SAN ANTONIO -- In a church gymnasium built in a rough-and-tumble neighborhood by former NBA player and coach Avery Johnson, Marion Jones, the most famous women's track athlete turned the most infamous, told FanHouse and the New York Times on Monday that she is going to attempt an athletic comeback as a professional basketball player.
"I missed competitiveness," Jones, now 34, told me after I watched her at the Antioch Baptist Church go through one of her thrice-a-week three-hour basketball workouts. "I missed the challenges of participating in sports."
Jones steered her once fabulous sprinter's career off the track just over two years ago when she admitted taking steroids before the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. In an emotional public press conference in October 2007, Jones said she lied to investigators and at least two grand juries, including one looking into the infamous BALCO supplements firm in California, about her use of banned and illegal substances.
She then accepted a two-year suspension from track competition, retired from the sport that made her a millionaire and in March 2008 began serving a six-month prison sentence for perjury. She was released early in September 2008 and since then has started a campaign she calls Take a Break, in which she visits schools, particularly in Texas (where she now lives with her husband of two years, former Barbados sprinter Obadele Thompson, and her three children) and pleads with kids not to do what she did -- cheat and lie about it.
"There isn't a day I don't reflect on some of the bad choices I made," Jones said, her blue T-shirt soaked with sweat from individual drills and one-on-one, two-on-two and three-on-three games she'd just gone through. "But I'm not going to crawl up in a corner."
Jones dismissed my suggestion that she decided to try to make a living in the WNBA because the league was struggling financially and could use her notoriety as its longtime superstars like Lisa Leslie move into retirement.
"No," said Jones, who starred for the championship North Carolina women's basketball team as a freshman in 1995. She was drafted in the third round of the 2003 WNBA Draft by the Phoenix Mercury, whose rights to her have expired.
Jones said she simply still had a passion to compete and pro basketball, here and in Europe, can soothe it.
"This is a second chance for me," she said.
Marion Jones was one of my favorite athletes before the whole situation with the steroids. She could ball, but at 34 I don't know how much of an impact she'll have. It's good to see her not "crawling into a corner" though.
ya me too I feel she will bounce back and am rooting 4 her to
make an impact with the kids she still is a good role model esp for young girls :D
didnt know she was a tarheel tho, impressive
I would support this. I hope at 34, she still have it!