The Gamecocks Are Crushing on Zendaya, and We’re Crushing on Dawn Staley

Zendaya photoshopped into an image of Dawn Staley and the Gamecocks celebrating their national championship

Photograph of South Carolina Gamecocks: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images // Art: Autostraddle

There’s a little thing that happened last weekend, called the NCAA Women’s Basketball National Championship. Maybe you’ve heard of it. I’m just kidding, you’re gay and reading this site, so you most definitely already heard of it. And I’m not making that joke because lesbians are synonymous to women’s sports fandom — that’s a given. No, I’m making that joke because women’s basketball viewership has reached historic levels, a fact of which has brought about an untold level of discourse to every corner of the internet. It has become near impossible to avoid.

After a season where Iowa point guard Caitlin Clark broke nearly every scoring record in collegiate basketball (all time scoring record — men’s or women’s, women’s single season scoring record, NCAA women’s tournament scoring record, the scoring and assist leader in women’s basketball this season), the championship game came down to the Iowa Hawkeyes and the South Carolina Gamecocks.

The Gamecocks are led by a true legend of the game in coach Dawn Staley. Staley won Naismith College Player of the Year twice in college. She’s won it three times as a coach, and she’s the only person in history to have won it as both a player and a coach. She’s also the only person in history to win Olympic gold as both a player and a coach, another feat she accomplished multiple times. The Gamecocks, having been to the NCAA Final Four three times in a row, have now won the national championship three times in the last seven years. By every definition, they’re on the precipice of a true dynasty.

To cap it off, did I mention the Gamecocks went into Sunday’s game with a literal perfect season? They were 37-0 going into yesterday’s game, and 38-0 including yesterday’s win, becoming only the 10th team in history to accomplish that feat. But wait there’s more! Looking back over the last three seasons, the Gamecocks have lost only three games — that’s not a typo.

Yesterday’s game was a clash of titans, the cap off to a historic season. The Gamecocks walked away with the win, and Dawn Staley became the first Black coach in history to win three D1 national championships.

But let’s say you aren’t a sports dyke (honestly, until recently, same!). Perhaps instead what you would most enjoy knowing is that the Gamecocks, in addition to being statistically perfect on the court, are perfectly charming off the court. And building on that, perhaps you would be curious to find out which Gamecocks listed Zendaya as their own personal celebrity crush?

Well! Do I have great news for you!

All season, the Gamecocks social media team has had a reoccurring segment known as “Tea Time with Tessa” (named after Tessa Johnson, freshman forward and the person with the mini mic in the video). In it, Tessa interviews her teammates while they goof off in the locker room. In the final segment of the year, going into their championship game, Tessa asked her teammates for their celebrity crush. Of note:

Freshman guard and walking highlight reel Milaysia Fulwiley proved to be as quick off the court as she is barreling down it, insightfully dodging Tessa’s question by answering “my girl” (awwwww!), before admitting, ok yes Zendaya’s fine, too.

Sophomore forward Ashlyn Watkins went with either the rapper Rubi Rose or the actor Ruby Rose (the former feels more likely, but the latter still would’ve been a classic that’s spanned at least the last decade of gay awakenings). I was most taken aback by her second choice… Marsai Martin???? Not to tell on myself too much, but when I hear Marsai’s name, I definitely still think of little Diane from blackish, so while I’ll never deny Ashlyn a perfectly age appropriate crush, I will respectfully bow out of this one and let her have it on her own.

On a more serious note, while the team was off having a delightfully gay time in the locker room on Saturday, coach Staley was answering a question planted by a right-wing pundit during her press conference about trans women in sports. And while I believe firmly that the rights of trans people in this country shouldn’t be used as a political volleyball or a “gotcha” question for clicks, I was also affirmed by Staley’s unflinching response:

In conclusion, Autostraddle came out years ago on the side of you can’t win sports without the gays. And I am so delighted to report that the South Carolina Gamecocks have only continued to prove that theory right. The WNBA Draft is exactly one week from today, so we aren’t done with our women’s basketball coverage any time soon! If you enjoyed the college season (or even just enjoyed this last weekend), just wait until you see Candace Parker, Chelsea Gray, and Kahleah Copper saunter into the arena in their sunglasses and summer leisure suits, I — [the call dropped]

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Carmen Phillips

Carmen is Autostraddle's Editor-in-Chief and a Black Puerto Rican femme/inist writer. She claims many past homes, but left the largest parts of her heart in Detroit, Brooklyn, and Buffalo, NY. There were several years in her early 20s when she earnestly slept with a copy of James Baldwin’s “Fire Next Time” under her pillow. You can find her on twitter, @carmencitaloves.

Carmen has written 714 articles for us.

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