Boardroom caught up with the Minnesota Lynx’ Aerial Powers to talk about how she’s progressing on the court and in the digital world as a gamer.
Apex Legends, Call of Duty, and NBA 2K are just a few of Minnesota Lynx forward Aerial Powers’ favorite games to play right now.
Powers details her love for gaming in the latest episode of Good Game Legends, a new docuseries from the Gucci Game Academy that chronicles the lives of influential gamers and esports athletes. The series is part of an ongoing partnership with Gucci and gaming and esports company ESL FACEIT Group.
Powers has always been a hooper and her love for gaming dates back to her childhood. She’s been mastering her crafts in the physical and digital worlds for as long as she can remember. In the third episode of GG Legends, Powers talks about her passion for both basketball and esports, and about how her parents, Juan and Cecelia Powers, empowered her throughout her life to become among the best at what she does on and off the court.
“I enjoy both, and you make time for things you enjoy. Everybody knows me as a basketball player, but when I’m gaming, it’s just for me. It’s relaxing, and it’s a way for me to connect to my community,” Powers told Boardroom. “I’m still very competitive, but gaming is something that’s always been a part of me.”
A Homegrown Passion
Powers got into gaming at a young age, thanks to inspiration from her family. In fact, she remembers her mom as the first active gamer in her life.
Powers’ father and brother are gamers, too. As her basketball career takes her around the world, the family finds connection through their shared passion. While Powers loves playing Apex Legends with her father and brother, in general, shooter games are her go-to.
Watching her mom game inspired Powers to jump into the intimidating space that men still dominate, and inspired her to lean into the expanding industry. As with hoops, she found that in order to make space in the gaming world, the most important thing she needed to do was simply to start.
For the Love of Gaming and Basketball
Powers is a basketball player by day and a gamer by night. The WNBA star told Boardroom that she games every day in the offseason and still finds time to get online amid a packed in-season schedule. However, it’s during the offseason that she has been able to both refine her gaming craft and assemble a community of invested followers.
“I try to stream every day for at least two to three hours,” Powers said about her offseason Twitch streams. “When we travel to games out of town in-season, it’s really hard for me, but my streaming community understands that.”
After the excitement of a big win — or even a disappointing loss — Powers struggles to sleep. Streaming helps her unwind and leave the stress of the game behind. Like many WNBA hoopers, Powers has spent time overseas. As a result, she identified the potential for gaming as a means to connect with her fans, near and far. Looking back on her career, she identifies the time that she spent in Southern China as a transitional point in her gaming trajectory. Unable to speak the language, Powers had translators around her 24/7 to help her communicate. As a result, she struggled to connect with her teammates on a personal level.
“I kinda felt like when I went home, I still didn’t have anyone to talk to,” Powers said. “I went to practice or a game every day, then went home. I didn’t really have a social life. The only thing that really was my outlet was gaming. I was able to stay close to my family through gaming, too.”
Powers’ gaming prowess extends far beyond a hobby; she joined Team Liquid as a streamer and diversity ambassador in January 2021 to push the need for women gamers. Powers synced up with the professional esports company when she competed in a VALORANT tournament. The game was still in beta at the time, and some Team Liquid players were in Powers’ group. After the brand saw her excitement for gaming, the rest was history.
As the WNBA season approaches, Powers will be a key contributor to the Lynx. Inspired by her role models, she’s locked in her signature work ethic to guide her offseason training. Aside from her father consistently making sure she stays on her toes on the court, Powers has another person in her life that continues to invest in her success.
Powers named her former Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant as one of the biggest inspirations in her athletic career. She said she’s formed a relationship with Merchant off the court, and she still holds the lessons she learned playing under her close to her heart. Merchant recently announced that she’s stepping down as the head coach of MSU’s women’s basketball program after 16 years.
“We talk frequently, so I knew what was going on and where her mindset was at. I still didn’t expect her to be completely done with MSU basketball,” Powers said. “That’s me talking selfishly because I don’t know MSU without Suzy Merchant.
“For me, she’s just an amazing person and coach. I owe her so much.”
While her retirement from the WNBA won’t be coming anytime soon, Powers is already thinking about her next career. Professional gaming, coaching, commentating, and player development, are all on the table for Powers.
Right now, she said she’s leaning toward a career in esports after her WNBA run, so we’ll be watching closely to see what she does next.
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