She has the game; she has the personality. She even has a compelling origin story. Yet few people outside of the WNBA faithful even know who Jonquel Jones is:
In February, Jones tweeted out her own frustrations. “It’s all a popularity contest and politics in wbb. In mbb you just gottah be the best. In wbb you gottah be the best player, best looking, most marketable, most IG followers, just to sit at the endorsement table. Thank God for overseas because my bag would’ve been fumbled.
“Not to mention me being a black lesbian woman,” she added. “Lord the seats disappearing from the table as I speak.”
Jones, 28, has earned almost every on-court accolade there is. She was named the WNBA’s Most Improved Player in 2017 and Sixth Woman of the Year in 2018. She was the 2021 MVP. The combination of her size, athleticism and skills makes her a unique talent. She can dunk, block shots, pull up off the dribble, drain a 3.
“A lot of people can’t do what JJ does at her size,” Williams says. “Since the first day I met JJ, I told her like, ‘You the one! Nobody can hold you. Once you believe that you a star, you going to be a star because the things that you can do.'”
But being Black, gay and self-described as more masculine puts Jones at an intersection that has traditionally struggled to attract brands even as the WNBA itself — players, teams and leadership — has become the most LGBTQIA+ inclusive professional sports league in the United States.
Why did one of the greatest basketball players in the world leave the game in her prime? The answer sits in a Missouri courtroom.