When Opportunity Knocks, What Do You Choose?

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If there’s one thing that I’ve learned since coming into the W, it’s that there is no blueprint for how your career is going to go. 

My rookie year in Connecticut was not great by any means. I was a top draft pick, ready to dominate, but I didn’t play very much. I was timid. Then, to make matters even worse, I was injured for the last part of the season. We didn’t make the playoffs that year and, I’ll be honest, my WNBA career was not off to the start that I expected.

Then the opportunity presented itself for me to have a fresh start. I remember it was February of 2016, and I was playing overseas in Turkey for the first time. Like any other day, I’m chilling in my apartment after practice, when my phone rings. It’s a call from my agent, Allison Galer.

“Hey, so I just talked to Chris (the GM in CT at the time) and you’re getting traded to Atlanta.”

Elizabeth Williams | Washington Mystics | When Opportunity Knocks | The Players' Tribune
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That turned out to be exactly the restart I needed. It was a chance to build off of my confidence from playing overseas in Turkey — and to play for a players’ coach like Michael Cooper, who was excited to use my skills and grow my potential. And things actually started looking up … that summer I was named the WNBA’s Most Improved Player. The next year, I was named to my first WNBA All-Star team. In 2018, even with a coaching change, our team had the second-best record in the league and we made it to the WNBA semifinals. I was doing my thing on the court. Everything was going smoothly ... until it wasn’t.

The 2020 season our team was in the “Wubble,” and we were unfortunately on another long losing streak. It was draining. Losing is always draining. We ended that season 7–15, but our success off the court overshadowed the lack of success on the court. 

All the teams were in one place fighting for a championship, while also championing human rights off the court. The season was dedicated to #SayHerName and the Black Lives Matter movement. Helping contribute to the movement was a lot of work, especially when you’re still playing games. And then it’s like that work starts to become a problem, especially when your team owner denounces all of said work. 

I was sitting in my apartment with Blake Dietrick and Britt Brewer when I heard her comments. All I could think was….

Did she really say that? Now? Seriously? 

We have to do something, or say something at least.

Elizabeth Williams | Washington Mystics | When Opportunity Knocks | The Players' Tribune
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On a team Zoom in July, early in the Wubble season, we contemplated how to respond. With the help of our players union and the entire group of WNBA players, we decided to respond in the only way we knew how — being organized and strategic, and bringing the focus back to our season’s theme. Our owner was a U.S. senator, so with our focus on effective social change we took aim at her senate seat, supporting Rev. Raphael Warnock in the upcoming election. Long story short, that decision went well for our team, our league and the U.S. Senate.

And, to be honest, for me too. I grew in ways I never thought I would, using my voice and my platform in some of the most stressful moments possible. I went into that off-season with a real sense of pride.

By the start of the 2021 season, the on-court vibe was similar to the Wubble. We had glimpses of greatness, combined with the opposite — moments of being disconnected and uninspired. Obviously this was unintentional and probably inevitable with all the coaching changes, ownership changes, injuries and more. The success we’d had just a few short years ago in 2018 felt like a distant memory. 

Then that feeling hit me, and I had to ask myself a really hard question, Was my best basketball behind me?

Eventually, I came to my answer … I have A LOT more basketball in me. 

It’s funny how history repeats itself.

The start of 2022 has been looking promising, and I’m playing great overseas. I’m a true perfectionist, so it takes A LOT for me to even give myself that much credit. But I always say — confidence is a killer — and I mean that in the best way. Confidence is different for everybody, but for me it looks like playing more aggressively, talking more, staying active on the boards — basically, relentless energy. 

I have A LOT more basketball in me.

Elizabeth Williams

And I’m excited to bring that confidence and energy back to the W, but for a new team. Next season, I’ll be joining the Washington Mystics.

I’m so excited for this new journey in Washington, but I wouldn’t be in the position I am now without my Dream teammates and everything that we built in Atlanta. And so, before I go, I just wanted to say: Thank you for everything. 

No one will EVER be able to take away from what the Atlanta Dream accomplished in 2020. Influencing the balance in the United States Senate? Come on. That’s not just big, it’s unheard of. I’m not a prideful person, but I will absolutely take pride in that. 

From my first conversation with Coach Thibault, I knew D.C. had so much that I was looking for. Championship contenders. Incredible staff. Amazing reputation. An impassioned city. 

And most importantly —  some HOOPERS!! 

A team of players who have won before and are excited to win again. 

This isn’t to say it was an easy decision. I was torn because Atlanta has been home, and the franchise’s future is really looking bright. 

But to be able to play just a few hours away from where I grew up, with a new atmosphere, and new dynamics … it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. 

At the end of the day I knew it was time for a change. Free agency wasn’t about choosing a team, it was about choosing me

And this is only the beginning.