By ROGER MILLS
© St. Petersburg Times, published May 13, 2001
She is Orlando Miracle forward Carla McGhee and she's a trip. Here is the talkative one on being a mother and a professional athlete, pregnancy, being in a coma, speaking Spanish, former president Bill Clinton and the dating game.
RM: How challenging is it being a mom and a professional athlete at the same time?
CM: I guess it's a challenge just to defy the odds. It's a challenge every day. Just this year, I was trying to go overseas to play because there were some attractive opportunities. There were teams that wanted me, but they wanted me only. They didn't want me to bring my son. I had to choose to be an athlete or a mom. Well, my son is my priority.
RM: That's not something a male athlete would have to deal with typically.
CM: It angers me when I'm looking at a contract I can't get because I want to be a good mother. It angers me when I see how much work we're putting into the game and the community and not getting the kind of rewards that male athletes are getting. But, it's coming along. One day, I'll be able to say I was part of the groundwork.
RM: How did you handle getting pregnant and getting back in shape to play professionally?
CM: I followed (Sheryl Swoopes') regimen. You know, because we're athletes at such high levels it made our pregnancies a lot easier. So to speak. We were back in the gym as quick as a few weeks after delivery. Our bodies are accustomed to being pushed to limits.
RM: So the moral here is to be in shape and have a easy pregnancy?
CM: What some women do when they find out that they are pregnant, they try to get into shape. It's too late by then. I tell my friends it's actually easy to lose weight after your baby. You get no sleep, you naturally lose weight, you're on the go all the time and you eat nutritiously because you're breast-feeding.
RM: Don't you appreciate your mother more now since you became a mother?
CM: It's so true. I really felt like my mom and other mothers made it look so easy just popping them out and getting back to business. I never understood all the sacrifices. Making things stretch. Having the equal balance between discipline and love. I read the books, read the parenting magazines but my mom said once they placed that baby on my chest, it's all hands-on. She was right.
RM: In July 1987, you were in a bad car wreck. What do you remember?
CM: The accident was a blur to me. I know it was a Toyota Celica and I didn't have a seat belt on. They had to cut me out of the car. I broke every one but a couple of bones in my face, had a brain contusion, a fractured hip, a broken jaw and I still have wires in my face. My chin was in my jaw. When I go and get an X-ray I see the wires jumping out of picture.
RM: What was it like waking up from a 48-hour coma?
CM: All I know is when I woke up, my mom was sitting there and kept saying, "Do you know who I am?" And I said, "Fool, I know exactly who I am! What's going on here?" All my people and teammates are around me and they're all happy and I'm saying, "What the heck are you doing and where am I? What the devil is going on?"
RM: Changed you much?
CM: I feel like I was spared for a number of reasons. Since then, I stopped taking things for granted. I appreciate every minute of life. It's added a true meaning to my life.
RM: You once jogged with former president Bill Clinton?
CM: I met him on several occasions when we were on the national team. But one time, we were in D.C. and the team went jogging with him. A lot of the girls were trying to get up front with him, but I wasn't trying to get shot at 5 a.m. in the morning in D.C. You never know when someone's going to try to pick him off. So, I was in the back.
RM: What's left to do?
CM: I want to be on the business side of basketball. I used to joke that I want to have (NBA) commissioner (David) Stern's job. I want to see my son grow up and develop into a type of man that his name demands. His name is Chancellor and he's going to have to live up to that.
RM: Did you ever surprise any of your Spanish teammates who first thought you couldn't speak the language?
CM: My first year in Spain, I kind of left it alone because I didn't want to sound ignorant. But there were times when they were going on and on and on, and I was comprehending things and thought it was kind of rude. One time, they were saying that we were playing lazy and ugly and I went off, in Spanish. When you're mad and upset things just fly out. I didn't realize that I could conjugate those verbs.
RM: It's a pretty bold move to give away your Olympic gold medal to a community center in Peoria.
CM: Not really. No one can ever take away from me the fact that it was my gold medal, that I was part of the gold-medal winning team.
RM: Tell the truth, is it real gold?
CM: When we asked that question they don't give us a yes or no. But I'll tell you this, you lose your gold medal, you can't get another one. You throw it in the river, like Muhammad Ali did, it's not replaced. I guess it's something irreplaceable. No value amount can be put on it.
RM: Is it true that most men feel they can't date a woman who can post them up?
CM: No doubt. It seems like all the fine brothers are with these little teeny, 5-foot-2 women. They don't know a good thing when they see it.
RM: So you're saying that at 6-2 and single, you can make someone happy?
CM: Us tall girls know how to make you happy. We know if you want to hang out with your boys, you can hang out with your boys. When you're looking for the remote control, I'm like, "Good, I want to watch the game too."
RM: Your miniskirts and long legs are legendary among your teammates.
CM: Oh, I got it going on. I could be just as feminine at 6-2 as someone 5-2. I like to let them see my legs. I don't hate on the tall brothers. I just want to let them see what they're missing.