You’ve probably heard of former first round pick Tina Charles when it comes to her accomplishments on the basketball court. But what about those outside of the WNBA?
The League All-Star
Charles has led the WNBA in scoring—25.4 points a game—for most of the 2021 season after being medically excused from the 2020 “COVID season.” “I don’t think I’m doing anything different [from previous seasons],” she says. “I’m just playing my game—at this age, and being in the league 11, 12 years, this is what myself and many others should be doing.”
The International Athlete
She’s played basketball in Turkey, Poland, and China—and noticed a big difference. “The fans are way more supportive [overseas],” says Charles. “They have more knowledge of women’s basketball. There’s only been a handful of times when someone asks me, ‘You’re so tall, do you play basketball?’ and then follows it up with, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t follow women’s basketball.’ In Europe, you don’t get that at all. And [games are] always jam-packed.”
The Movie Director
Game Changer, Charles’s second documentary, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in June. It’s about the efforts of one Chicago woman to make the gaming industry more inclusive—which tracks, because Charles has a thing for hero stories. “It started with doing a film on my dad in 2019, Charlie’s Records,” of the doc that also premiered at Tribeca. “And now this film on Tonya DePass changing the look of the gaming industry for the representation, inclusion, and diversity that’s needed. That’s what I like to do—just set a light and give a platform to those who need one to tell their stories.”
Charles has paid for the rebuilding of a school in a village in Mali and donated a shipment of shoes to students of a high school in Jamaica. But the project closest to her is the Hopey’s Heart Foundation, which she launched in 2012 and which places automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in schools and workplaces. It’s named after the family moniker for her late aunt, Maureen Vaz. Before Vaz passed away in 2013, Charles read a news story about a teenage basketball player who collapsed in his high school, which lacked an AED. “I was intrigued, especially when I learned how common sudden cardiac arrest is,” says Charles. “It’s indiscriminate toward race, age, or gender. I thought, That could have been me.” In search of a way to memorialize her aunt, Charles started the foundation, and now any nonprofit can go to its website to receive a free AED.