Alana Beard is a WNBA Champion and one of the best defensive players to ever set foot on the basketball court. She was drafted second overall by the Washington Mystics in 2004 and played for the Sparks from 2012-2019. As a member of the Sparks, Beard won a WNBA title in 2016 and earned back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2017 and 2018.
Before becoming a dominant defensive specialist in the WNBA, Beard played college basketball at Duke University where she won the National Player of the Year Award in 2004. She was also the first woman to win the John R. Wooden, State Farm Wade Trophy and Naismith Player of the Year Awards. The star guard is the first player in NCAA History to record at least 2,600 points, 500 assists and 400 steals in her college basketball career. She led Duke to the 2002 and 2003 NCAA Final Fours. Her No. 20 jersey is now retired, making her the first ever Duke women’s basketball player to have their jersey sent to the rafters.
Beard grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana and played high school basketball at Southwood High School. She was named Louisiana Gatorade Player of the Year in her senior year and received several other individual awards. Southwood went 144-6 during her high school career and never lost one game at home. Beard led her team to four consecutive state titles, and an undefeated record during her senior campaign. She had a championship mindset from a young age, that carried over to her time at Duke, and in the WNBA.
Beard averaged 11.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.7 steals per game throughout her career. She earned nine WNBA All-Defensive First and Second Team Selections (2005-2007, 2009, 2014, 2016-2018). Beard signed with the Sparks in free agency in 2012, after sitting out the 2010 and 2011 seasons due to injury. During the Sparks 2016 Championship season, Beard ranked second in the league in steals (1.7 spg), moved into the top 25 on the WNBA’s career scoring list, and top 10 in career steals. She had eight points, six assists and four rebounds in the Sparks win over Minnesota to clinch the 2016 WNBA Championship.
In 2017, Beard won her first Defensive Player of the Year award. She led the league in steals averaging 2.1 per game and was often tasked with guarding an opposing team’s best backcourt player. Beard became that dominant defensive stopper on court, and a veteran leader off it. She played alongside Nneka Ogwumike and helped lead the team to back-to-back WNBA Finals appearances in 2017.
In 2018, Beard averaged at least 1.0 steals per game for the 13th consecutive season. She won her second consecutive Defensive Player of the Year award cementing her legacy as one of the greatest defenders in WNBA history. Beard was a fantastic defender because she understood her opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, always had strong defensive positioning on court, and was willing to do the little things that won’t always show up in a stats sheet.
She announced her retirement in January 2020 in a local radio interview at her hometown station, and now Beard serves as a Senior Associate at Silicon Valley Bank Capitol. She continues to give back by working with the non-profit Common Ground Community to put on annual basketball and swimming clinics in Shreveport. According to an article by Matt Foley in OZY, Beard has strong entrepreneurial aspirations to one day found her own Venture Capitol Firm and uplift women’s voices in business and franchising. Beard also serves as a basketball analyst for the ACC Network.
Her legacy on court goes down as a leader on the Sparks third championship team and one of the most celebrated athletes in NCAA history. Her legacy off court is still being cemented as a businesswoman and leader for the next generation of business owners.