How does Angel Reese go from practice to Met Gala and back? ‘It’s what I do’

CHICAGO — If you want to know how quickly the WNBA is changing, just look at Angel Reese’s week.

On Monday, her 22nd birthday, the Chicago Sky rookie made an unusual trip after practice in suburban Deerfield.

Typically when people leave the Sachs Center, a park district health club in a strip mall, they might get some ramen at Jimmy Thai or a coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts. If they really feel like ruining their workout, they go across the street to Portillo’s.

Reese, who is a bit different than the average player, rookie or not, went to the Met Gala.

“These new kids,” veteran guard Diamond DeShields said with a laugh and a sigh. “They got it made.”

Reese rocked a custom dress from British label 16Arlington, enjoyed the night among the glitterati and then flew back to Chicago to be ready to put in some work Tuesday. She scored 13 points and added five rebounds in 19 minutes as the Sky blew out the New York Liberty in a 101-53 preseason victory.

“I went to the Met Gala, slayed the Met Gala in New York, came back, slayed against New York,” she said. “It’s what I do.”

“Angel is unique,” DeShields said. “She’s incredibly unique. I think that is really cool that she got that opportunity to go to the Met Gala. I mean, I’m still waiting on my invite.”

And for a meaningless preseason game, the Sky — who aren’t expected to be anything close to contenders and will be missing their top draft pick Kamilla Cardoso for four to six weeks because of a shoulder injury — legitimately had Chicago buzzing.

Reese has lent the team her shine. While No. 1 pick Caitlin Clark is the undisputed leader in WNBA rookie celebrity — she killed on Saturday Night Live before the draft — Reese is no slouch. It’s not why they drafted her No. 7 overall — she’s a ferocious rebounder and skilled inside scorer — but it doesn’t hurt to have some star power for a team looking for its share of the attention economy in a crowded market. The Sky were led by hometown legend Candace Parker when they lit up the city and won the WNBA title in 2021, but that glow quickly faded.

Now, it’s a new team and a new time. It’s Reese’s time.

On Tuesday, her viral trip to New York added some intrigue — How would she play? — and then Chicago Bears Caleb Williams, Rome Odunze and Keenan Allen showed up and sat courtside, making a game otherwise only open to season ticket holders a scene.

Chicago athletes showing up to Sky games is normal — Williams, as the Bears’ No. 1 pick, adds a little extra pop to wherever he goes — but Reese, who is always thinking big, predicts this will be a recurring story here and on the road.

“Everybody is going to be courtside,” she said. “The celebrities are going to be courtside. Just know, the who’s who’s is going to be courtside. I was at the Met Gala and Usher (said he) is going to try to come up to a game in Vegas, and Cardi B. I know some people that y’all might not think I know, but I know.”

The big news in the league right now is the surprise announcement from commissioner Cathy Engelbert (seriously, even the teams didn’t know it was coming) that the WNBA will start traveling on chartered flights. The money is coming, and it’s time for the WNBA to invest in its game. No more travel delays that wipe out a day off.

A private plane, of course, is how Reese got to New York so quickly. Again, she’s different.

“I did all my hair and makeup on the plane,” she said. “Both of my girls and one of my friends got on the plane with me. We’re doing hair and makeup on a plane, blow drying and flat ironing, which is crazy, but it turned out great, as you can see.”

With young celebrities like Reese and Clark in the league and the attention they bring, perhaps that’s one reason why the WNBA is finally acting on the players’ long-held request for chartered flights.

“I am glad that the league was proactive,” veteran Sky forward Elizabeth Williams said. “We’re in a time where, I mean, Angel has 3 million followers. She has a spotlight on her that none of us have and we don’t have anything to compare it to. And rather than having an incident occur, I think this is a proactive take.”

After all that hoopla, Reese said that if she had a bad game against the Liberty, she would’ve heard her ex-coach at LSU, the forever-piqued Kim Mulkey, in her head, if not her current Sky head coach Teresa Weatherspoon. So she made sure she was ready to play, even if it was just a preseason game. Reese could make a serious living as a social media influencer, but this is her career.

“I already knew the expectations going into it, like I needed to be locked in and focused on my matchups,” she said. “I took my matchups seriously. I watched film when I was on the plane. I wanted to get back. People at the Met Gala were like, ‘Are you partying after this?’ I said, no, I got a game tomorrow. I gotta watch film. I prioritize everything. I’m still in school as well, so I got a busy schedule of a lot going on. But like I said, you’ve got to maximize your 24 hours.”

Weatherspoon, one of the greatest women’s basketball players of all time, hasn’t coached a real WNBA game yet, but she’s obviously comfortable enough to let her players be themselves. It bodes well for her as she shepherds a mostly new roster with limited outside expectations of winning.

As for Reese’s trip, she loved it. Weatherspoon said Reese “earned that opportunity to go and me as her head coach, I’m not going to take that away from her.”

“How did I know I could trust Angel Reese?” she said. “Angel does angelic stuff, so I know that she understands how to prioritize.”

At the Sky’s media day Wednesday, Reese talked about the duality of her life and her image on and off the court.

“I always felt like I wanted to be the cute, pretty girl on the court, but I wanted to also be a dog and have that dog mentality,” she said. “So I want to continue to let women understand and know, like, you can do both.”

The idea that women’s basketball players peak in college is foolish. At 22, Reese’s career and life are just beginning. Her WNBA career hasn’t started yet, but it’s fair to expect that we will be talking about her for a long time.

(Photo of Angel Reese: Ilya S. Savenok / Getty Images for The Mark Hotel)

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