Patricia Bright the Baller

Photo courtesy of Patricia Bright.

My cousin stands 6’5 and can handle the basketball like a pro. In fact, she is a pro. She just doesn’t play in the WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) like some would assume.

Patricia Bright is an overseas basketball player, taking contracts all over the world from France to Australia. Why would an American basketball player choose to play overseas instead of staying in the U.S. and playing for the WNBA? When I recently asked her that question, she responded: “Well, number one that was never in my plans, and number two it is financially more reasonable to play overseas than in the WNBA.”

The league minimum for WNBA players is $50,000, and while some players do earn more, WNBA players earn significantly less than their NBA counterparts.

“Even those (WNBA) players play overseas to gain most of their income as well,” Patricia explained. “I hope that in the future, women basketball players in the WNBA will start to get the income that they deserve (which is much higher than they are receiving right now) but right now, I choose to travel the world eight to ten months out of the year and spend the remainder enjoying my family and training in the summer. That was the right choice for me.” 

The cost of a professional basketball career begins in high school. “Yeah, there was some heavy investing but we love our daughter. We wanted to let her know that we supported her in her life choices,” her father David Bright said happily. “It cost my wife at the time and me around $5,000 per summer for her to participate in AAU basketball. That covered everything from food to travel. Of course, there was some cost for us to go the games but it was worth it and she was doing something positive.”

Patricia is very grateful that both her father David and mother Lisa Allen-Fields invested in her during those years. “I was blessed to have parents to pay for the majority of my expenses, but my trade-back was my full-ride scholarship to college. So that hopefully paid them back (haha). Some expenses they had to pay for were, of course, basketball shoes and gear (socks, spandex, etc.) but the majority of the expenses came from AAU club basketball. You have to travel to different states to play in tournaments with your club basketball team to gain more exposure with the college coaches to get potential scholarships to their schools. Those expenses, over a five or six-year span, add up.”

As time grew near for Patricia to graduate high school, she needed to find out what her next move was going to be. She decided to start her college career at Midland College in Midland, Texas. While she was there, the team had much success, winning their region and making it to nationals (NJCAA) where they placed fifth in the country. Wanting to switch to a team that better fit her style of play, Patricia transferred to Pensacola Junior College, now Pensacola State College, where she met coach Chanda Rigby. “She really cared about putting her players in the best situations, not only not the basketball court but in life as well. I will forever be grateful for her to have coached me.”

Being a junior college athlete wasn’t easy, even with a scholarship. “Money was tight, to say the least. People think college is a struggle (haha). Try going to junior college. Your scholarship check doesn’t have a comma in it AT ALL. At that time my parents were still paying for my phone bill because if they weren’t I probably wouldn’t have had a phone. Most of my money went to food and investing in basketball gear.”

“We were thankful she got a basketball scholarship,” David Bright said. “We only had to pay her cell phone which was around $40, and her car expenses like insurance were only $75.”

After two years at junior college, Patricia then transferred to OSU (Oregon State University) where she was coached by Scott Rueck. The scholarship there was considerably better than what had she had previously received—and with her new income, she had a larger financial cushion to help pay for things she needed, like food. “My scholarship, thank you, lord. I was able to cover those expenses and my random shopping sprees.” Patricia had much success during her tenure at OSU, helping her team in the WNIT and being named to the PAC-12 all-defensive team during her junior year.

In Patricia’s senior year, it was time to decide her post-college future. She credits one of her assistant coaches in helping her evaluate her options. “Eric Ely and myself were talking about plans after I graduated in June, and he brought up that I could make a good amount of money playing overseas and travel while I’m still young and open to moving around. He said that once you’re locked into a job, there is not much movement to be done unless I wanted to be a basketball coach.”

After much thought, Patricia decided to take the leap of faith and make her attempt at being a professional basketball player. She sent inquiries to multiple agents and began her career as an overseas professional athlete.

Traveling to places like Italy, Greece, and France (where she is currently), Patricia spends her time sightseeing and experiencing the culture of the area. Not only is the pay better overseas, but women’s basketball also gets more exposure—allowing more opportunities for endorsement deals and other opportunities to make money as an athlete, like basketball camp appearances.

One of the benefits that come with being an overseas basketball player is the networking opportunities. “Some benefits, I believe, are the connections and the people that become friends and in better situations like family. You come in contact with a lot of successful people in different countries, and in the workforce, it always who you know that is important. I believe traveling and playing basketball internationally helps you gain access to a variety of people: general managers of the sports clubs, mayors of the city or towns, police officers, or even teammates that have successful jobs with connections. That, I believe, is one major benefit that comes with playing internationally.” 

Her favorite places that she has visited thus far are Switzerland for its scenery and chocolate, London for its fashion, and Perth for its wildlife.

When it comes to expenses like food, Patricia has this advice: “I noticed over time to bring my American spices because living overseas, the spices are more basic and they have less condiments compared to the United States. Major go-tos when packing are hot sauce, Lawry’s Seasoned Salt, and Mrs. Dash!”

Patricia notes that some foods are less expensive overseas—and some aren’t. “When it comes to bread, milk, eggs, they’re usually cheaper in price. In France right now I can get a loaf of bread as cheap as €1 or less, which is equivalent to about $1.34. Food becomes higher-priced when it is name-brand, American-based products like Jiffy, Ben & Jerry’s, or Snickers, or when you go to a restaurant.”

Patricia’s journey to becoming a world-traveling professional basketball athlete came with a significant financial investment, but it’s an investment that has been well worth it as she continues to have a career in places that other people save for months to visit. With the WNBA Finals over for the year, some players are headed overseas to earn a little more money. Patricia is already there.

You can catch up with Patricia during her travels via social media; she’s triciabright on Instagram.

Felipe Patterson is a healthcare provider, freelance writer, poet, health and fashion enthusiast. Contributor to Taji Magazine. Can be followed on Facebook and Twitter @Dapperdrfeel.

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