It was impossible for Swin Cash to evaluate her impact in the basketball world in real time, as she was focused on winning games, championships and swatting unsuspecting layup attempts to the third row.
But every now and again, she’ll get a picture she once signed, or a direct message from social media as a reminder how ingratiated she was on the scene.
“It’s a picture of me looking young as hell, a shot of someone at a Boys and Girls Club with this kid,” Cash told Yahoo Sports. “And now that kid is like a vice president at Microsoft or something and they remember the experience. You never know who you’re touching.”
Before her eye-rolling reaction at the 2021 NBA draft lottery became an iconic gif, before she took on a groundbreaking role as a VP with the New Orleans Pelicans, Cash’s footprints have been at every level of basketball — culminating with her induction at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this weekend.
Multiple times she’s won gold medals, WNBA championships and NCAA national championships. Winning has followed her at every stop and at every turn, her effervescent personality was sprinkled into those environments.
At Connecticut, she helped lead the Huskies to a 39-0 record in 2002 before becoming the second pick in the WNBA draft as a member of the Detroit Shock — where she made perhaps her biggest mark.
They went from an 0-13 start in her rookie season to winning the first of two WNBA championships the next season. Nicknamed “The Princess of the Palace” because of her connection to the fans and the Detroit area, she embraced all aspects, known for being as visible as much as her individual excellence.
“People always say [the phrase], it’s like a movie. But it really was,” Cash said. “The city was on fire. It was that much fun.”
She was already friends with Detroit Pistons guard Richard Hamilton because of their UConn connection, and soon after arriving, became friends with Chauncey Billups. It wasn’t uncommon to see her at Pistons games or Detroit Lions games through the years, or pulling up at the local radio station on a whim.
“I was just a big believer — and taught that you got to buy into your market, like do to people like who's hot, who's connecting, like inviting people to our games,” Cash said. “It really just became more this whole family type of thing.”
Some of the WNBA’s biggest crowds occurred during the 2003 Finals between the Shock and Los Angeles Sparks, including a record 22,076 for the clinching Game 3. In that series, Cash was third in scoring, second in rebounding and led the team in assists.
“We were winning, but we played Detroit style. They could see themselves in us,” Cash said. “People will text and say, ‘I fell in love with the game because I watched you and Deanna [Nolan], y’all were something special.’ It was a cultural thing.”
While she had an up-and-down relationship with Shock coach Bill Laimbeer, the former Pistons center-turned coach, it was a fruitful relationship during their time. She was an All-Star twice and All-WNBA two times as well.
“It’s kind of like when you get a family and you get people and they get you and you can agree to disagree. And you can make something beautiful,” Cash said. “I’ll give him credit. At 22 years old, I can come into the gym and he sat me down to say, ‘I’ve been hired to do X, Y and Z, and you’re the franchise.’ ”
Empowering Cash was something she appreciated, and being asked about personnel decisions as a player was something that prepared her for the role she’s in now.
“I had no idea what that was planning inside of me. But he did that. So, I just respect him a hell of a lot,” Cash said. “And, he said this was kind of the blueprint that he was following. And I said, ‘Well, this is what I know about winning.’ And that's what we did in Detroit.”
Before the Shock were relocated to Tulsa, Cash moved on to Seattle where she won another championship in 2010 and had more All-Star appearances while being named to the WNBA 20th anniversary team — and 25th anniversary team — as her career wound down, ending with the New York Liberty in 2016.
Even with all the accolades and obvious resume, she never thought about the Hall.
“After you play and people start bringing it up to you, ‘Oh, you’re eligible after this many years,’ you begin to wrap your mind around it,” Cash said. “While I was playing, it never entered my mind, not even a little bit.”
But it is a reality now and as she takes the podium to enter into basketball immortality, she’s unique in a way that it doesn’t end her basketball journey — it’s just another layer as she’s a rising star in front offices.
“It’s my mom’s moment more than anyone else’s,” Cash said.
Her mother relies on a scooter to get around and is delaying back surgery to watch her daughter get inducted. It was similar to the 2004 Olympic Games in Greece where her mother needed a hip replacement but wanted to support Swin.
“A lot of people could have put that jacket on me. But that’s what’s going to be going through my mind is that my mom deserves to have that,” Cash said. “And then I think when I go give my speech, like I think to whom much is given, much is required.”
She’s paid back and forward — in cash.