The WNBA’s Sugar Rodgers releases poignant memoir

LOIS ELFMAN | 3/25/2021, midnight
WNBA All-Star Sugar Rodgers doesn’t hold back in her memoir “They Better Call Me Sugar: My Journey from the Hood ...
Sugar Rodgers

WNBA All-Star Sugar Rodgers doesn’t hold back in her memoir “They Better Call Me Sugar: My Journey from the Hood to the Hardwood,” which will be published by Brooklyn-based Akashic Books in May. Rodgers, who played for the New York Liberty from 2014–’18, honestly depicts growing up in poverty, losing her mother in her early teens and having her life changed by the opportunity to play Division I basketball at Georgetown University.

“I’m an introvert, but I just want to give people a look inside my life, and maybe they can understand why I am so quiet,” said Rodgers. “I want kids to understand what I went through.”

Friends and family have long encouraged Rodgers to share her incredible story of being her mother’s caretaker as her health declined, seeing family members be incarcerated, losing loved ones and struggling to survive. In her teens she stayed with various friends and family, with basketball becoming her constant and eventually her lifeline.

“I wrote these stories when I was in therapy,” Rodgers said. “Obviously, I polished them up. It’s therapeutic writing things that happened in my life that I remember like it was yesterday. Things that impacted my life to get me where I am today.”

Rodgers said sports saved her life. “It’s taught me so many lessons—how to interact with others, how to be determined, how to set goals and then achieve goals,” she said. “Basketball has always been a safe haven for me. I share in the book how it kept me motivated to get out of my own head of what I was going through in life.”

Following graduation from Georgetown, Rodgers was selected in the second round of the 2013 WNBA Draft by the Minnesota Lynx, winning a WNBA Championship her first season. Following her time with the Liberty, she has played with the Las Vegas Aces the last two seasons. The Aces advanced to the WNBA Finals during the 2020 wubble season. The social justice platform and solidarity were very satisfying, but she missed having family members come to see her play.

She hopes young people will see how she overcame her bad circumstances. Rodgers also hopes she can help destigmatize psychotherapy for the Black community.

Rodgers was an English major at Georgetown. This May, she will complete her master’s degree at Georgetown in sports industry management. Her goal is to coach in the NBA or Division I men’s or women’s college basketball. She’s not sure if she will continue to play.

“Graduate school opened my eyes how knowledge is power,” said Rodgers. “We shall see what happens in my life.”