On brink of historic WNBA playoffs and reality TV debut, Wings star Natasha Howard thrives in Dallas

ARLINGTON, TX -  SEPTEMBER 15: Natasha Howard #6 of the Dallas Wings shoots the ball during the game against the Atlanta Dream during round one game one of the 2023 WNBA Playoffs on September 15, 2023 at the College Park Center in Arlington, TX. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)
By Dorothy J. Gentry
Sep. 19, 2023

Shortly after a Dallas Wings practice at their home arena in Arlington, Texas, Natasha Howard sits in the stands, reflecting and taking in the atmosphere before the playoff madness. As an accomplished 10-year WNBA veteran, Howard sensed her new team is on the cusp of something special.

“I have a feeling, deep down in my soul,” Howard said when asked if this is the year the Wings finally get past the first round. “I believe we can go deep in the playoffs. I see us as a team that, together, no one can beat us. We have so many weapons. We have so many people who can play any position on the team.”


Howard has played in and won three WNBA championships. The Wings never have advanced past the first round of the playoffs since moving to the city in 2016. But her veteran status has been essential as the Wings head into Tuesday’s game against the Atlanta Dream with a chance to close out the series.

Howard, 32, is coming into her own in many ways in Dallas despite her lengthy resume. She’s among the league’s statistical leaders in several categories and is also set to star on the VH1 reality show “Basketball Wives” as part of the first LGBTQ couple.

She’s beginning to think about her legacy but is quick to point out she’s not ready to hang up her playing shoes just yet. She still wants to earn MVP before she finishes. She’s signed through 2024 with the Wings and has shared that she’d love to finish her career in Dallas.

“I’m happy here. I’m blossoming like a flower even more since I got here. Sure I’m thinking about my legacy but I still have goals. MVP is my main thing,” she said. “I want to win MVP. I have everything else, the only thing I haven’t gotten since I’ve been in the league so that will always be on my list. But in the end, my legacy will speak loud and for itself.”

An unfortunate injury to her teammate opened up an opportunity for Howard that changed the course of her WNBA career.

Fresh off of winning the 2018 championship with the Seattle Storm in her second season, Howard was thrust into the spotlight after teammate Breanna Stewart tore her Achilles playing overseas and missed the entire 2019 season.

“I had to step up. I had a big role I had to fill,” Howard says. “I knew I was capable of doing that, and it was just that time when I needed to show everybody. I took full advantage of that time.”

She had a breakout season that year, being named to her first All-Star game, landing on the All-Defensive first team for the second time and winning Defensive Player of the Year.


Howard, a 6-foot-2 forward drafted fifth in 2014 by the Indiana Fever, had yet to achieve legitimate name recognition or stardom even though she had been to three WNBA Finals and won a championship. An unfortunate injury allowed her to spread her wings and show the basketball world who Natasha Howard was.

“I wasn’t scared at all,” she said. “I knew I was capable of doing this. I took control of that moment and I just ran with it and that was the time for me to spread my wings and I did. I spread them wide and big.

“If I didn’t have that moment right there, I wouldn’t be here.”

“Here” is serving as a mentor and veteran leader for the young Wings. “Here” is embracing another opportunity and another challenge, one that’s uniquely suited for this time in her career.

Since being acquired by the Wings earlier this year in an offseason trade from the New York Liberty, Howard has become the voice the Wings have needed. She brings a boatload of experience, including three WNBA titles — with the Minnesota Lynx (2017) and Storm (2018, 2020) — and plenty of playoff experience. She’s been in the playoffs nine of her 10 years in the league and has played in 49 postseason games. When the Wings opened Game 1 of their first-round series against the Dream, Howard became the second player in league history to play at least one postseason game with five different franchises.

Her physicality, defense, interior scoring and versatility have suited the Wings well and helped propel them to the No. 4 seed. The Wings ended the regular season as the third highest scoring team (87.9 points per game) in the W. Dallas ranks first in the WNBA in rebounding (38.7 per game) and is the only team to average double digits in offensive rebounding (11.8). The Wings also lead the league in second-chance points (14.8), fast break points (13.1) and points in the paint (42.3).


“Being a veteran, using my voice, showing them the ropes and that this is what it takes to become the top-four seed has helped,” Howard said. “Just the experience of being in these situations, winning three championships, … I know what it takes.

Howard — known around the league as “Flash” — recorded a career-high 33 minutes and 2.6 assists per game. She recorded her second-highest points (16.5) and rebounding (eight) averages. Howard finished with 12 double-doubles, eighth most in the league, and ranked 13th with rebounds per game.

She recorded her first career triple-double (28 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists) against the Chicago Sky last month. Howard (28 points), Satou Sabally (26 points), and Arike Ogunbowale (25 points) became the second trio of teammates in WNBA history to score at least 25 points in the same game in July against the Los Angeles Sparks.

“The championship mentality she brings is huge and just the way that Dallas uses her on both ends of the floor,” said ESPN basketball analyst Andraya Carter. “Her leadership role in terms of setting the example of playing the right way, and it’s just that veteran piece for sure that makes the difference. … Natasha has played with some of the best (players) that we’ve ever even known. When you think about how versatile Stewie is and Natasha being able to play off of Stewie for so many years in Seattle, I think that helps her play off of Satou as well.”

Howard’s role as a mentor to the Wings’ younger players has also been invaluable. “To have a vet as experienced and seasoned and good as Natasha I think is huge and I’m so fortunate,” teammate Maddy Siegrist said.

Howard takes her role as a veteran voice and mentor in the locker room seriously. She calls Siegrist “Flash 2.0.”

“I’m handing over the torch,” Howard said. “Well, not yet, but I’m getting there, and just trying to provide help to the next generation the best way I can.”


“It’s definitely a compliment to be called that. She’s really taken me under her wing,” said Siegrist. “She gives me advice and tells me to be more aggressive on the court. That has really helped my confidence and my adjustment definitely.”

Howard says she has succeeded by staying true to herself through the hills and valleys.

“Even though I didn’t get a lot of playing time coming in (to the league), I was being very patient. I was always first in the gym, last out of the gym, doing work, lifting weights, to be in those positions and try to get that starting spot and it paid off when I went to Seattle,” she said. “My game elevated so much, and having the right people in my circle, developmental coaches to guide me and push me to be the person and the player that I am today.”

Though Howard has shown the world who she is on the court, many will finally get the chance to see a more personal side of Howard when she and fiancé Jac’Eil Duckworth join the cast on “Basketball Wives,” which traditionally focuses on NBA players’ wives and girlfriends.



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Being a trailblazer, it feels good to be honest,” she said. “You would never expect that to happen, I’m actually putting the spotlight on the WNBA and the LGBTQ community.”

Howard also spends her time as a stepmom to 13-year-old Prince, and she enjoys playing video games, making beats and cooking in her downtime. She even makes S’mores and cooks lasagna for the Wings.

She said she is motivated to live in a daily state of gratitude and positivity. She is known on social media for sharing and tweeting out Bible verses that her stepmother sends her every morning. “You never know, someone may need to see it,” she says.

On the court, Howard is determined to make believers out of WNBA fans who have long watched the Wings fail to get over the playoff hump.

“I`m really excited about what we’ve accomplished as a team,” she said. “A lot of people doubted us. But we bought into the system, stayed together through adversity and that’s a good thing. We are all really excited.”



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(Photo of Natasha Howard: Michael Gonzales / NBAE via Getty Images)

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Dorothy J. Gentry

Dorothy J. Gentry writes about the WNBA and women's college basketball for The Athletic and other media outlets. She also covers the NBA for several national media outlets and is a member of the Pro Basketball Writers of America and the NABJ Sports Task Force. Follow Dorothy J. on Twitter @dorothyjgentry