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New Disruptors

Sabrina Ionescu
Last updated: May 20, 2021
New Disruptors: Sabrina Ionescu

Fight to play. Smash every record. Make yourself impossible to ignore. WNBA star Sabrina Ionescu’s advice to the next generation of female athletes: “Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t accomplish.”

Former college and WNBA star Sabrina Ionescu is notorious for pushing boundaries. When she wasn’t allowed to play on the boys’ team in middle school, she recruited her own team. At the University of Oregon, she became the first player in the NCAA—male or female—to surpass 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists in a career. Now, after an ankle injury cut short her rookie WNBA season, Sabrina is back—and ready to set a precedent for young players.

Fight to play. Smash every record. Make yourself impossible to ignore. WNBA star Sabrina Ionescu’s advice to the next generation of female athletes: “Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t accomplish.”

Former college and WNBA star Sabrina Ionescu is notorious for pushing boundaries. When she wasn’t allowed to play on the boys’ team in middle school, she recruited her own team. At the University of Oregon, she became the first player in the NCAA—male or female—to surpass 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists in a career. Now, after an ankle injury cut short her rookie WNBA season, Sabrina is back—and ready to set a precedent for young players.

You grew up playing against your brothers. Was it ever like, I’m the girl or I’m the sister?

SABRINA IONESCU:
My brothers never treated me any differently. They went just as hard on me as they did on each other. They just saw me as a person who loved playing. I didn't think I was any different and felt like I belonged.

Tell me about your middle school basketball team. What happened there?

SABRINA:
My brothers’ team did not let me play with them. So, I recruited six girls that never played basketball before to join a team. We weren’t very good, but it was really nice to have a team and practice every day.

New Disruptors: Sabrina Ionescu
New Disruptors: Sabrina Ionescu

“My brothers never treated me any differently. They went just as hard on me as they did on each other.”

– Sabrina Ionescu

“My brothers never treated me any differently. They went just as hard on me as they did on each other.”

– Sabrina Ionescu

Did that determination come from your parents?

SABRINA: Coming from Romania and starting a family here, not knowing the language, not knowing the culture—it was very difficult for them. But they worked really hard and never complained. From a young age, me and my brothers were able to see what hard work and dedication looks like.

New Disruptors: Sabrina Ionescu

Did they ever give you any advice?

SABRINA: My parents would say, “Don’t look at the person next to you. Look at who you are and how you can shape your life.” Even now, I never really compare myself. It's about being the best version of myself.

Do you think we’re seeing more equality between the men’s and women’s game?

SABRINA: I think it’s starting at Oregon with us averaging 2,000 fans a game to finishing my senior year averaging over 10,000 fans…and just seeing how many girls in the community started playing basketball because of us. That’s what’s really important.

Did they ever give you any advice?

SABRINA: My parents would say, “Don’t look at the person next to you. Look at who you are and how you can shape your life.” Even now, I never really compare myself. It's about being the best version of myself.

Do you think we’re seeing more equality between the men’s and women’s game?

SABRINA: I think it’s starting at Oregon with us averaging 2,000 fans a game to finishing my senior year averaging over 10,000 fans…and just seeing how many girls in the community started playing basketball because of us. That’s what’s really important.

New Disruptors: Sabrina Ionescu
New Disruptors: Sabrina Ionescu

“My parents would say, ‘Don’t look at the person next to you. Look at who you are and how you can shape your life.’”

– Sabrina Ionescu

“My parents would say, ‘Don’t look at the person next to you. Look at who you are and how you can shape your life.’”

– Sabrina Ionescu

What would you say to those girls?

SABRINA: You know, it's never a bad thing to be the flashy player. It’s never a bad thing to be a role player. What other people think, what social media says—that shouldn’t be your story. Your story should be what you want it to be.

New Disruptors: Sabrina Ionescu

“I think when girls and boys grow up as equals that ends up being the future.”

– Sabrina Ionescu

“I think when girls and boys grow up as equals that ends up being the future.”

– Sabrina Ionescu

What’s your vision for the next generation of basketball?

SABRINA: I think when girls and boys grow up as equals that ends up being the future. Hopefully one day, we’ll see the NBA and the WNBA on equal platforms with equal viewership.

Director: Dana Boulos @danaboulos
Photographer: Yasmine Diba @yasminediba

Join Sabrina and Nike on a journey to Play New. Together.

New Disruptors: Sabrina Ionescu
New Disruptors: Sabrina Ionescu

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