By Maggie Hendricks| Olympics
Standing with her 3×3 teammates, Azurá Stevens has an ear-to-ear grin on her face. They had just won the Pan American Games 3×3 women’s tournament for Team USA, and Stevens had excelled in her first try at a different kind of basketball. Stevens’ smile is something fans have grown used to, as it shows even when her team is not winning gold medals.
Stevens’ positivity shows when she is on social media. Her X (formerly known as Twitter) feed is filled with kind and encouraging words. Her Instagram and TikTok often show Stevens doing the latest dance trend, along with her teammates. Even after a WNBA season where her Los Angeles Sparks finished just outside the playoffs, Stevens keeps up the good vibes.
“It’s difficult. Life and the game bring a lot of different challenges. I think just trying to stay grateful for everything, even when things don’t feel like they’re going my way, just staying really positive and being as grateful as I can for every experience, because it brings a learning opportunity and so that’s something that kind of helps me to keep it even. Even when things aren’t,” Stevens said to Olympics.com.
How her parents fuel Stevens
Part of where Stevens learns her lessons about gratitude is from her parents. In 2020, she started a food truck with her parents that serves southern food staples: shrimp, grits and fish. Though her father runs the business, she works on the truck whenever she is home in North Carolina. Stevens said her parents are her biggest inspiration.
“From a young age, they’ve sacrificed so much for me to be able to chase my dreams. They still support me so much,” Stevens said. “They’re a huge inspiration, an example that they set for me growing up and then all the sacrifices they made for me to be able to follow my dreams.”
A new kind of challenge
Her attitude has been helpful as she tried 3×3. Stevens has excelled at five on five basketball. She won a WNBA championship with the Chicago Sky and an NCAA title at UConn, and was a sought-after free agent before she signed with the Sparks in the 2023 offseason. But 3×3? It’s a completely different kind of challenge for the 6-foot-6 (198 cm) player.
“Obviously, you’re not doing full court, which has a lot quicker pace. And there’s a lot of reading and reacting and just sort of slowing down,” Stevens said. “I think that’s something that’s been a little bit of a challenge for me so far as it’s a little bit of a slower pace because it’s half court, you know, but then when you score, you’re right on defense. that point in that regard and continuing to get comfortable with it.”
Now with a 3×3 gold medal in hand, Stevens is considering whether she will play basketball in the offseason. She will return to the Sparks in 2024 for her seventh season in the WNBA, and perhaps, Paris 2024.
“I’d love that opportunity. I’m excited to be part of that pool, and see how it goes from there,” Stevens said.