By DIANE XAVIER
The Dallas Examiner
Dallas Wings forward Allisha Gray proudly displayed her gold medal that she earned as part of the United States team first place finish at the inaugural 3X3 women’s basketball tournament held in Tokyo, Japan, during the 32nd Olympic games.
Gray spoke to the media at Reunion Tower’s GeO-Deck Aug. 11. Reunion Tower ran a special light show to celebrate the achievements and gold medals of all North Texans who competed in the 2020 Olympic games.
“When I left Dallas a month ago, I left with one goal in mind, and that’s to win a gold medal,” Gray said. “To say today that I am an Olympian, is one thing, but to say today that I am a gold medalist is an incredible feeling. With 3X3 being a new Olympic sport, we had no idea what to expect, but I am so proud of the whole team for what we built together.”
She joined fellow WNBA players Stefanie Dolson of the Chicago Sky, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young of the Las Vegas Aces to defeat the Russian Olympic Committee 18-15 in the gold medal finals. The 3X3 tournament was 10 minutes long and played only with a half-court featuring only three players and one substitute for each team. It also features a 12 second shot clock with either a one point shot or two-point scoring game instead of the traditional two-point and three-point shots in women’s basketball.
Gray scored four points to help the U.S. win.
“I also want to say a huge thank you to my parents,” Gray said. “No one has seen the sacrifice they have made for me and without them I won’t be here today. I want to continue to have the opportunity to represent the USA for many more Olympic games and to continue to make you all proud.”
Gray described the gold medal as a heavy piece of medal and said all the hard work she and her teammates put in paid off.
“It is a blessing. It just shows all the hard work that I put in to accomplish this. It is still a surreal feeling. With all the training camps we did in the offseason with all the quarantining and having to follow protocol and having to stay in our hotel rooms four days straight, it was all worth it,” she said.
With the COVID-19 pandemic still affecting the world, Gray said she knew she still had to keep her focus despite not being able to play in front of fans and family.
“I am used to the bubbling floor with fans, that wasn’t a big deal, but it was my first Olympics, I wanted to have my family and friends there but I knew I had a goal to accomplish and that is to win a gold medal, so I just remained focused on the goal,” Gray said. “I always dreamed of being in the Olympics but didn’t know it was going to be on a 3X3 route when I was first introduced to 3X3. Given the information, I was able to have a chance to go to the Olympics, so to be able to win a gold medal through this was great.”
Gray is from the small town of Sandersville, Georgia, and told her parents at a young age her goals to play professional basketball.
“My parents, they always had big dreams for me so when I always told my parents that I had a dream, they were full of support for whatever I decided to do. I mean, I can be here all day talking about the sacrifice my parents made for me to be able to be where I am today, so I am very appreciative of them and what they have done for me throughout my whole life.”
She was asked what she would tell little girls right now who are watching this and seeing somebody that looks like her and who loves basketball like her be able to fulfill their goals.
“I would say to dream big, don’t let nobody tell you that you can’t achieve anything because you are in control of your own destiny. So I just say continue to do you and don’t let anyone stop you from doing what you want to do,” she said.
Playing in Tokyo had its challenges as well.
“I would just say the humidity,” she said. “It was really hot outside, and now I am back home in the humidity. Some games, the sun was right on the goal, and it was hard to determine. One time when I was shooting a jump shot, I had to yell, “I can’t see while shooting shots.” And I would say that’s probably the biggest adjustment that we had to make at the games.”
Gray said returning home to Dallas with a gold medal inspired her to continue improving her game.
“It’s great. I have had support from my teammates, support from my coaches, support from my family and friends and everybody was just real supportive and for me, I just focused
on things that’s just in the moment so now that 3X3 has been over, my goal is to continue to work hard so we can make it into the playoffs.”
The WNBA season returned Aug. 14 after nearly a month break due to the Olympics.
Gray said she plans to frame her gold medal after celebrating with family and friends. “It is one of the top achievements in my life and I want to enjoy the season and just live in the moment and take things step by step,” she said.
As a professional athlete, Gray discussed the dedication and sacrifices she made to enjoy career success.
“We have a goal, you know the sacrifices you have to make, you don’t get to take the vacations or sometimes your friends want to hang out, you’re like no I got to go put up extra shots. I am glad that I did make the sacrifices that I made to achieve my dreams for being in the WNBA, you just have to have your priorities together. You just got to steer your head clear and just know what you got to do, what you want to accomplish,” Gray said. I am just excited to get back and join my teammates and finish the season.”
Gray also described what it was like seeing Reunion Tower light up in honor of North Texas athletes’ accomplishments during the Olympics.
“It is pretty cool to see the lights light up at Reunion Tower because Reunion Tower is a big deal in Dallas so to get them to light up is cool,” Gray concluded.
Despite her gold medal, Gray has other big goals in mind.
“To win a WNBA championship, that’s my main focus right now,” she said. “I have to take it step by step, but my goal right now is to be able to compete and win a WNBA championship.
The Wings are in fifth place in the Western Conference and reaching the playoffs is not a far reach for them, according to head coach Vickie Johnson.
“We want to get into the playoffs and finish well,” Johnson said. “Play great basketball, get into the playoffs, and then once we are inside the playoffs, let’s see what happens because in the playoffs it is a different season, it is a different mentality, it’s a different energy, it is a different type of focus so I feel like if we can get in then, we can make some moves.”
Johnson said Gray’s experience and accomplishment in the Olympics could help the Wings achieve their goals.
“She is a big piece of the puzzle, and what we do offensively and defensively, the confidence that she is coming back with is huge, winning a gold medal, the excitement, the energy level and playing an Olympic game is going to be huge for our team,” Johnson said. “We are young, we are really focused on our energy, how we approach the game and how we finish the game and so because she plays both sides of the basketball it is going to be huge for us to be successful.”