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Interview: Destiny Slocum talks nomadism, fearlessness and the significance of number 24

An introspective and insightful conversation with Destiny Slocum, who, after a successful college career and brief stint in the WNBA, is thriving in the EuroLeague.

New York Liberty v Las Vegas Aces
Destiny Slocum, wearing No. 24 for the Las Vegas Aces during the 2021 WNBA season.
Photo by Jeff Bottari/NBAE via Getty Images

Destiny Slocum, the point guard of Hungarian UNI Győr, currently is one of the best playmakers in the EuroLeague. She can drive to the basket, shoot from long distance and distribute the ball. In college, she played for Maryland, Oregon State, and Arkansas, then was drafted 14th overall in the 2021 WNBA Draft by the Las Vegas Aces.

All of us are greatly influenced by our childhoods. Yours was full of turmoil, as one of five children, with your mom working three jobs and your dad often out of the picture. Speaking from a distance, were these experiences a blessing in disguise of sorts, hardening you for the road ahead and a career in pro ball?

Reflecting on my childhood, I feel like if the narrative is centered around my father’s routine absence it takes away from the power that me, my siblings and my mother have fostered. Yes, our family dynamic was dysfunctional, but, in reality, everyone’s is in some way or another. I don’t like to use not having a father or an “ideal” family dynamic as a reason for my life, and all the success I’ve experienced during it. This narrative, I think, gives power to him, as if his absence and abuse is the reason for my success, for my family success, for our kindness, for our characteristics. Personally, I am where I am because individuals in my life recognized my father’s absence and invested their time to create places, outlets and secure safe spaces for me. In my life, that is the real blessing, these selfless individuals are my blessing in disguise. My family definitely wasn’t ideal, but I think everyday you find the good and be aware and grow from the bad and work to be better than you were the day before.

The thing that’s most striking about your game is your fearlessness. Whether pulling up from 3 or driving towards the basket, you seem to be completely locked in, as if you could only see the rim. Was that feature always a part of your game or did it take time to develop? What allows you to play with that mindset?

What’s there to fear on the basketball court? For me, basketball was always a safe place, away from the things I feared most. Coming from a dysfunctional home environment, I found a lot of solace anytime I was involved in something about basketball. I naturally have always had a knack for sports and I tried many, but basketball seemed to just click. I loved that on the court I had the ability to be fearless because nothing fearful existed for me in that time. I guess you could call it a distraction-turned-love. It’s the only time my life kind of made sense. So, I think fearlessness isn’t the correct word because I get anxious or can be stressed on the court, yet I know at the end of the day this feeling is temporary. So, it makes those emotions a bit easier to navigate.

Through your career you mostly wore number 24 on your jersey. What’s the significance of the number in your life?

I’ve actually had the number 24 since I started playing organized club basketball in third grade. I traditionally had used 12. It was just always a family number; my brothers used it in football and any time we could have it be our number, we did. However, the first year that I had tried out for my AAU team my family didn’t have the money to transport me back-and-forth to practice, which, at the time, was a 30 minute drive across town four times a week. It just wasn’t feasible in our situation. Yet, there is limited opportunity in Boise and at the time to find a club of that quality with a coach (Shambric Williams) that had so much experience on a collegiate and professional level, it was a hard thing to pass up! So, the next year we discussed with the coach (Williams) about possibly getting on a financial aid plan, and just being very communicative about getting to practice and everything. With the generosity from my coach and sacrifice from my family, we were able to make it work. At the time the only number that they had available was 24. So, I took 24 and ever since then I haven’t worn another number, unless 24 has been taken. When I was younger, I didn’t really see the significance in it, but, as I’ve gotten older, I realized it’s probably the most consistent thing in my life. I think I was surrounded by so much inconsistency it was comforting for me to have something I felt was consistent. Also, my family gave a lot for me to pursue my career in basketball, so it was like fate that 24 was the only number available when I began to really play at a competitive level. It’s been with me for the good and the bad, so now if I have the opportunity to wear 24 I always will.

Not many players enter the transfer portal twice during their college careers, even less can say that they’ve excelled at all three colleges. You’re one of them. What allowed you to adapt to different teams and systems so easily? Did that ability come in handy later on, as you had to deal with the nomadic requirements of professional ball?

I wouldn’t say it was easy, but I do feel like I was successful in my pursuits, both individually and collectively, at all three of my colleges. I had a significant amount of instability throughout my childhood, so I don’t think I’ve ever struggled much with change or adapting to uncomfortable environments. I think I’m really good at showing up consistently in inconsistent situations, which I think was a large part as to why it probably looked so easy. I was fortunate to have an AAU coach and mother that instilled in me at a young age that the game is always bigger than me. So, no matter what team I’m on, I want my teammates to feel they know what they will get from me as a teammate on and off the floor. On a professional level, I see basketball is a vessel to impact as many people as I possibly can. And for me, if I can have a positive impact on someone’s life or day doing what I love, then, for me, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

How would you evaluate your time in the WNBA so far? Do you plan on giving it another shot once the season concludes?

My time in the WNBA was a period of immense personal and professional growth. It really gave way to my journey of self-reflection and learning, and each experience has contributed to my understanding of myself and my place in the game. At this moment, I don’t feel like I’ve spent the adequate amount of time thinking about my future with the W to give an adequate answer to my plans after the season. If I was fortunate to have an opportunity to return back to W, knowing myself, whatever my decision would be, it will be guided not just by career ambitions, but by my sense of purpose and self-awareness. I know, for me, I’m very fortunate, I feel my intuition has led me in the right direction. So if the time comes, the opportunity will definitely be something that I’d consider and let my intuition guide me on.

Special thanks to István Deres of UNI Győr for putting us in touch with Destiny.