Months After Slamming Team for ‘Unfair’ Maternity Leave, Skyler Diggins-Smith Powers Up for WNBA Comeback

Published 09/29/2023, 5:10 AM EDT

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The star player for the Phoenix Mercury, Skylar Diggins-Smith ended the 2022 WNBA season on a mysterious note, stating personal reasons. The 6x WNBA All-Star then announced her pregnancy and left the hardwood behind at the start of the 2023 season. However, during her maternal leave, the player called out the Mercury for treating her unfairly, causing a rift.

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Meanwhile, following her ‘exit’ from the hardwood, Skylar Diggins-Smith is now gearing up to return to the league.

Skylar Diggins-Smith is eager to return to the court

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Following her maternity leave, Skylar Diggins-Smith is now returning to the court for her 10th season in the league. Coming back to play, Skylar Diggins-Smith finds training “intense.” She now returns to the hardwood as a mother.

Smith is training to tap back into her old athletic self but revealed that it’s more mentally challenging than physically. “All the emotions that come with everything that my life looks like right now. And so just really trying to use the court as a release,” she admitted.

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Smith also has her daughter in mind while playing. She said, “It’s important for my daughter to see me make this comeback. Just having that extra motivation because I play in the WNBA, and I can see that future now and want that even more for that to be opportunity for my daughter.” [sic]  

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Smith also gave out a piece of advice stating, “Don’t play yourself either, don’t play yourself, don’t sell yourself short. Make your elevator go a little bit higher. It’s like go ahead and just do that extra rep or put 10 more pounds on it or you know. That baby will be just fine, get in the shower. Be you. Be who you are, be genuine. In the same way, it translates to any sport, any industry, just being your authentic true self.”

In a season fraught with challenges, the Phoenix Mercury struggled without their star player, Skylar Diggins-Smith. They had the worst record in the league after their loss to Las Vegas Aces in the final regular season game. They only won nine of thirty-eight games.

Moreover, things got tense between Smith and the team as she left for her maternal leave.

Is Skylar Diggins Smith at odds with the Phoenix Mercury?

The 33-year-old guard for the Phoenix Mercury, Skylar Diggins-Smith discovered herself at odds with her own team. Diggins-Smith has been on maternity leave since the start of the 2023 WNBA season, giving birth to her second child earlier this year. Despite having a contract with the Mercury, she wasn’t permitted to access or use the team’s practice facilities according to her statement, causing controversy.

The tension came to light when a fan pointed out on Twitter that the Phoenix Mercury team hadn’t wished her on her birthday. She responded to the tweet, writing, “They’re not gonna acknowledge me this year and it’s ok guys. We’re not affiliated unless it’s the checks….per management. I can’t even use the practice facility or any resources. But I still love the X-Factor!!”

Diggins-Smith continued, tweeting that she is being refused access to services that “EVERY other player has access to,” such as massage therapists, chiropractors, chefs, strength and conditioning coaches, and nutritionists.

In 2022, Diggins-Smith was absent from the Phoenix Mercury’s roster for the last four regular-season games and their opening-round playoff series against the Las Vegas Aces. The Mercury announced her leave due to personal reasons. Up until that point in the season, she had maintained an impressive average of 19.7 points in 30 games.

She wrote, “It was all good when I was leaving for personal time!! But when I’m leaving because I was having complications and scared of risking my child… while leading the league in minutes (pregnant). Trade her?”

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She also wrote, “I’m fine with being distanced… bc now I can’t possibly be the villain anymore.”

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Embroiled in a rift with Mercury Phoenix and with free agency coming up next year, Smith’s return to the team seems unlikely. What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

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Written by:

Ranjitha Ramesh

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Ranjitha Ramesh is an NBA writer at EssentiallySports. With a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication, Ranjitha has a strong foundation in reporting and writing. Her passion for basketball, particularly the Lakers and LeBron James, fuels her desire to delve into the lifestyle and off-court activities of NBA stars.
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Edited by:

Aayush Kapoor

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