NBA Coach Becky Hammon Says It's 'Surreal' to Have Her Own Mural in San Antonio
The first female NBA assistant coach opens up to PEOPLE about her trailblazing career and carrying the "torch" for other women in America
Becky Hammon is a force to be reckoned with, and one that will "Never Stop" going after her dreams
The San Antonio Spurs assistant coach — who made history as the first full-time, paid female assistant on an NBA coaching staff — was recently honored with a mural in San Antonio, Texas, paying homage to her trailblazing career and achievements.
Speaking to PEOPLE about the artwork, Hammon says it's "surreal" to have her story shared through a mural, which is also the centerpiece of a new short film produced by 60 Second Docs (in partnership with Cadillac for Cadillac’s Never Stop Arriving campaign).
"When I first saw it, I was a little bit emotional, just because it was a complete surprise," the Spurs coach says. "I had no idea of what the mural was going to be. I had no input on it."
"So, when I drove up, obviously I could see the 'Never Stop' over my face first. Then, as I got closer, seeing the little girl, that got me. That got me," Hammon adds.
The mural, painted by Sebastian Boileau, features Hammon in the San Antonio city skyline. Above her, "Never Stop" pays tribute to her relentless and ongoing fight to become the first female head coach in the NBA.
Below her, a young girl wears Hammon's retired No. 25 jersey from her time with the WNBA's San Antonio Stars.
"I thought they captured my story, and just ... it's like, how do you capture a lifetime's journey in one mural? But with that little girl, they kind of got it all," Hammon says.
That painted figure is both Hammon, looking at everything she's gone on to accomplish, but also all of the young girls all over the world, looking up to Hammon as a role model.
"It's a torch that I carry very seriously," she tells PEOPLE of being one of the women to break the glass ceiling in professional sports coaching. "It's something that I value and I know the weight of the responsibility ... But I also can't focus all my resources on that, because I need to focus and have all my resources in trying to be the best that I can be in order to ensure that they have that opportunity."
"I know I got a lot of little eyes on me. I never take it lightly. And that's why the mountains and the challenges in front of me are just even that much greater," she adds. "But I'm willing to take those on and I'm willing to keep climbing and keep [the torch] burning and keep moving forward."
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And those challenges haven't been easy, but Hammon has approached them with empathy and grace.
"I've had to take an approach of learning, first of all, and listening. I think there are so many little misogynistic things that I have to deal with on a daily basis," she says. "And I think some of them are even so subtle, and I don't even think people are aware of them. They're not aware of them even in their own minds."
"I think honestly you have to have a lot of grace because I think intent matters," she adds.
Hammon explains that she has learned to allow her male counterparts the opportunity to "navigate" this new era of women entering their sphere and conversations.
"It's new for them, also, to have a woman in their presence and to have a woman in the mix," she says. "I think having a lot of grace throughout these conversations, throughout these different interactions, has allowed me to build a good base and people can understand that they can be themselves. Because at the end of the day, I want to be myself."
In 2017, Hammon became the first woman to even interview for an NBA head coaching job (with the Milwaukee Bucks). She was most recently considered to replace Billy Donovan with the Oklahoma City Thunder, however, the position was filled by Mark Daigneault on Wednesday.
Reflecting on her goal of becoming an NBA head coach, Hammon tells PEOPLE the world isn't ready yet.
"I don't know if we've seeped into the belief of the heart. I think you can read something on a piece of paper and you can kind of conceptually understand what they're saying, but until you believe it in your heart, until it sinks down into your being, into your soul, not very many people are willing to act on that," she says.
"So we have got to get to the point where there's a belief, deep in your soul, in your gut, in your heart of hearts, that women are just as capable of leading as men," she says. "This is a conversation that is just now starting to come to the surface. So, we're not there yet, but seeing is the first part to eventually believing."
Still, the mural says it best — Hammon has no intention of giving up.
"There have been moments throughout my life where I feel like I've had doors shut in my face. And then, there's moments in my life where I've walked through these doors and I'm pinching myself," she says. "I think there are more hurdles that we have to jump over in order for that door [NBA head coach] to be opened."
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