Renee Montgomery was selected fourth overall in the 2009 WNBA Draft by the Minnesota Lynx and her journey as a basketball player is a testament to the growth of women’s basketball as the WNBA celebrates its 25th anniversary.
The West Virginia native and University of Connecticut alum has won at every level wearing Kobe Bryant’s signature shoe and her championship pedigree is a reflection of her hard work and dedication, both as an athlete and a leader in her community.
She is the epitome of what an athlete can achieve on the court as well as off the court, after the days of playing professionally are done. Her career spanned 10 years before hanging up her sneakers to focus on fighting social issues for the Black community and becoming a co-owner of her former WNBA team, the Atlanta Dream.
Montgomery always knew she wanted to play basketball from a really young age because of the influence of her older sisters. “I would say by 8 I definitely knew I wanted to be a hooper. My older sisters [inspired me to play] so I really wanted to do everything that they did. So when they started to play sports, I started to play sports. When they started to play spades, I started to play spades. I started just following in their footsteps,” Montgomery described her basketball beginnings.
The time rolled around to attend and play in college. Renee picked the University of Connecticut as the team to play her collegiate career in. The UConn Huskies went 39-0 during her time at UConn and the reason the UConn Huskies went undefeated was because of the mindset of the team, starting with the preseason workouts. Renee and her teammates had the same mindset, they had to get a national championship. Whether it was the 8 am workouts or intense practices, every team member was giving it their all to get their championship.
After the undefeated, national championship-winning senior season at UConn, Montgomery was drafted into the WNBA by the Minnesota Lynx in 2009. During her time with the Lynx, she won two WNBA championships in 2015 and 2017. She never took playing at the highest level for granted. It was a dream come true. She tried to play with joy every time she played on the court. She took pride in the grind of getting to the championship level, adding nothing is guaranteed in sports, especially standing at 5’6”. The dynasty the Minnesota Lynx created with the help from Montgomery was only done once before with the Houston Comets. It was all about the mindset for the Lynx as it was with her time at UConn. “We had a lot of superstars, but no one acted like they were a superstar. We had people that were great players, Hall of Famers. But there was this collective understanding that we were going to do whatever it took to win,” Montgomery described.
Renee Montgomery moved to the Atlanta Dream after winning the 2017 WNBA championship with the Lynx. She played with the Dream for two years, starting all games she played with them. She was a star player for the Dream franchise until the year 2020 shook everything in Renee’s and everyone’s world.
The 2020 WNBA season brought a lot of changes to the league and in the life of Renee. When it came time to play in the bubble, she decided to forgo the 2020 season to focus on social justice issues and ultimately retire. The decision was a big one to make but it was the right thing for her to do. “Stuff was just pulling on my heartstrings and I’m a passionate player. I take pride in what I do whatever it is that I’m doing. So I wasn’t into basketball at that moment. I was into what’s going on in the world. I didn’t want to be that teammate that wasn’t locked in. I didn’t want to be that teammate that wasn’t focused or forgot the game plan, forgot my scout, don’t know the plays because I am worried about doing other things. So I just made the decision that this just isn’t the year for me. This year I’m going to see what I can do here in the A and I’ll figure it out from there,” Montgomery described the decision. She knew her passion was outside basketball for now and she wanted to focus her energy on the social issues that were important to her.
From the decision to forgo the 2020 season came the decision to become a co-owner and executive of the Atlanta Dream. “My family, my fiancé was the first one that brought it up to me, and then when I started to think about it more, it just made sense,” she said of how the idea of becoming a co-owner came about. Her fiancé planted the idea and she made it come to fruition. At the beginning of the year, the previous owners of the Dream sold the team to a three-person investor group that included none other than Renee Montgomery herself. Renee was only a player for the team just two short years before she became a co-owner.
She had several reasons why she wanted to step into the new role of co-owner. First and foremost, she wanted to make an impact. She felt she could make a lot of positive changes and be a part of the solution to fix things that needed to be fixed. “I think wanting to have an impact on a scale where I felt like I was making positive changes. When you look at a lot of the things people say in the news, you would think there’s no hope for nothing positive or the system has failed, it’ll never be fixed. I just don’t look at things that way. I just look at it the other way,” Montgomery explained her outlook. This outlook of “moments equal momentum mentality” and the idea of what can be done now to add to positive momentum helped her come to the decision of becoming a part of the Atlanta Dream family off of the court.
She has learned a lot about herself since being in this position. Montgomery even touched on being a professional athlete and how it prepared her for the job as a co-owner and executive. Professional athletes deal with high-pressure situations, making quick decisions, and learning to communicate with people from all different backgrounds. All of these things are key points in being successful in business and athletes have the tools to transition into a business role.
Since this is the 25th anniversary of the WNBA, the importance of creating a great culture and environment is important. The league is still young and there are still big strides to make. Montgomery touched on the growth of the league, “We’re not doing too bad for ourselves, you know our ratings are going up, we’re trending up, everything is on the way up and I am excited to be a part of that growth.” She is proud to be a representative of the brand, the WNBA, and help the league grow as much as possible.
The next generation of players can look at the career of Renee Montgomery and see what players can be. She is helping the league grow by being in it on the business side as well as supporting the community of Atlanta with her foundation. The Renee Montgomery Foundation was founded in 2019 and has been supporting the community of Atlanta in a wide range of ways. The foundation supports youth by helping them get exposure to the arts, helping women have a safe place to play basketball when there are usually no places to play and more.
The story of Renee Montgomery is one of achieving greatness on the court and still pursuing greatness after her time on the court has closed as a businesswoman. The career of Montgomery shows just how much the league is growing with opportunities for former players becoming more accessible to them after their playing time is over. The league is going to continue to grow especially with the great business leader, Renee Montgomery, taking charge.