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Holdsclaw explains retirement

Six-time All-Star says family considerations were among the reasons she walked away.

June 21, 2007|Lauren Peterson | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles is in Chamique Holdsclaw's rearview mirror, just like her basketball career, and, as she looked back this week, her only regret was never having won a WNBA championship.

"The only thing that I wanted to do, that I didn't do, was win a title," Holdsclaw said in a telephone interview Tuesday night, a little more than a week after abruptly retiring and leaving the stunned Sparks without their top scorer.

"I won at every other level, but I'm not going to chase it anymore. If anything about the decision bothered me, it was probably that, and the fact that I didn't say goodbye to the fans."

Holdsclaw, a six-time All-Star and the league's rookie of the year in 1999, didn't say goodbye to anyone before cutting short her season and her career.

"Now, it's about moving forward," she said. "It's just about being free to try something new. I think I could probably have still played, but I feel good. From day one, I wasn't all about just basketball, basketball, basketball."

Holdsclaw left Los Angeles on Sunday and is visiting friends in Phoenix. Next, she will visit with extended family in New York, and then go home to Atlanta.

"I made my decision because I just didn't feel it anymore. It was like, 'This is it,' " she said.

Holdsclaw, who came to the Sparks in a trade from the Washington Mystics before the 2005 season, said she probably should have quit at the end of last year but was talked out of it.

"I thought about it last season, I thought about it when I was overseas in the off-season, I thought about it, like, every other day," she said. "All my friends can tell you, for the last year, or so, I was going, 'I'm done.' "

Holdsclaw, 29, said physical setbacks didn't help. She had undergone off-season surgery on her left foot and then her left knee began bothering her, limiting her playing time in the home opener June 8.

Yet, not being able to attend important events in the lives of family members and friends because of the Sparks' schedule became more upsetting, she said.

She ticks off the moments: The father of her best friend died last year but she missed his funeral. She had to leave her mother last summer to handle family health crises alone because the team needed her back.

The crises were not easy. Her stepfather was diagnosed with cancer, though that is now in remission. And her father, she said, suffers from schizophrenia.

"When I went home last year, it was crazy. He thought I still played for the Mystics," she said. "He doesn't recognize me sometimes. When you have a parent that has an illness, it makes you realize what's important.

"I just know in my heart that I want to spend time with him when I don't have to leave again. And now I can."

In 2004 Holdsclaw had her own crisis -- with clinical depression for which she said she briefly took medication.

"Let people know I'm not depressed," she said of her retirement decision.

"Mental illness is not something people accept easily, but it made me such a stronger person."

Holdsclaw does not rule out a return -- "right now, probably about a 20% chance" -- though she has to sit out a year.

"Who knows how I may feel a year from now?" she said. "I'm just rolling with the punches right now."

lauren.peterson@latimes.com

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