Despite all of the records and accolades, things haven’t been easy for Kelsey Plum. The No. 1 pick in the 2017 WNBA Draft has had to overcome battles with anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and a number of injuries throughout her career as the pressure to perform and succeed seemed insurmountable at times.
The 28-year-old has been more open about her struggles and continues to inspire others to speak up when they are hurting or struggling.
Helping others find their voice while making things easier for the next generation is a big part of what the Las Vegas Aces guard plans to do after signing with Under Armour.
“We both have a vision on how we can grow the game,” Plum says. “For me, I really want to grow it for the next generation. There’s a lot of gaps I feel I had to overcome as a young female athlete in this space and I had a lot of failures. It took me a while to have success on the pro level so I want to be able to bridge that gap for young girls who want to play pro or even going from high school into college.
“Those transitions can be a lot easier if you have flashcards on what to do and what not to do. I think you’re going to see a lot of cool things coming out in the future with me, the next generation and of course Under Armour leading the way in that.”
Even though she left the University of Washington as the all-time leading scorer in NCAA women’s basketball history (3,527) and single-season points (1,109), and ranks second all-time in NCAA history—men’s and women’s—in total points, the transition to the WNBA wasn’t seamless.
The spotlight was brighter than ever as her name was called first overall by the then-San Antonio Stars on April 13, 2017. An early injury coupled with pressure to immediately replicate her collegiate success resulted in struggles on and off the court.
After the Stars relocated to Las Vegas and were rebranded as the Aces the following season, the organization turned a corner and advanced to the playoffs in 2019 for the first time in five years.
Plum, who missed the 2020 season due to injury, came back with a vengeance and hasn’t slowed down since. She nearly doubled her scoring average from 8.6 points per game in 2019 to 14.8 ppg in 2021 as the Aces advanced to the conference finals.
Her 20.2 points per game this past season were second-best in the WNBA as the Aces won the 2022 WNBA championship under first-year head coach Becky Hammon, a long-time San Antonio Spurs assistant. Plum was named to her first WNBA All-Star Game, where she earned MVP honors after scoring 30 points, as well as the all-league first team.
“I’m so hungry,” she says. “I feel like as a team and as an individual we’re just scratching the surface with some of the things we did this year. I know for me I felt like I had a great individual season but there’s so many things I want to get better at and plan to be better at this upcoming season. I have some pretty lofty goals.”
Plum, who signed a multi-year deal with Nike when she was drafted in 2017, joins Under Armour’s roster of athletes including Steph Curry, Jordan Spieth, Tom Brady, Bella Alaire and Tyasha Harris.
“At Under Armour, we empower those who strive for more,” says Charece Williams Gee, Under Armour senior director of sports marketing and partnerships. “In the first five minutes of speaking with Kelsey, I knew she was ‘as advertised.’ She exemplifies toughness and grit, and her stories of overcoming resonate.
“Although already a WNBA All-Star MVP, gold medal Olympian and WNBA champion, she has demanded more for herself as an athlete and a humanitarian, and together we are going to put in the work to help her achieve her goals. We are just getting started.”
While a signature shoe or line “would be something that would be really cool,” Plum says, her priority remains the same: win while inspiring others, the same way her role model Diana Taurasi did before her.
“Diana is the reason I started playing basketball,” Plum says. “I know how important it is to have role models and people that you see doing what you love because it helps to see someone doing it. It’s super important for me. I have a lot of girls I mentor and talk to, but I think that working with UA we’re going to grow that much larger.
“It’s not just basketball, it’s not just wanting to become a pro, it’s everyday in life. I’m just really excited and proud.”