Beyond Basketball: Alana Beard

In Alana Beard’s 14 WNBA seasons she’s stacked a resume which includes a WNBA championship four All-Star appearances and back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year Awards. She’s best known for flying across the court and intercepting the ball in mid-air as she currently sits at the top of the career steals list for active WNBA players.

After becoming the third player in league history to notch 700 career steals on June 27 against the Las Vegas Aces, Beard credited her teammates.

“Those steals come because everyone else is doing what they’re supposed to do,” Beard said. “It’s not just an individual steal.”

Beard’s stats combined with her tenacious perimeter defense earned her back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year Awards in 2017 and 2018 at 35 and 36 years old, respectively, an honor usually given to forwards and centers in the league with flashy blocks and wide wingspans.

“It’s not about the impact that I had on the youth, it’s the impact they had on me.” -Sparks guard Alana Beard

Throughout the eight seasons that the 5’11” guard has been in Los Angeles, she’s been a staple for the franchise and a consistent leader on the court that her teammates don’t take for granted. They know that playing alongside Beard and the wisdom she brings is rare.

“I think I’ve asked [Alana] a question every day about something, whether it be on court, diet, how she keeps herself together,” Sparks guard Tierra Ruffin-Pratt said. “Anything I can do to soak it in, I’m doing it.”

After making history at Duke as the program’s first National Player of the Year and the first woman to ever win the John R. Wooden award, Beard was drafted second overall in 2004 by the Washington Mystics, where she spent her first eight years and earned All Defensive first team honors four times in her first five years in the league.

Beard shares her unmatched years of experience with the Sparks’ locker room, but she also recognizes that the world stretches further than the Staples Center court, even all the way to New Delhi, India, where she spent a week during the recent offseason mentoring over 140 young kids. She partnered with Hoops Creating Hope, a program part of a non-profit organization called Crossover Basketball that uses basketball to impact the education rates of marginalized children in India.

She dedicated five days to teaching the fundamentals of basketball to kids with no background in the sport–a tall order for anyone but a seasoned professional like Beard. Through positive encouragement and experiential learning on the court, Beard helped the children understand the program’s five keys: leadership, gender equity, character, teamwork and communication, with the goal of expanding those lessons into their future academic endeavors. By the end of the week, the kids were writing Beard personal notes and calling her “sister.”

“It’s not about the impact that I had on the youth, it’s the impact that they have had on me,” Beard said. “I think a lot of times we go over as volunteers thinking that we can give them something, but in reality, they give us so much more.”