For seven years, basketball superstar Sheryl Swoopes has kept a very big secret.
Though many WNBA fans may remember the league’s early years, when the glamorous 6-footer’s husband and then-infant son Jordan were courtside fixtures, Swoopes’s reality today is radically different: Since her marriage crumbled in 1998, Swoopes, 34, has been quietly sharing her life with another woman – her former coach Alisa “Scotty” Scott, 40.
Now she has decided to come out, adding a deal with Olivia, a travel company that caters to lesbians, to her endorsement for Nike.
“I’m nervous, I’m anxious, I’m excited, but I’m not scared,” Swoopes tells PEOPLE in its upcoming issue, on newsstands Friday.
“Scotty and I have been together for seven years,” Swoopes said, as she sat on a terrace in Martina Franca, Italy, not far from where she is playing during the WNBA’s off-season. “That’s a long time to hide. It feels freeing.”
Swoopes adds in her first-person account:
“In college I was never with a woman. I had a boyfriend, and the thought of it never crossed my mind. I always had gay friends and we were cool. We hung out. But I didn’t think about women that way. My marriage was beautiful, but we were both young, and we both grew up and went our separate ways. I tried to make it work, but I wasn’t happy anymore.”
As for her 8-year-old son, Jordan, Swoopes says: “My son is my biggest concern. I know my son loves me dearly, and I know he loves Scotty the same way. He calls me Mommy 1 and her Mommy 2. We’re a family. But kids can be really ugly. I just hope he’ll be okay with it.”