10 Questions With… Sophie Cunningham
Phoenix Mercury guard
You’re from Columbia, Mo. How different is it living in the Valley?
I never knew I would miss the color green so much! But there’s a huge Missouri crowd out here and a lot of people from Mizzou (the University of Missouri). The people here are awesome, and our fan base is just like Mizzou, so there are a lot of similarities. I love both places and call them both my home, which I’m blessed to be able to do.
You’re known for being a little bit sassy and spicy, both on and off the court. Has that always been a part of your personality?
I come from a family of strong females. They’ve always said, “Put your shoulders back and be yourself. Be the hardest worker in anything you do, but also enjoy it and have fun.” I think people are thrown off by my competitiveness, because I’m not going to back down. I don’t care who you are or what you look like; I’m going to stand up for myself and my team. It’s funny because, at this level, everyone’s a competitor, so I don’t take it personally. But yeah, I’m a little spicy sometimes.
What does it feel like when you are on fire during a game?
When I’m in the moment, and knocking down my shots, it feels good, because I like to get the crowd involved. It comes naturally that my celebrations are fiery. I yell, pump my fists and slap my teammates on the butt. Sometimes I high-five fans, depending on where I’m at. Getting the crowd into it is a big deal, especially at this level. So, heck yeah! It feels great seeing your work pay off.
You had a career year last season with the Mercury. What’s your outlook going into the upcoming WNBA season?
In my first two to three years, I just had to put my head down and work. There wasn’t a lot of opportunity, and I had to stay ready. I think that perseverance and resiliency to keep working hard and keep getting better paid off, and I had one of my best seasons last year. For me, it’s the tip of the iceberg. I know there’s so much more in my tank.
You are a fan-favorite among the “X-Factor.” What’s special about the Mercury fanbase?
The X-Factor is hands-down the best crowd you can play in front of in the WNBA. They’re just as feisty as we are. They’re rowdy, they yell at the refs more than we do, and they’re involved and supportive. Everyone you ask says Phoenix is the hardest place to play because of the X-Factor. Playing in front of them is an honor; you just want to put on a show for them.
This season you joined the Phoenix Suns broadcast team. What was that experience like?
It’s been so much fun. Tom Leander, K-Ray (Kevin Ray), Eddie (Johnson), TC (Tom Chambers), Annie (Ann Meyers Drysdale) and the entire production team have been amazing and have embraced me. I could talk to a wall for five hours, but I am new to doing the pre-, half- and post-game shows. I’m learning a lot, and it’s so much fun to talk about the Suns. They’re a phenomenal team, especially with KD (Kevin Durant) back. I think this is what I want to do when I’m done playing, so getting my foot in the door while I’m playing is a blessing. A lot of people don’t get that opportunity, so I’m running with it.
Describe your personal style.
I would say it’s a little bit edgy. What I’m trying to go for is sporty and edgy, but elegant. I do want to show a little skin, but not too much. I want to make it sporty so you could wear it to a nice dinner or sporting event. I’m in a stage of my life where I don’t care about impressing anyone. I want to make sure I like what I’m wearing, I’m comfortable and I’m confident.
What are your favorite things to do in the Valley during your free time?
Being at the pool or anywhere near water. I love to hike. I have a dog named Brutus and we go on so many hikes. You can catch me doing anything outdoors. I found a little farmers market, and I think it’s fabulous and so much fun — I’ve met a lot of Mercury fans. I also love concerts and am going to Country Thunder this year.
What charitable causes are you passionate about ?
My number-one is Ronald McDonald House. I got exposed to it at the Ronald McDonald House in Chicago during the McDonald’s All American Games, and I fell in love with the whole thing. It was the first time I had heard about it, and it opened my eyes. I’m so grateful for the platform I have been given. I’m healthy and think it’s super important to give back to those kids and families going through things that people can’t even imagine. My sister, family and I put on a game every year and donate to the Ronald McDonald House. I also love the Boys & Girls Clubs here in the Valley. My mom used to work for the Children’s Trust Fund of Missouri, and hearing stories about kids that don’t come from good homes or don’t have the funds to get things they need, I think it’s our responsibility to give back.
What would readers be surprised to learn about you?
I feel like I’m an open book, to be honest, but I think people would be surprised that I can actually sing!
To learn more and purchase tickets, visit mercury.wnba.com.