“All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”
– Walt Disney
By Elizabeth Scinta
Photos provided by Alden Allen, Andrew Peckat & Project Backboard
You might know Angel McCoughtry as the first female athlete in the University of Louisville’s history to have her jersey retired in 2010. Or, you might know her for winning gold medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. My point is that she’s known as a basketball superstar, but some fans might not know that she’s also a philanthropist aspiring to help others find their passion.
After spending her college years at UofL, accumulating title after title, McCoughtry entered the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) as the number one draft pick in 2009. Although this next step in her career took her away from Louisville, Derby City was never far from her thoughts. One year after planting her roots with the Atlanta Dream, McCoughtry founded the Angel McCoughtry Foundation (rebranded in 2020 to McCoughtry’s Mission). McCoughtry’s Mission strives to bridge the gap between young people in the United States and Africa and inspire youth in Baltimore, Louisville, Atlanta and Las Vegas.
In 2021, McCoughtry zeroed in on Louisville and decided to refurbish a basketball court that needed a facelift to encourage dreaming, determination and hope. “Louisville has been an amazing place. The fans and the community have always given back to me since I was aspiring to accomplish my hopes and dreams,” explained McCoughtry. “Louisville was always a place I could call a second home, and I wanted to be able to do something that was going to give back, leave a long-lasting legacy and inspire.”
After sharing her idea with Valerie Owens-Combs, a former UofL basketball player, the plan was put into motion. Owens-Combs pointed her towards Shively Park, and after visiting the park, McCoughtry knew it was perfect. “It’s a beautiful, quaint park in a beautiful city right outside Louisville, “ said McCoughtry.
As an Adidas Basketball Athlete, McCoughtry teamed up with the renowned sportswear brand to help turn her vision into a reality. At the Shively Park court, the McCoughtry team added bleachers, new rims, flooring and a dazzling mural by Leah Provo, later painted on the court by Project Backboard. “The design is my favorite part of the court, showing perseverance and reaching for the stars. That’s the theme of the court, “reaching for the stars,” explained McCoughtry. “I love that Adidas allowed me to have a lot of creative control to pick the muralist and say, ‘I want this to be like this,’ or ‘can this show more emotion.’ So, I really thank Adidas for allowing me this creative role.”
The mural by Provo displays radiant colors, McCoughtry’s signature bun and heavy emotion throughout her features that signify dedication, hard work and commitment, according to McCoughtry. “This court isn’t just a basketball court. It’s a mural of hope, prosperity and for people to feel like they can,” said McCoughtry. It’s exquisite, but it’s functional, and McCoughtry plans to utilize the refurbished court to bring the community together through basketball camps, 3v3 tournaments and more.
Along with her plans to keep the community involved, McCoughtry hopes the court inspires kids and adults alike to find their passion and stick with it. “Finding a passion will take you places you’ve never been, like what sports have done for me. We want the kids to have that and to find their own legacy,” explained McCoughtry. So reach for the stars and look to McCoughtry for inspiration if you feel lost and determination if you feel defeated.