OLD HICKORY, Tenn. (WKRN) — Alysha Clark sobbed as the Las Vegas Aces won the 2023 WNBA Finals. It was Clark’s third WNBA championship, the first without her father, Duane, who passed away in September of 2022.
“For me, basketball was my dad and I’s journey together,” said Clark. “That was what we shared together because my family is a family of musicians and that was the bond that they all shared. So, this was something different. That was just mine and his.”
Clark dedicated this season to her late father, garnering WNBA Sixth Player of the Year honors.
“It’s crazy. When we moved here to Mt. Juliet in 2002, I would have never guessed in my wildest dreams that this is where I would be, that this would be my career.”
When Clark and her family moved to Middle Tennessee, basketball wasn’t a sport she had fallen in love with yet.
“They were like, ‘Oh, we’re getting this amazing six foot forward from Kansas.’ And I was just like, ‘That’s what they told you guys.’ I was so like in terms of development, I was so far behind them. I didn’t even know how to reverse pivot. I didn’t even know what that was. I was like, ‘What is this?’ And like a bounce pass. I mean it was atrocious.”
Clark was named Tennessee Gatorade Player of the Year and 3A Miss Basketball while at Mt. Juliet. She would then go on to play at Belmont before transferring to Middle Tennessee.
She was conference player of the year in every season she played.
“To be able to have this as my roots and Tennessee is such a women’s basketball mecca. To be able to have, like, hang my hat on that and stand on the shoulders of the pioneers in this space, in this state specifically, is really special, and that’s something that I take pride in. So when I look back at just all of that, I’m just, I’m truly grateful just for the journey and the people along the way, because they saw something in me before I even saw it at myself.”
In February of this year, a 35-year old Clark coming off a foot injury signed with the Aces.
“There was doubts about like, will I return? The same is my age a factor, can I still be as effective or productive? So to have, you know, the coach and Becky Hammon, who believed in everything, she was like, ‘I don’t care if you’re 40, like I want you on my team.’ And this group is unlike any group I’ve ever been around. Like to have some a group of women that unapologetically walk in their purpose with confidence, not even just on the court, but like off the court,” Clark said.
This group would win Las Vegas its second straight championship. Clark said she knows her father was proud.
“To be able to do what I’ve done and kind of be that untraditional player and have the untraditional route I think is which, is what makes this journey even more special.”