Former speed queen gets second chance at new game

By Steve Keating

TULSA, Oklahoma (BestGrowthStock) – The broad smile that had been Marion Jones’s trademark for many years returned on Friday and would not go away as the fallen sprint queen got set to launch her career as a professional basketball player.

As Jones giggled and joked with her Tulsa Shock team mates during a practice prior to their sold-out WNBA season opener against the Minnesota Lynx on Saturday, there were no hints of the dark days from which she had emerged.

“I’m in a good place, a really good place,” Jones, flashing another big smile, told Reuters in a courtside interview. “How do I put it into words? It’s a wonderful thing.

“I’ve worked hard to get here and I know a lot of eyes will be on me but I’m just happy to make this basketball team.”

Stripped of her Olympic medals and sentenced to six-months in prison for lying to federal investigators about her use of performance-enhancing drugs, Jones will likely come off the bench for a team expected to struggle for a playoff spot.

But Jones, once regarded as the world’s greatest female athlete, insists her return to basketball is not an attempt at redemption and not about the money. The league’s average salary is about $35,000, a fraction of the millions in endorsements and appearance fees she would have earned before her demise.

FIRST LOVE

Having helped North Carolina capture an NCAA championship as a freshman point guard, Jones’s return to the court is about reconnecting with her first sporting love and rediscovering the joy of competing.

But most importantly, Jones said returning to the sporting arena gives her a stage to tell a story that will serve as a cautionary tale to young athletes and her three children.

“My husband and I we teach in our home the whole idea that everyone makes mistakes and it’s what you do after the mistake that will ultimately determine how people will judge you,” said Jones. “We tell them what the consequences are and the next day they go and make that wrong a right.”

The 34-year-old will not be the WNBA’s oldest player but she will be the league’s most senior rookie, leaving some to wonder if she is nothing more than a publicity stunt.

Looking lean, fit and lightning quick, it is clear Jones will not be outworked on the court, making her a perfect fit for coach Nolan Richardson’s basketball philosophy famously known as the “40 Minutes of Hell.”

TALENTED ENOUGH

While Jones will need time to knock the rust off her basketball skills, the switch in sports has done nothing to dull her supreme confidence and competitive fires.

“It never has crept into mind whether or not I can compete or whether I’m talented enough to run or play basketball,” said Jones. “A lot of people wanted to know if this is just a gimmick to get me back in the public eye.

“If I could have quietly done this I would have loved that. But when it comes to me nothing is really quiet.”

Jones’s excitement about opening night was no different from her young team mates as the mood in the arena resembled that of giddy school girls about to embark on a new adventure.

Jones said even in prison she knew this day would come. She did not know it would come in Tulsa or include basketball, but she always knew a second chance at happiness awaited.

“I knew there would be a day I would be happy and fulfilled again and satisfied that my life was going in a positive direction,” said Jones as the emotion in her voice rose. “Where it would lead me was a total surprise.”

Stock Report

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

Former speed queen gets second chance at new game