From the WPIAL to the WNBA: Swin Cash’s Basketball Legacy

She has more than lived up to the promise of her first name, Swintayla, which means astounding woman in Swahili. Swin Cash has achieved at every level in the sport of basketball, both on the court and now in the front office. Born in McKeesport, she grew up in Harrison Village as a self-described, “skinny, bowlegged girl with a dream about playing basketball.”

Play she did, for McKeesport High School, where she excelled averaging 30.4 points per game and 16.9 rebounds as a senior. In 1998, Swin earned High School All-American first team honors from “Parade Magazine” and was named the Gatorade Pennsylvania Player of the year. Cash also excelled in track and field, finishing third in the state in hurdles her senior year. She then continued her winning ways at the University of Connecticut. A member of the 2000 and 2002 NCAA National Championship teams, Swin was named a first team All-American by Kodak/WBCA and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association in 2002. She currently ranks 10th in Huskies’ history in season rebounds with 336 during the 2001-02 season. A member of the inaugural class of the University’s Hall of Honor in 2006, Cash’s No. 32 has been retired by the team.

Selected number two overall in the 2002 WNBA draft by the Detroit Shock, Cash averaged 14.8 points and 6.9 rebounds, capturing third place in the rookie of the year voting. A WNBA All-Star in 2003, Cash helped lead the Shock to the WNBA Championship. Chosen to represent the United States on the Olympic basketball team the following year, Cash earned a gold medal in competition. Again, a WNBA All-Star in 2005, Cash contributed to the team’s second national championship in 2006.

Cash continued her winning ways capturing a third WNBA championship with the Seattle Storm in 2010. Selected twice more to the WNBA All Star team in 2009 and 2011, she was named MVP of both those games. Cash joined Team USA for the 2012 Olympics in London, bringing home a second gold medal. She spent 15 seasons in the WNBA, retiring from the New York Liberty in 2016 as one of only two league players to achieve 5000 points, 2000 rebounds, and 1000 assists for their career. The Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame recognized Cash’s achievements by inducting her in 2022.

After retiring Cash served as an analyst for MSG Networks covering the New York Knicks, then in 2017 she rejoined the Liberty as the Director of Franchise Development. In 2019, Cash became one of the first women to work in the front office for an NBA team as the Vice President of Basketball Operations and Team Development for the New Orleans Pelicans.

Though she has achieved on an international stage, Cash maintained her ties to her hometown, founding her charity, “Cash for Kids,” in 2005 to support youth in Detroit and in McKeesport. Her “Strive with Pride” basketball camp acknowledged her belief in inspiring youth to achieve in sport, but to play and live with integrity. She believes deeply in using sport to change the world, speaking out against gun violence and police brutality. In 2016, she was fined $500 along with her teammates and players from two other WNBA teams, for wearing warm up shirts that read “#BlackLivesMatter” and “#Dallas 5.” After the incident Cash said, “I do believe that you can assemble peacefully and protest against injustice. Until the system transforms, we cannot sit here and act like there is not a problem here in America.”

This “astounding woman” achieved her childhood dream of playing basketball, and her life and career continue to serve as an example for how to play and how to win.

About the Author

Anne Madarasz is the director of the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum and chief historian at the Heinz History Center.

Date March 29, 2023
  • Anne Madarasz