Jamila Wideman

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Jamila Wideman (born October 16, 1975) is an American female left-handed point guard basketball player, lawyer, and activist. She is the daughter of award-winning author John Edgar Wideman.

Early life[edit]

Wideman's father, John Edgar Wideman, an African-American author and professor, is the first two-time winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award and a professor at Brown University. A Rhodes scholar, he grew up in the working-class community of Homewood in Pittsburgh. He also played four years of basketball for the University of Pennsylvania, where he was All-Ivy League. She is Jewish and her mother, Judith Ann Goldman, is Jewish and grew up in a Jewish family in Great Neck, New York, and studied for her law degree in midlife, graduating at age 52.[1][2][3]

Until she was 10 years old, Wideman lived in Laramie, Wyoming, where her father taught Creative Writing at the University of Wyoming. In 1986 she moved to Amherst, Massachusetts, where her father accepted a tenured teaching position at the University of Massachusetts.

High school[edit]

Wideman started on the Amherst Regional High School Varsity team for 6 straight years, beginning in 7th grade when she was 4'6" and 80 pounds.

In her senior year, leading her team to the High School State Championship, Wideman averaged 17 points, 6 steals, 6 assists, and 6 rebounds per game. In the State Championship game, she scored 27 points, had 14 steals and 8 assists, and pulled down 7 rebounds.[citation needed]

In 1992–93 Wideman was named USA Today First Team High School All-American, Converse High School All-American, Nike High School All-American, Kodak High School All-American, New England High School Player of the Year, Massachusetts High School Player of the Year, and High School All-American by the WBCA.[4] She participated in the WBCA High School All-America Game in 1993, scoring 10 points.[5]

Her high school basketball team was the subject of a book, In These Girls Hope is a Muscle, by Madeleine Blais (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1995, ISBN 0-87113-572-8). While in high school, Wideman published poems on the complexities of her racial identity in her high school newspaper. Shortly after the Los Angeles uprisings of 1992, she wrote and published a poem titled Black.[6]


Wideman attended Stanford University, where she was an outstanding basketball player. While at Stanford University she completed a double major, earning a B.A. in political science and African-American studies in 1997.

After playing professional basketball, she earned a J.D. from New York University School of Law.[7]

Professional basketball career[edit]

A 5'6" point guard, the smallest player on her college team, Wideman was selected as the 3rd overall draft pick by the Los Angeles Sparks in the inaugural WNBA draft of collegiate players in the summer of 1997.

Wideman enjoyed a 4-year career in the WNBA,[7] playing for the Los Angeles Sparks, Cleveland Rockers, and Portland Fire. Her best year in the WNBA was 1997.

Wideman spent the 1999-2000 winter season in Israel, playing for the Elitzur Ramla club in the Israeli Basketball League. Her team won the national championship.

During the winter of 2005, Wideman reunited with college teammate Kate Starbird and played professionally in Ibiza, Spain.


Upon graduation from Stanford, and during the offseasons of the WNBA, Wideman founded and directed the Stanford Athletic Alliance.[8] This bi-weekly program paired young women from East Palo Alto with players from the Stanford Women’s Basketball team for individual mentoring sessions, as well as group sessions that allowed the young women to explore various academic areas through hands-on experience. The program continues to run on the Stanford campus.

In 1997 Wideman founded and implemented another youth program called, ‘hoopin’ with jamila’. This program combined basketball skills clinics with a reading and writing program targeted at young women of color incarcerated in the juvenile justice system in Los Angeles. The program was funded by Nike. USA Today honored Wideman as "Most Caring Athlete" in 1998, in large part because of the success of the program.[9] It also earned the National Council on Crime and Delinquency “Community Award,” given each year to programs that attempt to provide creative alternatives to juvenile incarceration.

In 2001 Wideman participated in the Connecticut Forum,[8] where she shared the stage with Stanley Crouch, Anita Hill, Spike Lee, and Bill Russell to talk candidly about race.


Wideman collaborated with Juniper Lesnik to publish an article on playground basketball in the Sunday New York Times.[10]

Post-basketball accomplishments[edit]

Wideman graduated from New York University Law School. She now works as a staff attorney at The Legal Aid Society in New York City.

Wideman was featured on CBS Sports' "Where Are They Now?" segment of Pride, Passion and Power on January 18, 2009 hosted by Trey Wingo. In it she talks about translating her leadership on the basketball court to the legal court room.[11]


  1. ^ Jewish Sports Stars (2nd Revised Edition): Athletic Heroes Past and Present - David J. Goldman - Google Books
  2. ^ Perspective; Changing Courts: Brother's Incarceration Shapes Player's Goals - The New York Times
  3. ^ Former Stanford hoopster adds firepower to Israeli team – J
  4. ^ "Past WBCA HS Coaches' All-America Teams". Women's Basketball Coaches Association. Archived from the original on 2014-07-15. Retrieved 1 Jul 2014.
  5. ^ "WBCA High School All-America Game Box Scores". Women's Basketball Coaches Association. Archived from the original on 2014-07-15. Retrieved 29 Jun 2014.
  6. ^ Smith, Gary (March 17, 1997). "Out of the Shadows". Sports Illustrated. Time, Inc. Retrieved May 24, 2014.
  7. ^ a b "Stanford Fast Break Club - Where Are They Now?". www.stanfordfbc.org. Retrieved 2016-12-07.
  8. ^ a b "The Connecticut Forum - The Connecticut Forum". www.ctforum.org. Retrieved 2016-12-07.
  9. ^ "Wideman, Jamila". Jews In Sports.org.
  10. ^ Wideman, Jamila (2001-08-12). "Perspective; A Basketball Journey to the American South". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-12-07.
  11. ^ "CBS Press Express | CBS SPORTS BULLETIN BOARDS". www.cbspressexpress.com. Retrieved 2016-12-07.

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