WHEN SHE was winning three national titles at Tennessee and starring in the WNBA, Chamique Holdsclaw had moves that reminded people of Michael Jordan. Now, like Jordan, she's reversing a major life decision: After an abrupt retirement the six-time WNBA All-Star has done an about-face and returned to the court. "I still want to have basketball in my life," says Holdsclaw, who is now playing in Poland.
In June, Holdsclaw shocked her coaches and teammates when she announced five games into the L.A. Sparks' season that she was quitting at age 29. It wasn't the first time she had left the game. In 2004 she went AWOL at the end of the Washington Mystics' season. Holdsclaw later revealed that she was suffering from severe depression. This time, though, she says her disorder wasn't the reason for her departure. Rather, her heart wasn't in it. "I didn't want to play," she says. "My knees were bothering me and I knew I wanted some time off." And her father, who is schizophrenic and sometimes struggled to remember his daughter's name, was having fewer and fewer moments of lucidity.
Holdsclaw knew she wanted a break, but she didn't want to give up on the game. Dominique Canty, a friend from her WNBA days, persuaded Holdsclaw to join her on the Polish team Lotos Gdynia, which has a less taxing schedule. "I got to spend three to four quality months with my family," says Holdsclaw. "That's more important than a sport." She was still in shape; she worked out during her brief retirement. She also appeared in a video aimed at young people suffering from depression called Words Can Work. In it Holdsclaw explains how she had a hard time talking about her depression, even as she sunk so low after the death of her grandmother three years ago that she had suicidal thoughts. "People think your achievements are a kind of strength, that you're untouchable because you've been an MVP," she says.
Her hiatus turned out to be just what Holdsclaw needed. "When I came back to play, Dominique said, 'My God, you're so refreshed,'" says Holdsclaw. With Lotos she's averaging 13.8 points, but she's not eager to dive back into the bustle of the WNBA. "I don't see myself suiting up in the WNBA again," she says. "I'd rather sit back and watch from afar."
GRAZIA NERI (HOLDSCLAW WITH LOTOS)
POLE POSITION Holdsclaw, who has battled depression, signed on with Lotos Gdynia of the EuroLeague.
ROBERT BECK (HOLDSCLAW WITH SPARKS)