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Sheryl Swoopes

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IN A BIG YEAR FOR WOMEN in sports—a year when Martina Hingis won three grand-slam events and Mia Hamm supplanted Alexi Lalas as the nation’s most recognizable soccer star—no female athlete loomed larger than Sheryl Swoopes, who also managed to put the lie to the notion that women can’t have it all. On June 25, Swoopes, 26, gave birth to her first child, Jordan Eric Jackson. Just six weeks later she helped bring the brand-new Women’s National Basketball Association into the world.

One of the league’s marquee players, Swoopes had lost all but five of the 47 pounds she stepped onto the court to a standing O from the Houston Comet fans. Within a week, the 6′ forward was scoring in bunches, helping carry her team to the league championship. “The fact that she even attempted a comeback after having a baby is a testament to the kind of athlete she is,” says WNBA commissioner Val Ackerman, “She has broken new ground for women’s basketball.”

Settling into parenthood in Lubbock, Texas, with husband Eric Jackson, 23, who quit school to look after their son, Swoopes is already looking forward to next season. “I’ll be the old Sheryl, back to my playing weight,” she says. “I want to show people, ‘This is what you missed.’ ”