home Basketball, WNBL Ezi Magbegor on the WNBA, Aussie hoops and sport for social justice

Ezi Magbegor on the WNBA, Aussie hoops and sport for social justice

From the WNBA Florida ‘wubble’ to the WNBL Queensland hub, Ezi Magbegor is looking to bring her Seattle Storm championship experience back to her Boomers.

Ezi Magbegor Melbourne Boomers
Image: Melbourne Boomers

When I speak to Ezi Magbegor, she has seven days left of her hotel quarantine in Sydney after flying in from the WNBA ‘wubble’ in Florida where she’s just won a championship with the Seattle Storm in her rookie season. After this quarantine, it will be onto the next bubble as WNBL players make their way to quarantine in Queensland and enter the league’s hub.

This means Magbegor’s 2020 has been almost completely spent in isolation from the outside world.That that is also something most people, particularly Victorians, can understand and connect with is something truly astonishing. 

But Magbegor is in high spirits, she’s just won a WNBA championship and she’s got a lot of Grey’s Anatomy to get through during another mandatory hotel stay.

“When I started the WNBA season, I started watching Grey’s Anatomy, so I’ve watched a few seasons of that, [I watched] Emily in Paris on Netflix that I just finished, that I really enjoyed. Movies, I think I’ve watched a lot of Will Smith movies, so like The Pursuit of Happyness and Seven Pounds. So yeah, I’m really feeling Will Smith at the moment.

“It’s going okay. It’s not too bad. I think this downtime is kind of nice. Just to have a break in between seasons, I guess. But yeah, I’m just trying to keep myself busy during quarantine as well.”

The downtime has certainly had its positives in such an incredible year for the 21-year-old. After being drafted with the twelfth pick in the WNBA draft by the Seattle Storm last year, Magbegor played her rookie season in challenging circumstances to say the least. But she’s been able to walk away from the ‘wubble’ having added her name—along with her fellow Storm listed Aussie teammate Sami Whitcomb—to a list that includes names like Lauren Jackson, Abby Bishop, Alison Lacey, and Tully Bevilaqua as Australians who have won WNBA championships with Seattle. 

Hotel quarantine might be just the thing Magbegor needed to reflect on the magnitude of that.

“I think so. I’ve said it to other people too, because we had such a quick celebration, and then we pretty much had to leave the next day, it didn’t really sink in until I got to quarantine and kind of had a bit of downtime to think about it all and reflect on the season.”

The season itself being conducted within a bubble environment during a pandemic that threatened the continuation of many sports across the globe, was still only the beginning how Magbegor was able to reflect on the power of sport to bring people together. In her time in the WNBA, she also experienced being part of the ongoing campaigns and conversations for racial and social justice that were occurring in the United States.

“I think just the whole experience, it was in a bubble, it was a different scenario. And I think the fact that us as players were playing for things that were bigger than basketball, it kind of had an impact on me as well, with the social justice work and everything. I think just reflecting back on all that, it was a pretty powerful season.”

Being part of a league that has been at the forefront of campaigning for many different social justice causes, over a long period of time, gave Magbegor a space to learn from other women how to use her voice and her platform to continue to be a leader in this space and campaign for change. 

“Just being in that environment during the season, just being exposed to different athletes and how they have been using their platform has definitely inspired me. I think there are a few athletes that are already doing that, here in Australia, you know, with Liz [Cambage] being at the forefront of that. So I think just being there definitely inspired me to be able to use my platform more.”

It’s incredibly humbling to hear such a young woman talk about her ongoing efforts to learn from her fellow athletes and the leaders in this space so she can continue to contribute to the conversation.

I think back to when I was 21 and I could not have formed anything that resembled a complete sentence to add my thoughts and feelings to these important and complex issues. That’s why I’m so impressed that Magbegor can talk to her process of learning and her passion to continue. Even now, more than a decade her senior, I’m learning from her. How powerful it can be just to have those conversations so the fear of not knowing what to say doesn’t create those barriers which can so easily allow us to be complacent. Saying nothing is so easy. In ten minutes of chatting, she’s already made a lasting impact on me, and I can’t help but get excited about the lasting impact she’ll have on the so many fans.

Magbegor of course had access to not only some of the world’s best athletes, but the world’s best advocates for social justice surrounding her in the WNBA bubble which is incredibly exciting to see how she’ll be able to continue to develop into a leader on and off the court as her career continues to boom.

“With my team at Seattle, I think everyone were great advocates for that. And, you know, obviously Sue [Bird] and being so vocal, and Stewie [Breanna Stewart] was on the social justice council with the league, and I think just kind of everyone just speaking to everyone, and everyone us[ing] their platforms—we had zoom calls with the team, with the league. I think just hearing from everyone made a difference. It wasn’t just one person.”

It’s something she hopes will continue as the WNBL begins in Australia in November.

“I think if any time is a good time, it’s now. To continue what’s been going on this year. So I think yeah, it’s hopeful to have that during the WNBL.”

Preparing for the WNBL hub, Magbegor is a seasoned pro now after multiple quarantines, and she can’t wait to get back with her Melbourne Boomer teammates.

“I’m [looking forward to] just being back with the Boomers again, I think we’ve got a lot of returning players. And obviously I love playing for Guy [Molloy, Melbourne Boomers head coach] as well. So just being back in that environment. And just being back in the WNBL.

“I’m really excited to join the team. I know they’ve been working a lot in Melbourne. They’ve got a majority of the team together. So just to be able to have everyone in one spot, preparing for the season in a week or just over a week will be great.” 

And her teammates will be able to count on her bubble expertise.

“I guess they’ve asked kind of what the experience has been like. I think they probably will more once I get there and once I’m with them, but yeah, I’ve obviously been in that experience before so I can tell them what it has been like.

“During the WNBA, it was kind of like, we just did normal things you do in your downtime, so like, watch movies, play card games. There wasn’t anything really, like out of the ordinary, we hung out by the pool. It was hot in Florida!”

But beyond helping her teammates to deal with the bubble, Magbegor has gained such invaluable experience that she’ll now be able to bring back to the Boomers.

“I think I’ve learned a lot. I think just being with Seattle and playing with such great players. Playing with Sue, playing with Stewie, Alicia Clark—just playing with all of them. I definitely learned a lot about my game, and, I guess, how to approach the game of basketball in a different way and approach different games in different ways. And I think just in terms of my basketball, I learned where I need to be at in order to compete in that league, knowing that I have to improve on my perimeter game, my shooting. I think I learned a lot about what I need to improve on during the season.”

Additionally, the challenges that condensed seasons bring also includes short turnarounds and different impacts on the body and recovery.

“I learned a lot about doing, like, the little things off the court. So you know, like eating the right things, the recovery process, and kind of just that, because everyone has a different routine for that. And I guess it’s just dependent on injuries, or, you know, little niggles here and there, but definitely watching how my teammates approach that recovery was really important, especially with the season that was so condensed. We had so many games, it was pretty much game, rest-day, game, rest-day. So I’ll be bringing that knowledge into the WNBL season, because it is a shorter season, too.”

After such an incredible debut season in the WNBA, hearing Magbegor animatedly talk about the talent in the WNBL and the future of Australian basketball is exciting. After playing with the best of the best, she says the Australian game has got so much going for it right now

Related: Boomers and Bubbles: Christy Collier-Hill on the WNBL’s return

“I think the future of Australian basketball is really exciting. Obviously, with a World Cup happening here in Australia [in 2022], and just the talent that has been developed and that is currently in the league in Australia, it’s definitely improving. But I think just being able to have the World Cup here, it will be so important, I think just for young girls to be able to watch it and to put Australian basketball on the map”.

Ezi Magbegor will line up with the Melbourne Boomers for the 2020 WNBL Season which commences November 11.

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