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Basketball

Jasmine Thomas’ Wings Flight Path Was Fifteen Years in the Making

The longtime WNBA guard's unexpected retirement led to an unusual role with Dallas. But the first steps toward her career transition happened many years and many cities ago.
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Thomas' 13-year WNBA career laid the foundation for her post-playing career with the Wings. Mary Holt-USA TODAY Sports

Their paths first crossed more than a decade ago. Greg Bibb was the Washington Mystics’ chief operating officer. Jasmine Thomas was a 19-year-old student and basketball player at Duke University and working as a marketing intern with the Mystics.

Now, all these years later, they are united again. Bibb is the president and CEO of the Dallas Wings. Thomas, a long-time WNBA star who recently announced her retirement, has moved into an unusual, newly created role in the organization: director of player programs and development coach.

“Long before she became a WNBA All-Star, I was very impressed by Jasmine because of the internship that she had done,” Bibb says. “I kept that in the back of my mind, and every time I ran into her, I was impressed by the conversations we had.”

They crossed paths again last fall at a WNBA players’ association meeting. That chance encounter set the ball in motion and came to a head shortly after Thomas announced her retirement after a 13-year WNBA career.

“It was a ‘timing is everything’ situation,” Bibb says. “She is the perfect fit. I wouldn’t have moved forward with the role if I didn’t have the right person for it.”

In her dual role, Thomas will focus on skill development as a member of coach Latricia Trammell’s staff. In the front office, Thomas will develop programs centered around player services and support, including career development, mentorship, and philanthropic interests.

Thomas will also assist with the expansion of the Wings Mentor Trip, which the organization started last season, and will work to foster a connection between the team’s present and past through the launch of the Wings Alumni Association, where she will be charged with connecting and supporting former Wings players.

“To have this hybrid on-court, off-court role, it felt too good to be true,” Thomas says. “The Wings have invested in the women, building up their franchise, getting them to a place, hiring Coach Trammell, having the success they had last summer. It seemed like a good time to get in and really make an impact on these young promising players that have bigger goals of winning a championship, which is still very much a goal that I have.”

Bibb sees it as a win-win: a way for one person to help multiple levels of the franchise. “We want to invest in our players and help them have meaningful, productive, successful playing careers but be best positioned for whatever occurs after the ball stops bouncing for them,” he says. “Also, this benefits the organization. If we’re investing in our people, they are more likely to invest in us. It helps us attract free agents. It helps us retain key players, and it creates a better overall environment.” 

Thomas shocked the WNBA world when she announced her retirement on social media on January 18. Drafted out of Duke by the Seattle Storm in the first round of the 2011 WNBA Draft, the Fairfax, Va., native played for four franchises (Washington, Atlanta, Connecticut, Los Angeles) while appearing in 390 regular-season games and 32 playoff games. Over the course of her career, Thomas scored 3,862 points while registering 1,477 assists. Long considered one of the league’s best perimeter defenders, she was a three-time WNBA All-Defensive first-team selection. 

Equally important to her new role is Thomas’s recognition as one of the most community-focused and socially engaged athletes in the league. She is a two-time recipient of the WNBA Community Assist Award, having been honored by the league in 2019 and 2021.

But even after tearing the ACL in her right knee that sidelined her in 2022, she never imagined that the 2023 season would be her last as a player. It was the first significant injury of her career. She focused on getting back on the court and staying healthy, getting whatever minutes she could and making the most of them. But then she was traded, from the Sun to the Sparks.

“It put a whole bunch of things into perspective,” she says. “Even though I wanted to explore having another season where I was fully healthy coming off of rehab, once these off-the-court opportunities started coming up, I was feeling excited about them—like, OK, it might be time for that next chapter. Do I pass on these things and hope that they are still there when the time comes to retire?”

Thomas had contemplated those questions long before the 2023 WNBA season ended, but they shifted to the forefront once it became apparent the Sparks were going to miss the playoffs, Thomas started contemplating her offseason. She was about to be a free agent, with a long-standing broadcasting job to return to, so she packed up and moved home to Virginia.

In the end, she chose retirement. She says she has no regrets.

“I am retiring at peace with a grateful heart,” Thomas says. “I know I could have played. But I just felt like it was time for something new, to continue impacting this game in a different way.” 

Her relationship with the Wings extends beyond Bibb. She worked with Amber Cox, the team’s chief operating officer when Cox was in the Sun’s front office. Thomas played overseas with Satou Sabally, and the two have remained close. She and Arike Ogunbowale did an NBA African Academy visit together last winter. 

“I’ve been a silent fan of theirs even though we were playing against each other for all of their careers,” Thomas says of her new colleagues. “Them being the faces of that organization and wanting to be able to help them reach their goals as well is very important to me.”

Thomas has competed against many of the players she is now tasked with helping to develop, and it’s an aspect of the job she is looking forward to. She says she will rely on her experience to cultivate leadership, culture and more whether on the court or around the building.

“They are a team that will win a championship,” she says “If I’m able to jump in practice and show them how I see the game, and having played against them knowing what scouts have been against them to try to be successful against the Wings, I can use that knowledge to help them understand how teams will defend them. They are already talented, smart players, so they understand some of that already. I am just there to add to it, be a resource.”

She lives by the lyrics from a song by Notorious B.I.G. (her dad’s favorite rapper: “The sky’s the limit, so stay far from timid. Only make moves when your heart’s in it, and live the phrase the sky’s the limit.”

Now she is ready for a fresh start and to embark on the next phase of her career.

“It’s been the toughest year when you think about rehab and all these life changes,” Thomas says, “but it has also been the most gratifying year that I can remember to date for investing in myself. It has felt so good and I think that’s another reason that makes me excited to move to Dallas. There’s a whole new world of opportunity that feels so exciting, and I can’t wait to get settled there.”

An unconventional adventure awaits.

Author

Dorothy J. Gentry

Dorothy J. Gentry

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Dorothy J. Gentry covers the Wings for StrongSide. A native Dallasite, she is a journalist and educator who covers the…

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