take this season. Chicago Sky was 1-7, while former MVP and two-time WNBA champion Candace Parker was put on the sidelines with an ankle sprain. Then, in their last 10 games before the Olympics break, Sky went 7-3, including a franchise-best seven stretches in June.
Parker is a huge help, but DeShields quickly mentions other veterans like backcourt duo Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot.
“Candace is an extra emphasis on, just like the little things, and the mindset and competing. But we have veterans on our team and I do not think they get enough credit for what they do and the way they lead us. Honestly, part of the reason I’m the one I’m in the league right now is because of Sloot and Allie. ”
She leans into the journey. “I do all the right things. So it’s just a matter of time. What does Joel Embiid say? Trust the process. I live by that. Trust the work and the results will come. ”
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Chicago Sky sits in sixth place when we went into print, good enough for a first round, but not good enough to skip single elimination completely. That does not mean much to DeShields. After being on the sidelines for two years in a row, she sees no reason Chicago can not find its way to a playoff series.
“We just have to believe in each other, trust each other, trust James, trust the system, trust the schemes. I do not see why we could not. I do not see why not. ”
DeShields believes all of her goals can be achieved within the next five years. Then we have to see where the universe takes her. She has shown interest in fashion, is an advocate for affordable eye care in partnership with Oakley and feels strongly toward athletes who develop multiple income streams. Her days of playing abroad are coming to an end. Instead, DeShields will focus its offseason on real estate.
“I’m like a month or two away from getting my Illinois real estate license. Real estate is something I enjoy, whether it is as an agent, broker or as an investor.
“I do not want to be one of those players who looks like Oh, shit, what do I do now? But you know, because you see it, you see it so many times, you know? I want to be smart about my money, smart about what I do with them, where I put them, where I invest. ”
The next five years, on and off the field, are about adding value to her legacy. So we asked again. What does her name mean? How does DeShields embody the rare beauty of a diamond?
“You know, I think I would probably be the opposite of that,” she says. “All my life I thought I was special. But the reality is that when you go through life and you become humble in some of the ways I have, I just feel like everyone is special. I hope that when it’s time for me to tell my story I can encourage someone. Everyone goes through situations, but I feel like there’s a diamond in all of us that needs to be discovered, you know? ”
Go behind the scenes with Diamond, Betnijah and Arike for their WSLAM 1 cover shoot!
Portraits by Raven B. Varona. Follow Ravie B. on Instagram, @ravieb.
Action Images via Getty Images.