Last July was the last time that the name Liz Cambage was a much-talked about name amongst women’s basketball aficionados.
At the time, Cambage was with the Los Angeles Sparks – the team that she had wanted to be part of from the second she stepped foot in the WNBA as a teenager.
Unfortunately for Cambage, that situation in Hollywood had a very un-Hollywood ending. That unceremonious departure combined with allegations of racism leveled against her based on a 2021 scrimmage between Australia and Nigeria in Las Vegas, her departure from the Sparks also appeared to represent her departure from the W as a whole.
This week, Cambage made headlines within the women’s basketball space by sitting down for a one-hour plus interview with Bleacher Report’s Taylor Rooks. In that sit-down chat, she talked about a variety of topics from what she has done since, to why she claims to keep a lower profile to the controversial scrimmage between the Opals and D’Tigress.
Without further adieu, here are five takeaways from what was a very intriguing interview.
Many athletes fancy themselves as athletes who happened to have businesses on the side. Cambage mentioned on numerous times during the chat with Rooks that she is a businesswoman who happens to play basketball.
According to Cambage, her numerous departures that she has had throughout her career from the game were made a lot easier because of her ventures outside of basketball. Cambage says she owns a couple of gyms in addition to her Vitadrop business. Cambage also makes money through bookings she gets as a DJ and has even crossed over into modeling.
She has also clearly approached the game with a businesswoman’s mindset. Cambage says she has not returned to the WNBA because of its meager salaries – and compared it on numerous occasions to the money she was making when she was playing in China.
Cambage even mentioned that playing in China was easier because it allowed for her to be closer to her family. China has had a very interesting relationship within the WNBA-NBA family. Chinese money has played a major role in basketball’s growth into an international sport. The New York Liberty are also owned by a Chinese couple in Clara Wu Tsai and her husband Joe.
But given China’s history of human rights violations, it is one element of the WNBA-NBA ecosystem that may make some people eye the WNBA & NBA with a side eye. It is also why some may take offense to why Cambage would talk about China so glowingly.
What really got Cambage in hot water with the basketball community was what was alleged to have happened during that Olympic scrimmage at UNLV.
Cambage was alleged to have referred to members of D’Tigress as “monkeys” and even was alleged to have made another racial remark referring to the Nigerian players needing to return to their “third world country.”
She has vehemently denied these allegations.
What raised even more eyebrows was when Cambage told Rooks that she was actually in talks to play for Nigeria at next year’s Olympics in Paris. Other Nigerian players, such as Promise Amukamara, have since went to Twitter to call Cambage’s words false.
Amukamara even mentioned Cambage being in “cahoots” with Otis Hughley, the former head coach of D’Tigress. Hughley is now the men’s basketball coach at HBCU Alabama A&M.
Since then, the video of what happened during that scrimmage has been leaked online. Cambage mentioned to Rooks that she encouraged the video to be leaked and that it would tell the whole truth of what happened two years ago. It included a verbal altercation between Cambage and at least two other Nigerian players.
Another Nigerian player ran to the Australia bench and landed a punch which floored Cambage. The leaked video also appears to have Cambage making remarks that included the word “ghetto.”
The leaking of the video actually led to her making yet another statement via social media.
It does not take a rocket scientist to understand that Taylor Rooks is a pro’s pro – it is why she has achieved the success she has achieved as a sports journalist.
Throughout much of the interview, Rooks is clearly attempting to ask Cambage if she takes any responsibility for any of the issues that have plagued her career throughout the years.
True or untrue, the perception among various basketball entities – including WNBA teams and Basketball Australia – may make them believe that what may come with Cambage away from the court may not be worth the production on the court. And if that production were to be on the decrease – as it appeared to be last year with the Sparks – it may make her more of a liability than an asset.
Cambage continues to claim that the slings and arrows that have been aimed her way throughout her career have come from individuals and entities that already had axes to grind with her. That may be true – even to a very high extent.
But Rooks made a great point in that interview. There’s Cambage’s side of what happened at that scrimmage and there’s the D’Tigress side of what happened. The truth is likely somewhere in the middle, which means Cambage was at least 50% in the wrong. She would do herself a lot of favors by at least admitting her share of the fault in that altercation, but she is steadfastly denying that she was even a little bit in the wrong.
And that is why her reputation may have soured in the basketball realm. But as she said to Rooks, basketball is secondary to everything else she has going on in life – including her business ventures and foray into the DJ world.
While what she said regarding potentially playing for D’Tigress – and how she felt she was mistreated by numerous teams – including the Sparks and Las Vegas Aces – was what garnered headlines, something else caught our attention.
Another individual that Cambage had plenty of praise for was Aces owner Mark Davis. During her time with the Aces, Cambage says that she was unable to DJ on the Strip because most of it was MGM Resorts property and MGM owned the Aces.
Davis purchased the team in 2021 from MGM. She praised Davis for being an owner that is actually investing real money into the team – and ripped a number of other WNBA owners for only using their teams as tax writeoffs.
Cambage even mentioned that she herself would want to be in ownership one day. One can only imagine the number of eyebrows that were raised by anyone catching that portion of the interview.
Even when Cambage was in the WNBA, she was one of the many players who was steadfast in believing the league should do more to enhance the player experience.
Her message actually is not different from the message of many WNBA players when they talk about enhancing the player experience – whether it is with better salaries or charter flights. The latter of those is a hot-button topic among players today.
Cambage has the correct message in terms of what the W needs to do in the future to further improve the player experience. Charter flights for all 12 teams throughout the season may be the next step in that fight – one that the WNBPA will likely take up in the next round of CBA talks with the league.
But when one has amassed the amount of baggage that Cambage has throughout her career, that message will likely be lost in the stacks and stacks of baggage that follow her around. It will make the reaction from fans be one of agreeing with what she may say but also understanding that she needs to get her own house in order before speaking on league issues.
Mentioning that she does not feel she has to mend fences with anyone who has had an issue with her over the years is not a good look for Cambage. This is especially the case for the D’Tigress beef. Who knows what issues she may have had with the Aces organization or Basketball Australia.
Cambage says that the Sparks lied to her in that they promised her a G-Wagon to join the team, per the Rooks interview. We know what her issue with the Dallas Wings was – they fired coach Fred Williams towards the end of the 2018 season because of a spat he had with general manager & team president Greg Bibb and she looked at Williams like a father figure.
In short, Cambage has had plenty of issues throughout her career. Some of those issues are not her fault, but a number of those issues clearly are – including the Nigeria mess. Taking accountability for her role in those incidents would go a long way in mending a number of vital fences that may work wonders for her later in life.
No one is perfect – we have all done things we wish we could take back. Again, her message of empowering women athletes – and empowering women as a whole – is the right one. It loses a lot of credibility coming from her when dogged by allegations of racism as has been the case with the D’Tigress incident from that 2021 scrimmage.
Sixth Woman – Mental Health
Throughout her career, Cambage has been very outspoken about mental health – including her own mental health struggles. She mentioned in the Rooks interview that, perhaps, one of the reasons why she ruffles so many feathers is that she wears her emotions on her sleeve and is not afraid to “cry.”
The noteworthy mental breakdown she had on Instagram in 2019 was a clear call for help to be let go from the Wings. Interestingly enough, she also mentioned a lot about her time in Dallas.
Cambage says that she still maintains a strong relationship with Skylar Diggins-Smith, who herself is going through her own noteworthy spat with the Phoenix Mercury. It was also in Dallas that she set the all-time record for most points in a single game. She had a 53-point performance in a Dallas win against the Liberty.
Cambage says that she did not know about the record at the time of the game and that she would have gone for 60 points if she did know. She believes either the Liberty’s Breanna Stewart or Sabrina Ionescu or the Aces’ Kelsey Plum are the likeliest to break her record.
But as she mentioned throughout the interview – and as she has done throughout her career, what happens basketball-wise with her is secondary to what she does away from the hardwood. She says that being away from basketball has given her an opportunity to address her mental health.
No one is taking that away from her – mental health is important and more athletes have raised awareness about it within the sporting realm.
But Cambage really needs to have a prolonged period of reflection of the incidents throughout her career. Everyone goes through issues, but it is all about how those issues are handled and she clearly has not handled the fallout from the D’Tigress incident in the best way.
More accountability and less bluster would be appreciated. This could be so easy, but she’s making this so difficult.