The news came in a text from my colleague, Scott Rabalais. Rumors had surfaced that former Capitol High and LSU star Seimone Augustus was set to retire after 15 WNBA seasons to become an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Sparks.
What happened next was clinical. Our staff confirmed the news, then wrote a story and a list of professional accomplishments. I did my share of the LHSAA baseball tournament in Sulfur.
But here’s a bit of a full reveal: As I did, in the third inning of a baseball game I was covering, an unexpected wave of emotion hit me.
As I reflected on Augustus’ career, two themes emerged. The first is the notion of realizations in relation to inheritances. The other borrows the title from a song by Jim Croce – “Photographs and Memories”.
Augustus made her mark as one of the greatest players in the history of women’s basketball. I also believe she is the most important athlete to come out of Baton Rouge in the past 30 years.
Don’t hesitate to agree or disagree. But his career, and yes, even the emotions, say so. Augustus changed the trajectory of women’s basketball in Louisiana, both in high school and college.
Not all high school stars live up to the hype. But Seimone Augustus has done this and more. Remember, she was a legend before the rise of social media.
When Augustus made the cover of Sports Illustrated for Kids as a ninth grade student at the Capitol (“East it the next Michael Jordan? The title asked), fans came from all over to see her play.
If you didn’t have a seat in the gym a few hours before the game, you wouldn’t go in. The LHSAA Sweet 16 tournament games in Monroe and Hammond were attended by record crowds.
No other local athlete in my years of high school sports coverage had this appeal. And of course, his skills were also special. Former LSU assistant coach Bob Starkey, now an assistant at Auburn, called Augustus a “generational talent” with a brilliant wit for the game, a competitive streak similar to Michael Jordan and a work ethic to match.
Starkey says Augustus’ state of mind and work ethic made every rehearsal important to her. It changed the culture at LSU. It did the same for his high school teammates too.
It is often difficult to weigh accomplishments against inheritances. But not in this case. Augustus ticks all the boxes, with national honors at the high school and college levels. She was a two-time All-American parade in high school, two times Naismith Player of the Year in college.
As beautiful as the individual accomplishments and all of his stats were, victory was what mattered most to Augustus. She did too.
Two Class 4A titles in high school, three NCAA Final Fours at LSU, four WBNA titles with the Minnesota Lynx and three Olympic gold medals.
The look of pure joy on Augustus’ face the night Capitol won his first LHSAA title is something I’ll never forget. She got what she wanted; Mission accomplished. The winners win.
As for the photographs and memories …
Seimone Augustus is 37 years old. Her birthday falls just days after my 34-year-old daughter’s birthday, which I’ve known since they were kids. Seymore Augustus, Seimone’s father, is a former colleague of The Advocate.
As his game and his fame grew, Augustus remained loyal to Baton Rouge. She keeps a low profile but always attends the local high school games when she is home.
For a moment Thursday night, I remembered Augustus when she was the first time I had met her – a 9-year-old girl with long legs and a shy smile. She wore an old-fashioned pair of white Larry Bird Converse shoes.
She had excelled in the Elks Hoop Shoot competition that she now sponsors. So I knew she could shoot. Years later, she was a rookie in braids with a killer crossover and other skills others didn’t have.
My favorite memory? The moment she stepped back and took one last hit in the 2002 4A title match. Nothing but sharp – one last mic drop.
Simply the best? During my stay in Baton Rouge, certainly.