At the University of Oklahoma, Courtney Paris was one of the most dominant women’s basketball players this side of the 21st Century. She was the first freshman to be named to the AP All-American team (2006) and ultimately became the first four-time First Team All-American in women’s basketball history.
But her WNBA career has been a difficult journey in comparison. Paris spent her 2009 rookie season with Sacramento, a team that would fold that same year. After a year away from the league, she spent partial seasons in Atlanta (2011-12) before getting cut by the Dream and then picked up by the Tulsa Shock.
Throughout all of these challenges en route to a secure spot within the world’s premier women’s basketball league, Paris has remained rock solid in her Christian faith and has continued to play with sheer determination on the court while maintaining a joyful attitude no matter what obstacles get in her way.
In this Inspiring Athletes interview, Paris talks about her unchartered journey, the importance of trusting God and living a stress-free life:
Chad Bonham: Have you always felt in the back of your mind that you might eventually play in Oklahoma again here with the Tulsa Shock?
Courtney Paris: Ever since they put the franchise in back in 2010, I’ve wanted to play here. This is something I’ve always wanted to do. But it’s a tough league and a lot of things have to happen. I’m just glad I finally the opportunity and things worked out and I’m really blessed to be here.”
Bonham: It’s not Norman, but it’s pretty close, right?
Paris: Absolutely. When they called me, I didn’t have to get on a plane and fly here. I just got in my car and drove up.
Bonham: How heavily do you rely on your faith when dealing with injuries and the uncertainties that come your way as a professional athlete?
Paris: I loved Atlanta. It’s a great place. That team was very strong in its faith. We had Bible studies every week. It was such a good environment for me and then when I got cut from that team, I was like, “God I don’t understand.” I was happy there. I respected all the coaches. I loved the situation and it just didn’t work out. And it’s like He took from a good situation to an even better situation. I’m excited to be here and I feel like we’re going to turn things around on the court. I’m excited about the off-the-court opportunities too.
Bonham: What specifically does that look like when you’re dealing with unexpected change and other difficult situations?
Paris: For me, it’s just about trusting God. Things happen all the time. You get hurt. You get cut. You get waived. When I was a rookie, my team folded. All these things happen. But if you get caught up in them and you worry about them, you’ll go crazy. So I just leave it to God. That has kept my life stress free. I’m just confident in my situation right now.
Bonham: Are you excited to see so many other players, women like Tamika Catchings and Ruth Riley, standing up and living out their faith?
Paris: It’s awesome. You go to chapel before the game and today Temeka (Johnson) did our chapel. It’s cool to have the chaplains come in but its whole different story when you get to hear from a peer. That means a lot to me.