As the NBA season winds, with the league’s best inching closer to victory, we go inside the lives of the women who are keeping the hottest players on their toes.
While Lebron James is making buzzer-beating shots, his fiancée, Savannah Brinson, is taking care of their two sons and running The LeBron James Family Foundation. And she always steps out in style, making the high school sweethearts one of the NBA’s most fashionable duos.
Being handpicked by Quincy Jones to sing isn’t the life of most NBA wives, but no one ever said Tamia was average. The singer and husband, Phoenix Suns star Grant Hill, have been successfully balancing work and marriage for years with what seems like minimal effort.
“Knowing I have Grant in my corner has brought out a boldness in me," Tamia told ESSENCE. “He’ll tell me when I’m wrong and need to check myself, but he’ll also tell me when I’m right and need to keep fighting for something.”
Along with raising their daughters, Cydney, Ciara and Cenaiya, with Denver Nuggets star Chauncey Billups, Piper Billups leads the family in giving back to the community, including hosting a Hip-Hop “Tee” Party to help local children.
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Lady of the House
Alani “LaLa” Vazquez may be busy hosting VH1’s “Charm School,” but she remembers home is where the heart is with fiancé Carmelo Anthony and their son Kiyan.
“I clean my own house. I don’t wait for the maid to come,” she tells ESSENCE.com. “And I cook for my family. It might not be a ten-course meal, but I have my specialties like mac ‘n’ cheese, chicken and my world-famous lasagna.”
She also is courtside for many of Anthony’s big games, and even recently got into an altercation with fans while defending her family.
Chanda Wallace was excited to finally marry longtime boyfriend, Detroit Pistons star Ben Wallace. She often traveled with her husband during the grueling basketball schedule, sacrificing a life of her own to be by his side.
What Really Matters
Candace Fisher and Los Angles Lakers star Derek Fisher became a happy blended family with her son and his daughter in 2004. She was excited to discover she was expecting the couple’s twins soon after. But in 2006 when their youngest daughter, Tatum, was diagnosed with a rare eye cancer, everything changed. The couple leaned on each other during the tough time, and their daughter is currently in remission. Candace stayed strong and supported Derek as he took care of their family.
“Fatherhood will put a man through a lot, but it’s a tremendous job, the best in the world—even better than playing basketball,” Derek says.
Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce and fiancée Julie Landrum expanded their family when they welcomed baby Prianna Lee in 2008. Landrum is a constant companion of Pierce at his many events and understands the hectic schedules and numerous events that come along with loving a professional athlete.
Boston Celtics star Kevin Garnett married his longtime girlfriend Brandi Padilla in the summer 2004. The couple knew that, to build a strong family, their relationship had to take priority. Garnett missed the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens for their small wedding in California.
WNBA star Candace Parker has had a busy year, with husband and Minnesota Timberwolves player Sheldon Williams being traded from the Sacramento Kings in February and giving birth to the couple’s first child in May.
“The best advice I ever got was from my grandparents, who said never go to bed mad and don’t focus on being right all the time,” she tells ESSENCE.com. “It took us a while to figure it out but we’ve been straight ever since.”
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It’s not often you see former Miami Heat star Alonzo Mourning without his wife, Tracy. The couple has discovered the best relationships are built on being friends first. We love seeing these parents of two out and about, whether its walking the red carpet or rolling up their sleeves to give back to the community.
Ione Rucker Jamison met her husband, Washington Wizards forward Antawn Jamison, while in college. The two are now married and have two children together. Though cheering your man on from the stands sounds glamorous, Ione quickly learned the importance of bringing a nanny or family member along when traveling with two small children. She wasn’t the only daughter in her family to marry an NBA player, as her sister Dr. Ellen King Rucker married Vince Carter of the New Jersey Nets. The two sisters welcomed daughters three weeks a part.
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Through Thick and Thin
Power couple Cookie and Magic Johnson’s love story has seen its hurdles. During their first engagement, the impending wedding had Magic nervous.
“He broke out in hives, and he couldn’t even play for a couple of games,” Cookie told ESSENCE.
They broke up and a few years later were back together after she moved to Los Angeles. She respected his game-day rituals, which included listening to Maze featuring Frankie Beverly before matchups.
DeShawn Snow fell in love with husband and former Cleveland Cavaliers captain Eric when he was a broke college student and now she needs hired help to run their massive Atlanta estate. Eric supported her decision to be apart of the first season of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”
“Before we went into it, my husband was preparing me and making sure I understood that whenever you do something like this you open up your life for people to say whatever they want,” she told ESSENCE.com.
Few NBA wives have caught the heat that Jackie Christie, wife of hoops vet Doug, has for her, shall we say, hands-on approach to marriage.
“A lot of wives and people don’t know this but the basketball teams have a way with asking the players to attend events alone. Doug might want me there and I might want to be there, but if they say no, then it’s no. That’s the only time I feel vulnerable—when someone tries to stop me from being with my husband.”
Just like any other marriage, NBA couples don’t always achieve happily ever after. After splitting with New York Knicks star Patrick Ewing, Rita Ewing used her seven years of marriage as an inspiration to cowrite a juicy novel on dating professional athletes titled “Homecourt Advantage.”